MANAGING SPORTS EDITOR
For the first time since 2001, the Delaware men’s basketball team will play host to an NCAA Top 25 team when it faces No. 9 Notre Dame this Saturday.
Notre Dame (7-1) is the first AP Top 25 opponent to play at the Bob Carpenter Center since No. 19 Saint Joseph’s paid a visit in 2001. Over the last 16 years, the Blue Hens have played eight Top 25 teams, most recently No. 17 Villanova in December, 2015. Delaware has yet to beat a Top 25 team (0-32 all-time).
Fighting Irish Head Coach Mike Brey, who has led his team to 12 NCAA tournament appearances in his 17 years with Notre Dame, was hired in 2000 after five years as the Delaware head coach from 1995-2000. Second-year Delaware Head Coach Martin Ingelsby played point guard for the Irish from 1997-2001 and later served as an assistant under Brey with the Irish from 2009-2016.
“I am forever indebted to Mike Brey and the opportunity he gave me as a basketball player and as a coach,” Ingelsby told BlueHens.com when he was hired to Delaware in May, 2016. “I learned and grew under his tutelage from one of the best teachers and educators I’ve ever been around.”
Brey, meanwhile, has praised Ingelsby as one of the top young coaches in college basketball.
Saturday’s matchup will be the Blue Hens’ biggest regular season test this year, and their toughest matchup since facing No. 11 Michigan State in the NCAA tournament in 2014.
When they arrive in Newark this weekend, the Fighting Irish will be the highest-ranked team the Blue Hens have ever faced at home. The only teams Delaware has played that were ranked No. 9 or higher were No. 2 Duke (2012), No. 3 Virginia (1981), No. 3 Ohio State (2013), No. 5 LSU (1979), No. 5 Iowa (1986), No. 5 Arizona (1999), No. 6 Temple (1956), No. 6 Seton Hall (1992), No. 7 Ohio State (1960), No. 7 Rutgers (1976), No. 7 Alabama (1990), No. 8 Virginia (1980) , No. 8 Villanova (1995) and No. 8 Villanova (2009).
“Hopefully, bringing a top-tier ACC team to the Bob will get a big crowd, and when they come and see us compete they will want to come to all home games in the future,” sophomore Guard Ryan Daly said in April.
The Delaware Athletic Department introduced a lottery system to allow students an equal opportunity to attend the game. Students could only enter the lottery by attending either the final home football game on Nov. 11, or the women’s or men’s basketball home openers on Nov. 16 and 17, respectively.
Typically, fans are able to secure single game tickets for home Delaware men’s and women’s basketball games –– which run between $15 and $25 per seat –– but for Saturday’s game against Notre Dame, only season ticket holders are guaranteed admission.
As of Sunday afternoon, 97 tickets were available for the game on Stubhub, ranging between $78 and $299 per seat.
Prior to losing to No. 3 Michigan State Thursday, Notre Dame had opened its season with six consecutive wins over DePaul, Mount. St. Mary’s, Chicago State, Chaminade, LSU and No. 6 Wichita State. Senior Forward Bonzie Colson leads the Irish with 19.6 points and 9.9 rebounds per game, while senior Guard Matt Farrell averages 16.4 points and 4.7 assists per game.
The Fighting Irish plays in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), one of the most competitive conferences in college basketball. The team lost in the ACC Championship game to Duke last season and then lost in the second round of the NCAA tournament to West Virginia. Two seasons ago, the Irish won three NCAA tournament games and advanced to the Elite Eight before losing to ACC power North Carolina.
Delaware (4-4) last qualified for the NCAA tournament in 2014. From 2015-2016, in the final year under former Head Coach Monté Ross, the Blue Hens finished the season 7-23 with only two conference wins. In Ingelsby’s first year, Delaware improved by six wins, finishing with a 13-20 record and winning one CAA tournament game.
The Blue Hens will face Buffalo on Wednesday, then have a full week off following the Notre Dame match to prepare for Delaware State on Dec. 17. Saturday’s game will be televised nationally on CBS Sports Network.