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Fran McCaffery

Iowa coach Fran McCaffery has instilled a business-like approach in his program that has allowed the Hawkeyes to crack the top five in the national rankings.


Assignments for this year’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge will give Iowa’s Fran McCaffery and Illinois’ John Groce a chance to reflect on their coaching roots.

It was announced Tuesday that the Hawkeyes will travel to Notre Dame for the first time since 1990 in this year’s series of 14 games between basketball teams from the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Big Ten, while the Fighting Illini will host North Carolina State.

Both games are scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 29 and will be televised by ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU as part of the 18-year-old challenge between the two leagues. Game times and specific television details will be announced at a later date.

The last time Iowa visited South Bend, McCaffery was in the second of his 11 seasons as an assistant coach for the Fighting Irish, working on staffs headed by Digger Phelps and John MacLeod. That game was played on Nov. 17, 1990 and Notre Dame defeated the Hawkeyes 77-68 in the second round of the Preseason NIT.

Groce earned his first coaching position at the Division I level with the Wolfpack, spending four seasons as an assistant under Herb Sendek beginning in 1997.

Iowa and Notre Dame will be meeting for the 16th time overall and for the third time in four years. The Hawkeyes defeated the Irish 98-93 in the 2013 ACC/Big Ten Challenge, while Notre Dame won a 68-62 game against Iowa in the Advocare Invitational in Orlando last November.

The 2013 game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena was the Irish’s first in the ACC/Big Ten event as a member of the ACC.

“We always look forward to this event and this year is no different. I have the utmost respect for head coach Mike Brey and the Notre Dame basketball program,’’ McCaffery said in a statement. “Notre Dame is extremely well coached and is consistently one of the top teams in the country. This will be a good road test for our basketball team early in the season.’’

The Irish return three starters from a team which finished 24-12 a year ago, tying for fifth in the ACC and reaching the Elite Eight in NCAA tourney play.

Illinois will be playing North Carolina State for the fourth time ever and the first time since winning an 85-76 game in the consolation final at the Rainbow Classic in Honolulu in 1995.

Coached by Mark Gottfried for the past five years, the Wolfpack finished 16-17 last season and return two starters, Abdul-Malik Abu and Maverick Rowan.

Iowa leads the all-time series against Notre Dame 8-7, while Illinois is 3-0 in its previous match-ups against North Carolina State in games all played on neutral courts.