The “secret” game: DePaul to host Notre Dame in closed-door scrimmage


Maddy Maes

DePaul students cheering on the men’s basketball team during their 97-72 victory against Coppin State on November 10, 2021 at Wintrust Arena. The Blue Demons improved to 2-0 after this game.

DePaul men’s basketball will square off in a “secret” closed scrimmage against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Sunday, Oct. 23 at Wintrust Arena. Little information or details have leaked to the public about the scrimmage, which is by design.

“I think it’s a good opportunity for the program, and Notre Dame is a top program in the country,” senior DePaul fan Sam Gutterman said. “Even though it’s not a real game, being able to run sets against, maybe not a top-25 team, but a team that should be pretty good, will help since after non-conference play, DePaul will play some tough Big East teams.”

The DePaul Athletic Department did not respond for comment to The DePaulia’s request for this story.

Details regarding the scrimmage are very minimal and we do not know exactly what will take place or what the plan is for the two teams inside Wintrust Arena. It is not even necessarily a game, but more than likely a series of game-like situations where coaches have the opportunity to evaluate their team against competition other than their own.

The two teams will likely compete against each other in some five-on-five sets and  work on some late-game situations later in the day, along with some individual skills work.

The NCAA has allowed Division I teams to hold these types of scrimmages for decades, and the expectation is that this will be strictly between DePaul and Notre Dame. Whatever happens will stay between them and only them. Neither team can acknowledge that the game even happened.

There will not be any fans or media allowed at the game or a box score for statistics between the two teams — just basketball. 

“You need to get chemistry with some of these younger kids,” Notre Dame fan Arafet Isa said. “We don’t know how they’re going to react underneath the pressure. Now, there is no pressure, with no media, crowd or anything around. It’s going to be like a pick up game where they can just play freely.”

The scrimmage will be held at an empty Windtrust Arena in Chicago, Illinois (DePaul Athletics)

There are pros and cons for playing against another team prior to the start of the season, especially if it’s not a regularly scheduled game or even an exhibition matchup. 

“I think the pros probably outweigh the cons,” said the owner of a popular DePaul sports social media account, who requested anonymity. “Obviously, if Yor Anei snaps his leg off in the game, every Blue Demon’s fan is going to be pissed and yell at Stubbs or Peevy and ask, ‘Why the hell did we allow this?’ But if we passed on a secret scrimmage and came out flat in the first few games, the fanbase would be yelling at them again and going, ‘you guys could have had the extra practice, now look at this team.’ So it cuts both ways, and I’m in favor of it.”

Not only are DePaul fans in favor of the scrimmage, but Notre Dame fans also see a lot of positives as to why this game should be taking place.

“I actually really like it,” Isa said. “It’s going to help these kids develop more because it’s basically a pick up game for them. If you think about it if you’re playing an exhibition game, everyone is going to see who your best players are, correct? Now you’re playing a closed game where nobody will know anything and there’s this guy for Notre Dame named JJ Sterling, he’s going to be a stud, but nobody is going to know anything about him until they actually play a real game.”

Over the course of history between the two teams, DePaul and Notre Dame have faced off 106 times, with the Fighting Irish leading the all-time series 62-44. The last time these two teams met was in 2018, and the Blue Demons lost 95-70.

Notre Dame, unlike DePaul, had a very successful season in 2021, finishing with a 24-11 overall record and tournament appearance. The Fighting Irish’s March Madness run came to an end after being eliminated by Texas Tech in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

DePaul finished with a 15-16 overall record last season under first year head coach Tony Stubblefield, their best since 2019. 

Since it is a closed door scrimmage, we will not know if there is a winner or how the game will turn out. DePaul added five new transfer players along with two incoming freshmen, highlighted by four-star recruit Zion Cruz.

“I think if they play a game, Notre Dame blows them out,” Isa said. “Probably around 15 points or more. It won’t be close between them. The Irish just have too much talent and DePaul doesn’t have that type of talent. I know they’re in the Big East, but you’re talking about the ACC compared to the Big East, like it used to be a tough conference, but not anymore.”

Notre Dame fans always have high expectations, but when it comes to DePaul, the fan base is more excited than they have been in years. Stubblefield was one game below .500 in his inaugural season, which raises expectations for the program entering the 2022-2023 season.

“Obviously, DePaul will win,” the anonymous social media account owner said. “Paul Atkinson doesn’t play for Notre Dame anymore and the Blue Demons have a chip the size of Ricobene’s steak sandwich on their shoulders. Stubblefield won’t tolerate losing any longer, he’s not Chris Collins. I think Umoji Gibson leads the team in scoring and makes at least three three-pointers and Nick Ongenda has four blocks.”

DePaul’s home opener will take place Nov. 7 when they host Loyola (MD.) at 6:45 p.m. CDT at Wintrust Area.