Oct. 21, 2010
NEW YORK – The Notre Dame women’s basketball team has been selected to finish fourth in the BIG EAST Conference in 2010-11, according to a preseason vote of the league’s 16 head coaches released Thursday morning during the annual BIG EAST Women’s Basketball Media Day at the B.B. King Blues Club & Grill in New York City.
The Fighting Irish picked up 177 points in the balloting (coaches may not vote for their own teams), placing behind only two-time defending national champion Connecticut, which was a unanimous choice to win the conference title with 225 points, West Virginia (207 points, one first-place vote) and Georgetown (186 points) — St. John’s rounded out the top five with 173 points.
Notre Dame has two starters and eight monogram winners returning for the program’s 34th season in 2010-11, joined by a three-player freshman class that has been ranked as high as eighth in the country by some media outlets. The Fighting Irish are coming off a 29-6 season that saw them rise to No. 3 in the national polls (they finished seventh in the year-end Associated Press poll and 11th in the final ESPN/USA Today coaches’ poll) and advance to the NCAA Sweet 16 for the eighth time in the past 14 years. Furthermore, Notre Dame adds a three-player freshman class that has been ranked as high as eighth in the country, according to ESPN Hoopgurlz, marking the program’s 14th consecutive Top 20 recruiting class.
“It says a lot about our program and the players in our program to be voted fourth in the BIG EAST preseason poll,” Fighting Irish head coach Muffet McGraw said. “This conference is so strong and balanced that you can probably throw the top 10 teams in the BIG EAST in a hat and draw them out in any order — that’s how good this league will be this year. We’re looking forward to getting back in the gym and continuing our preseason practice next week and tipping off the season on Nov. 3.”
The conference coaches also unanimously voted sophomore guard Skylar Diggins (South Bend, Ind./Washington) to the 10-player Preseason All-BIG EAST Team. A preseason candidate for both the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA)/State Farm Wade Trophy and the John R. Wooden Award, as well as a consensus preseason All-American by most major media outlets, Diggins is coming off one of the finest rookie seasons in the 33-year history of Fighting Irish women’s basketball as the first freshman in 17 seasons to lead Notre Dame in scoring and the first Fighting Irish rookie in 16 years to top 100 assists in her debut season. What’s more, she finished as just the third player in program history (and the first freshman) to log 400 points, 100 assists and 75 steals in a single season, joining a pair of All-Americans and Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award (top senior in the nation 5-foot-8 and under) recipients — current Notre Dame assistant coach Niele Ivey (2000-01) and Megan Duffy (2004-05) — in achieving that distinction.
A 2009-10 honorable mention All-America selection by both the Associated Press and WBCA, Diggins led Notre Dame in scoring (13.8 ppg.), steals (2.6 spg.) and assists (tied – 3.2 apg.) last season, while ranking third on the squad in three-point percentage (.350) and free throw percentage (.782). She also chalked up a team-high 24 double-digit scoring games, including seven 20-point outings, capped by a season-high 31 points against Vermont in the second round of the NCAA Championship at Purcell Pavilion. That scoring effort was the highest ever recorded by a Fighting Irish rookie in NCAA postseason play, while her 13 field goals made tied the program record for an NCAA tournament game.
In 2009-10, Diggins set Notre Dame freshman records for steals (90), free throws made (111), free throws attempted (142) and minutes played (1,028), while ranking among the top five on the Fighting Irish rookie charts for points (3rd – 484), scoring average (tied/4th – 13.8 ppg.), field goals made (3rd – 169), field goals attempted (3rd – 385), three-point field goals made (4th – 35), three-point attempts (5th – 100), three-point percentage (5th – .350), assists (3rd – 112), steals per game (2nd – 2.6 spg.), games started (tied/2nd – 30), games played (2nd – 35) and minutes per game (5th – 29.4).
Notre Dame tips off the 2010-11 season at 7 p.m. (ET) on Nov. 3 with its lone exhibition game, taking on the reigning NCAA Division II Midwest Regional champion and Elite Eight participant Michigan Tech inside Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center. The Fighting Irish then will turn their attention to the regular season opener at 4 p.m. (ET) on Nov. 12 against New Hampshire at Purcell Pavilion. At halftime of that game, Notre Dame will celebrate the 10th anniversary of its 2001 NCAA national championship season, with many of the members of that Fighting Irish squad returning to campus for a weekend reunion and pre-game autograph session prior to the contest with UNH.
Tickets for the 2010-11 Notre Dame women’s basketball campaign are available by contacting the Murnane Family Ticket Office by phone (574-631-7356) or in person (Gate 9 in the Rosenthal Atrium at Purcell Pavilion) from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. (ET) weekdays. Fans also can purchase tickets on-line through the official Notre Dame athletics ticketing web page (www.UND.com/tickets).
For more information on the Notre Dame women’s basketball program, sign up to follow the Fighting Irish women’s basketball Twitter pages (www.twitter.com/ndwbbsid or www.twitter.com/notredamewbb) or register for the Irish ALERT text-messaging system through the sidebar on the women’s basketball page at UND.com.
— ND —