March 16, 2016
By Chris Masters
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – For the fourth time in five seasons, and the eighth time in her storied career, Notre Dame’s Karen and Kevin Keyes Head Women’s Basketball Coach Muffet McGraw has been selected as a finalist for the Naismith National Coach of the Year award, it was announced Wednesday by the Atlanta Tipoff Club. McGraw is a three-time Naismith Award recipient (2001, 2013, 2014) and also was chosen as a finalist in 1997, 1998, 2005 and 2012.
McGraw, who already has been named the Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of the Year for the second time in three years, is one of 14 finalists in the Class of 2016 for induction in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, as well as a leading candidate for every major national coach-ofÃƒÆ’Â¢ÃƒÂ¢’Â¬”the-year award this season. She recently led Notre Dame to its third consecutive sweep of the ACC regular-season and tournament titles, becoming just the second ACC women’s basketball program to pull off that feat and the first since Duke from 2001-04.
Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw (back row, second from left, after winning her 800th career game on Jan. 3 at Pittsburgh) is a three-time recipient of the Naismith Award and an eight-time finalist for the honor that is presented annually to the women’s college basketball coach of the year.
Notre Dame’s success this season has been particularly remarkable considering the Fighting Irish have had to navigate through a host of challenges, including the loss of two starters from last year’s team that played for the NCAA title, notably leading scorer, All-America guard and 2015 WNBA Rookie of the Year Jewell Loyd. In addition, Notre Dame had to deal with a preseason knee injury to freshman guard Ali Patberg (Columbus, Ind./Columbus North) that ended her year before it began, and had to play without injured sophomore forward Brianna Turner (Pearland, Texas/Manvel) – the eventual ACC Player of the Year – for a critical six-game stretch during the non-conference schedule, a gauntlet that included three ranked opponents (Ohio State, Connecticut, DePaul) and a fourth (UCLA) that entered the polls two days after it played the Fighting Irish.
Through it all, McGraw has displayed steady, firm leadership, piloting Notre Dame to a 31-1 record, including an active 24-game winning streak (the third-longest run in school history) and the program’s third 16-0 record in conference play during the past four seasons, including two of three in the ACC. The Fighting Irish also are 10-1 against Top 25 teams this season, not counting the win over UCLA on Thanksgiving weekend in the Bahamas – the Bruins have been ranked ever since that game, now standing 10th in the Associated Press poll and 12th in the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA)/USA Today poll.
In addition, Notre Dame ranked in the top 25 in six NCAA statistical categories, including five top-10 placements as of March 13 – three-point field-goal percentage (2nd -.406), field-goal percentage (3rd – .492), scoring margin (5th ÃƒÆ’Â¢ÃƒÂ¢’Â¬” +19.1 ppg.), assists (8th ÃƒÆ’Â¢ÃƒÂ¢’Â¬” 17.8 apg.), scoring offense (10th ÃƒÆ’Â¢ÃƒÂ¢’Â¬” 79.2 ppg.) and assist/turnover ratio (21st ÃƒÆ’Â¢ÃƒÂ¢’Â¬” 1.21).
McGraw has a record of 730-222 (.767) in 29 seasons at Notre Dame, ranking second on the all-time wins list for all sports in the 129-year history of Fighting Irish athletics. A 2011 inductee into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, McGraw has a career record of 818-263 (.757) in 34 years on the sidelines, ranking 10th in NCAA Division I history for career wins and 14th for career winning percentage.
Joining McGraw on this year’s list of Naismith National Coach of the Year finalists are Geno Auriemma (Connecticut), Scott Rueck (Oregon State) and Dawn Staley (South Carolina). The finalists were determined by the Atlanta Tipoff Club’s National Voting Academy, comprised of leading basketball journalists, coaches and administrators from around the country. The academy based its criteria on coaching performances this season.
Now in its 29th year, the Naismith Award is among the most prestigious national honors presented annually to the women’s college basketball coach of the year. This year’s recipient will be announced in early April.
Ranked No. 2 in the final Associated Press poll and No. 3 in the current WBCA/USA Today poll, Notre Dame has earned the No. 1 seed in the Lexington Region for the 2016 NCAA Championship, and will tip off tournament play at 6:30 p.m. (ET) Saturday against Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champion North Carolina A&T at Purcell Pavilion. The game will be televised live on ESPN2 through its “whiparound coverage” (viewers in Indiana and the Chicagoland area, as well as parts of North Carolina, will see the game in its entirety, while the rest of the country will rotate through all four games in that time slot). Viewers also can see the game in its entirety through ESPN3, WatchESPN and the ESPN app.
All-session and single-session tickets for this weekend’s NCAA tournament games at Purcell Pavilion currently are on sale through the official Notre Dame athletics ticketing web site (UND.com/buytickets). All-session tickets are $32 for adults and $17 for youth (18 & under), while single-session tickets for Saturday’s first-round games are $15 for adults and $10 for youth (18 & under) and single-session tickets for the March 21 second-round game are $20 for adults and $12 for youth (18 & under). Tickets also are available by phone (574-631-7356) or in person at the Murnane Family Athletics Ticket Office (Gate 9 windows at Purcell Pavilion) daily from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. (ET). Fans who already have purchased NCAA tournament tickets can pick up their tickets at the Murnane Family Athletics Ticket Office.
In addition, Club Naimoli passes now are on sale through the Murnane Family Athletics Ticket Office for this weekend’s NCAA tournament games at Purcell Pavilion. All-session club passes are $60, while single-session club passes are $40 for Saturday and $30 for March 21. As a reminder, game tickets are required in order to purchase club passes.
For more information on the Notre Dame women’s basketball program, visit the main women’s basketball page on the University’s official athletics web site (UND.com/ndwbb), sign up to follow the Fighting Irish women’s basketball Twitter and Instagram pages (@ndwbb), like the program on Facebook or register for the Irish ALERT text-messaging system through the “Fan Center” pulldown menu on the front page at UND.com.
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Chris Masters, associate athletics communications director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2001 and coordinates all media efforts for the Notre Dame women’s basketball and women’s golf programs. A native of San Francisco, California, Masters is a 1996 graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University, earned his master’s degree from Kansas State University in 1998, and currently serves on the Board of Directors for the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA).