March 11, 2001
JOHN HEISLER: Just a couple of quick notes, we do have starting
times for all three of the games that will be played here in South Bend.
The first game on Saturday will be Michigan against Virginia, tip-off at
11 o'clock, 11:00 A.M. eastern time. That will be followed by Notre Dame
and Alcorn State, that will be at approximately 1:30. Then those two
winners will play on Monday night at 7 o'clock Eastern. That game will be
televised by ESPN.
We have with us this evening Coach Muffet McGraw, Ruth Riley
and Kelley Siemon. We are going to go one at a time here.
Coach McGraw will make some opening remarks and then she will be
happy to entertain some questions.
COACH McGRAW: We are excited about being the No. 1 seed. I
think that this team has worked extremely hard all year long and to be
rewarded for that hard work and how consistently we played all year long
with the No. 1 seed in the Midwest, we are just elated with that, excited
about the prospect of hosting a great subregional here at Notre Dame and
to be playing on St. Patrick's Day, I think we have put in to play on
Friday, but to play on St. Patrick's Day, I think that is going to be our
lucky day so we will have to get out the green nail polish and we will be
ready to go.
Q. Before the first UConn game you said you might have to play your
players 40 minutes. I don't know how serious you were about that, but
looking ahead to the tournament, do you see extensive play for your
COACH McGRAW: Well, they are definitely going to get the bulk
of the playing time, but we had a great Big East Tournament for our
bench. Amanda Barksdale came in, gave us great minutes, averaged six
rebounds a game in the three games, blocked about 12 shots, and just had
an outstanding performance. And Jeneka Joyce played extremely well. So
we feel that we are at least 7 deep, probably 8 with LeTania Severe and
Monique Hernandez, we expect to have her back. She had a sprained knee
and couldn't play in the tournament. But we are excited about what the
bench did for us in that tournament.
Q. Are you surprised that UConn or Tennessee weren't knocked down
out of the No. 1 considering the experience that you had two years ago?
COACH McGRAW: Well, I thought it was unfair when we were knocked
down because of Niele's injury so I was excited that they didn't penalize
Connecticut because I think your seeds really should be based on what you
did during the regular season and they certainly earned the No. 1 spot.
Q. Coming off the Big East tournament you got a little wait here
before you play, but coming off of that game against UConn it was an
enjoyable game to watch. I am not sure what it was like to coach. But
playing them that close at their place and coming down to the wire, does
that give you confidence going on to the next step here?
COACH McGRAW: I think it does. We feel very confident in the
way we are playing because we came out of that game knowing that we played
very well. We did a lot of good things. If it wasn't for the halfcourt
shot at the end of the first half and the final shot, I mean, it was a
very, very close game. We feel good about the way we are playing right
now. We think we are peaking heading into the NCA tournament.
Q. I wanted to ask you I know you don't want to look ahead, but
when you look in this -- in the regional in Denver you are the No. 1 seed
and Iowa State is the No. 2 seed and should you guys wind up playing each
other in the Regional, you know -- I know Bill was with you back when
you started over there at Notre Dame. I am wondering your thoughts about
that, about playing somebody like that possibly down the road in the
COACH McGRAW: Well, actually Ben asked me this morning what I
didn't want and I said I don't want to be in a Regional with Iowa State
or Vanderbilt. Jim Foster at Vanderbilt is Murphy's Godfather. He was my
mentor. I coached with him at St. Joe's. I have known him for as long as
I have been coaching and that was something I really didn't want to have
to play against some of my good friends. And Bill was with me at Notre
Dame my first year. We have been friends since then. He is a great coach
doing a great job, but I am just a little disappointed that I have to play
two -- I only have three friends in coaching and I have to be in a Region
with two of them.
Q. I thought you had another friend who is up in Milwaukee. I saw
her getting to the tournament last night?
COACH McGRAW: I am so excited for Sandy and her assistant
coach. Just great to see some former Notre Dame players and coaches
moving on in the tournament. They were so excited. I watched the whole
game. I was actually kind of hoping that they'd be coming here in the
Sub-Regional but I am just thrilled for them.
COACH McGRAW: I don't think there is really a lot of difference
between the top 4 seeds because you get the advantage of playing at home.
That's really what you are playing for. After that it is all neutral
courts. You get the top 16 teams in the country, anybody can win. So I
think that really just the advantage is getting that home-court game.
JOHN HEISLER: Ruth Riley is next up. Anybody on the telephone
that has questions for her.
Q. Hi Ruth. Home game in the tournament, you have been through
this before. What are your thoughts about getting started next week?
RUTH RILEY: I think we are really excited especially to be
playing at home. As the seniors, we have five seniors, I think these last
couple of home games hopefully are going to be special to us. But at the
same time, our fan base here is growing so much and we are just excited to
be playing in March right now.
Q. This is your 9th game as I calculate it. 9th tournament game.
Can you compare how you feel going into this as an old lady compared to as
a kid four years ago?
RUTH RILEY: I think experience is so -- I don't even know how
to put it into words, but it means so much especially going into the
tournament time. We have a veteran team this year and I think that is
helping us a lot just with the mentality going into the tournament. We
know what to expect. We know what we are going to see out there. So I
think we are pretty relaxed, at ease going into the tournament.
RUTH RILEY: We really didn't watch any film or anything so we
don't know exactly what kind of players they are. I don't think height
means everything. But I was thinking if we come out and play like we have
been playing, we should be okay.
RUTH RILEY: At this point in the season it doesn't really
matter because it all comes down to how you finish in March, so, I think
we have the No. 1 seed which speaks a lot for our program here and I think
we will find out in April, I guess.
RUTH RILEY: Definitely. I think if you look at the team we
had knowing how we did freshmen year going down to Texas, anything can
happen in March if (inaudible) like a playoff (inaudible) best out of so
many and it is one and you are out, we are not overlooking anyone but at
the same time we are pretty excited about the way we are playing.
RUTH RILEY: We were just going to -- who was going to be the 2
and 3 seeds in our backyard. We always seem to end up with (inaudible)
somewhere along the line so we were kind of surprised that they weren't
thrown in there somewhere. But it will be a good matchup.
Q. Kelley, I ask this of you because you are literate and you have
looked at the pairings and sees the name Michigan as a possible second
round opponent, Michigan or Virginia. When you see names that prominent
in the second round with those histories behind it, what is your
KELLEY SIEMON: Those are both two really great teams.
Obviously I think that the Big 10 has some of the toughest competition in
terms of women's basketball just because they all kind of beat each other
and it is kind of like the Big East in men.
Virginia has also been doing a really great job. I don't think
their record really says enough for how good a team they are. But both
teams are going to be pretty tough. Obviously we had an assistant coach
who was a coach up at Michigan earlier and so I mean, whatever way it
turns out, I think we will be ready.
Q. Seems to be a little Big East drive this afternoon.
KELLEY SIEMON: I think it's great as a good team in the Big
East to also see some -- that many teams that make it to the tournament
because it says a lot about our conference and says a lot more about the
team that we are. Instead of, I think in the past, I guess a long time
ago it was just Connecticut and all of a sudden we crept up there and
obviously record last year making it to the Final Four, so yeah, we are
really excited about that. I think it does say a lot for our team and for
Q. Kelley, I just wanted to ask about -- just seeing a No. 1 seed
there with Notre Dame and having come through the program and see the
progress of the program to see Notre Dame get a No. 1 seed, what kind of
reaction you had to that?
KELLEY SIEMON: Unfortunately this year it wasn't as exciting
because I think our team as a whole expected it. We have been having an
incredible year and not that luck has anything to do with that, we have
just been playing some great basketball. So as great as that is,
unfortunately it is not as exciting as it was in the past couple of years
when we were just hoping to make the tournament and then last year hoping
to get that home seed.
KELLEY SIEMON: I just kind of feel like business. I am
excited for the tournament and I can't wait, but that is kind of the way
that I feel right now is just -- is game. It is great that we are 1, but
COACH McGRAW: They have been like that all year long after
the Connecticut game in the locker room -- they expected to win. They
were happy, but it was not like a surprise. We were immediately ready for
the next game against Seton Hall. They have been doing that all year
long, they have been focused for every game. We haven't taken any one
lightly. We played well in all the games and it has been a lot of fun but
it is definitely -- we do have a business-like approach, I think.
COACH McGRAW: Well, for this team, really the sky is the
limit. We just want to keep playing and we want to keep playing well. So
we are just excited, but we are taking it one game at a time. We are
looking forward to playing Alcorn State.
Q. I just wanted to ask you what you know about Alcorn State?
COACH McGRAW: Well, we have looked at the roster and they don't
have anybody over 6 foot. That really makes me happy. I think -- I told
my husband I wanted to play somebody with a 5' 10" center. I think I got
my wish. But we obviously don't have a lot of tape on them. They
weren't on TV quite that often so we don't have a lot of tape but we will
be getting a tape tomorrow. We have got the roster and some notes on them
but we will know a little bit more about them tomorrow morning.
JOHN HEISLER: We will have transcriptions of these press