March 15, 2012
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - For the first time since 2001, a Notre Dame player has been selected as a finalist for the Naismith Trophy, with junior guard Skylar Diggins (South Bend, Ind./Washington) one of four remaining contenders for the prestigious national player of the year award, it was announced Thursday by the award's presenting organization, the Atlanta Tipoff Club. It's the second time in a little more than a week that Diggins has been chosen as a finalist for a major national player of the year honor, having made the final 15-person ballot for the Wooden Award on March 7.
Diggins also follows in the footsteps of Ruth Riley, who not only was one of four finalists for the 2001 Naismith Trophy, but went on to become the first Fighting Irish player to receive the award that season. The other finalists for this year's Naismith Trophy are Elena Delle Donne (Delaware), Brittney Griner (Baylor) and Nnemkadi Ogwumike (Stanford).
The finalists were voted on 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 player performances this season. The vote was tabulated and certified by the accounting firm of Habif, Arogeti & Wynne, LLP. HA&W is the largest independent accounting firm in Georgia and one of the top 50 firms in the United States. This year's Naismith Trophy recipient will be announced at the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) awards banquet on April 2 in Denver, site of this year's NCAA Women's Final Four.
Beginning next Monday (March 19), AT&T wireless customers - and sports fans on other wireless networks - will be able to text their votes for the player of their choice by texting VOTE to 34763. Fans will be eligible to cast their vote for the winner until 11:59 p.m. (ET) on Saturday, March 31. For the eighth consecutive year, AT&T is making the voting open to other wireless carriers, enabling even more fans to participate. Other wireless carriers must opt-in for their subscribers to participate. Standard messaging rates apply.
Diggins already has been named the BIG EAST Conference Player of the Year, in addition to earning unanimous first-team all-conference honors for the second consecutive season. Besides her selection as a finalist for both the Naismith Trophy and Wooden Award, she is one of eight final nominees for the Nancy Lieberman Award (going to the nation's top point guard), and is midseason candidate for the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) Player of the Year award, as well as a member of the State Farm Wade Trophy Watch List.
Diggins is the only BIG EAST player to rank among the top five in the conference in three of the five major statistical categories. She leads the BIG EAST in both assists (5.7 apg. - 16th in nation) and steals (2.7 spg. - 47th in nation), and is fourth in scoring (17.0 ppg. - 62nd in nation), in addition to posting a conference-best 2.08 assist-to-turnover ratio (18th in nation), and ranking among the top 10 in the league in free throw percentage (eighth - .794) and field goal percentage (eighth - .508; 31st in nation). She also wrapped up the BIG EAST regular season statistical titles in assists (5.8 apg. - second ND player to win BIG EAST assist title, first since current Fighting Irish assistant coach Niele Ivey in 1999-2000), steals (2.6 spg.) and assist-to-turnover ratio (2.3), and finished league play among the top 15 in the BIG EAST in scoring (third - 17.8 ppg.), field goal percentage (ninth - .508) and free throw percentage (12th - .788).
Ranked No. 4 in the latest Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls, Notre Dame (30-3, 15-1 BIG EAST) has earned the No. 1 seed in the Raleigh Region for the 2012 NCAA Championship, and will tip off tournament play at approximately 2:30 p.m. (ET) Sunday against Big South Conference champion Liberty 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 western Virginia, will see the game in its entirety, while the rest of the country will rotate through all four games in that time slot). Viewers can also see the game in its entirety through ESPN3/WatchESPN and the ESPN Full Court package.
Tickets for this weekend's NCAA Championship games at Purcell Pavilion (California and Iowa meet in Sunday's other first-round game at 12:10 p.m. ET, with the first-round winners meeting Tuesday night) are currently on sale through the Murnane Family Athletics Ticket Office (574-631-7356; 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 (@ndwbbsid or @notredamewbb) or register for the Irish ALERT text-messaging system through the "Fan Center" pulldown menu on the front page at UND.com.