March 21, 2013
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - For the second consecutive season, and the sixth time in her storied career, Notre Dame women's basketball head coach Muffet McGraw has been selected as a finalist for the Naismith National Coach of the Year award, it was announced Thursday by the Atlanta Tipoff Club. McGraw previously was chosen as a finalist for the Naismith Award in 1998, 1999, 2001, 2005 and 2012, and she was accorded the honor in '01 when the Fighting Irish won their first NCAA national championship.
McGraw, who already has been named the Sports Illustrated National Coach of the Year and the BIG EAST Conference Coach of the Year, has guided Notre Dame through a seamless transition this season after losing four seniors (including three key starters) who accounted for 40 percent of her team's scoring and rebounding on last year's NCAA national finalist squad. Under McGraw's tutelage, the Fighting Irish have reached even greater heights this year, posting a 31-1 overall record and 16-0 mark in the rugged BIG EAST, both one win better than last year's team through the same number of games played.
What's more, Notre Dame won the program's second consecutive outright BIG EAST regular season title (and third in school history) by two full games over second-place finisher Connecticut before defeating the host Huskies in the BIG EAST Championship title game to secure the program's first BIG EAST postseason crown in its 18th and final season in the conference. It marked the first time in 20 years that a team other than Connecticut swept the BIG EAST regular season and tournament titles in the same year, while the Fighting Irish became only the third non-Connecticut squad to go undefeated in BIG EAST play (first since Rutgers in 2005-06).
Notre Dame has piled up an 11-1 record against ranked opponents this season, including five wins against top-10 teams. The Fighting Irish also rank among the top 20 in the nation in eight NCAA statistical categories, including top-five rankings in scoring offense (3rd - 80.8 ppg.), scoring margin (3rd - +23.0 ppg.), free throw percentage (3rd - .797), assists (3rd - 19.2 apg.) and rebounding margin (5th - +10.8 rpg.), and the Fighting Irish have appeared in the top five of both major national polls for 18 weeks this season, including the past five weeks as the consensus No. 2 team in the nation (after spending an additional six weeks at No. 2 in the Associated Press poll).
On top of that, Notre Dame ranks sixth in the nation in attendance (school-record 8,979 fans per game), registered a school-record 11 sellouts this season (including nine of its final 10 home games) and is one of 25 women's basketball programs in this weekend's NCAA Championship to post a perfect 100-percent graduation rate. In fact, Notre Dame is one of just three schools to have both its men's and women's basketball teams own perfect graduation rates and also be selected to compete in NCAA Championship play.
McGraw has a record of 622-216 (.742) in 26 seasons at Notre Dame, ranking second on the all-time wins list for all sports in the 126-year history of Fighting Irish athletics. A 2011 inductee into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame, McGraw has a career record of 710-257 (.726) in 31 years on the sidelines, ranking 12th in NCAA Division I history for career wins and 17th for career winning percentage.
Joining McGraw on this year's list of Naismith National Coach of the Year finalists are Lindsay Gottlieb (California), Jim Jabir (Dayton) and Kim Mulkey (Baylor). 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 26th 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 latest Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls, Notre Dame has earned the No. 1 seed in the Norfolk Region for the 2013 NCAA Championship, and will tip off tournament play at 5:05 p.m. (ET) Sunday against Ohio Valley Conference tournament champion Tennessee-Martin at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa. The game will be televised live on ESPN2 through its "whiparound coverage" (viewers in Indiana and the Chicagoland area, as well as western Tennessee, 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 Full Court package.
Tickets for this weekend's NCAA Championship games in Iowa City (Miami-Fla. and Iowa meet in Sunday's other first-round game at approximately 7:35 p.m. ET, with the first-round winners meeting Tuesday night) currently are on sale through the Iowa Athletics Ticket Office (800-IA-HAWKS; hawkeyesports.com).
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 @ndwbb), visit the program's official Facebook page (facebook.com/ndwbb) or register for the Irish ALERT text-messaging system through the "Fan Center" pulldown menu on the front page at UND.com.