March 27, 2013
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - For the second time in less than a week, Notre Dame women's basketball head coach Muffet McGraw has been selected as a finalist for a major national coach of the year award, as she was named the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Region I Coach of the Year, it was announced Wednesday by the WBCA. As this year's regional selection (the fourth in her career to go along with nods in 1996, 2001 and 2012), McGraw becomes one of eight finalists for the WBCA Division I Coach of the Year award, an honor she took home in 2001 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 as well as a finalist for the Naismith National Coach of the Year award, 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 33-1 record, two wins better than last year's team through the same number of games played, and a berth in the NCAA Championship regional semifinals (Sweet 16) for the fourth consecutive season.
What's more, Notre Dame won the program's second consecutive outright BIG EAST regular season title (and third in school history) with a perfect 16-0 record before defeating host Connecticut 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-six rankings in free throw percentage (2nd - .803), scoring offense (3rd - 81.1 ppg.), scoring margin (3rd - +23.2 ppg.), assists (3rd - 19.3 apg.), rebounding margin (5th - +11.5 rpg.), field goal percentage (6th - .457) and assist/turnover ratio (6th - 1.25). What's more, Notre Dame has 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 year's NCAA Championship to post a perfect 100-percent graduation rate. In fact, Notre Dame was 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 624-216 (.743) 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 712-257 (.735) in 31 years on the sidelines, ranking 12th in NCAA Division I history for career wins and 17th for career winning percentage.
Joining McGraw as regional coaches of the year and finalists for the 2013 WBCA Division I Coach of the Year award are: Brenda Frese (Maryland), Holly Warlick (Tennessee), Tricia Cullop (Toledo), Kim Mulkey (Baylor), former Notre Dame guard and assistant coach/associate head coach Coquese Washington (Penn State), Beth Burns (San Diego State) and Tara VanDerveer (Stanford).
This year's recipient of the WBCA Division I Coach of the Year award will be announced at the third annual WBCA Awards Show at 5 p.m. CT (6 p.m. ET) April 8 at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center's New Orleans Theater in New Orleans during the WBCA Convention that is held in conjunction with the NCAA Women's Final Four.
No. 2 Notre Dame (33-1) will continue postseason play as the top-seeded Fighting Irish move into the NCAA Sweet 16 and a Norfolk Regional semifinal matchup with 12th-seeded Kansas at noon (ET) Sunday at the Ted Constant Convocation Center in Norfolk, Va. The game will be televised live to a national cable audience on ESPN and ESPNHD, with additional coverage on ESPN3/WatchESPN.
Tickets for this weekend's NCAA Norfolk Regional games (No. 2 seed Duke and sixth-seeded Nebraska meet in Sunday's other regional semifinal at approximately 2:30 p.m. ET, with the semifinal winners meeting at 7 p.m. (ET) Tuesday) currently are on sale through the Old Dominion University Athletics Ticket Office (757-683-4444; odusports.com/tickets), with those interested in sitting in or near the Notre Dame fan section encouraged to identify themselves as Fighting Irish supporters when calling or e-mailing.
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.