April 6, 2013
NEW ORLEANS - Notre Dame women's basketball head coach Muffet McGraw once again has been honored for her team's success this season, earning the Associated Press National Coach of the Year award, it was announced Saturday afternoon at New Orleans Arena. It's the second time in McGraw's career she has received the AP's top coaching honor, having also taken home the hardware in 2001, and it makes the Fighting Irish coach just the second person to receive the honor twice (Connecticut's Geno Auriemma is a seven-time recipient).
McGraw received 24 votes for the AP National Coach of the Year trophy from the 40-member media panel that also casts weekly ballots in the AP Top 25 poll. Baylor's Kim Mulkey was a distant second with seven votes, followed by California's Lindsay Gottlieb.
This marks the second time in less than a week McGraw has received a major national coach of the year honor, following on the heels of her selection as the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) Women's National Coach of the Year on Thursday. A handful of additional coaching awards are still to be announced, including those presented by the Naismith Awards and the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA), both of which are expected to be determined early next week (McGraw is a finalist for those two honors).
McGraw, who also previously was 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 35-1 record, tying last year's school standard for wins in a season and two victories better than last year's team through the same number of games played. Notre Dame also has advanced to the NCAA Women's Final Four for the third consecutive season, and the fifth time in program history.
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 a 12-1 record against ranked opponents this season, including six 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 scoring offense (2nd - 81.6 ppg.), scoring margin (3rd - +23.0 ppg.), free throw percentage (3rd - .797), assists (3rd - 19.6 apg.), field goal percentage (4th - .460), rebounding margin (5th - +11.1 rpg.) and assist/turnover ratio (6th - 1.28). What's more, Notre Dame has appeared in the top five of both major national polls for 18 weeks this season, including the final five weeks as the consensus No. 2 team in the nation (after spending an additional six weeks at No. 2 in the AP 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 626-216 (.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 714-257 (.735) in 31 years on the sidelines, ranking 12th in NCAA Division I history for career wins and 17th for career winning percentage.
No. 2 Notre Dame (35-1) will take on No. 3 Connecticut for the fourth time this season when the two schools square off in a national semifinal game at the NCAA Women's Final Four at approximately 8 p.m. CT (9 p.m. ET) Sunday at New Orleans Arena. The third national semifinal clash between the Fighting Irish and Huskies in as many years (and fourth all-time) will be televised live to a national cable audience on ESPN and ESPNHD, with additional coverage on-line at ESPN3/WatchESPN.
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), like the program on Facebook (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.