May 4, 2009
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - The Notre Dame women's basketball team will make its first-ever trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands this Thanksgiving when it competes in the 10th annual Paradise Jam Nov. 26-28 at the UVI Sports & Fitness Center in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. The complete eight-team field, which will be split into two separate four-team tournament divisions, was announced Monday by the event's organizer, Basketball Travelers.
Teams in each division will compete in a three-game round-robin format, as part of the Multiple Team Event (MTE) tournament, with only two of the three games counting towards each school's annual maximum of 29 regular-season games played.
The Irish have been placed in the "Island Division" and will face San Diego State in their opening tournament game on Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 26) at 4:30 p.m. Atlantic Standard Time (3:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time in South Bend). Notre Dame then will tangle with South Carolina on Friday, Nov. 27, at 2 p.m. AST (1 p.m. EST), before closing out the tournament against 2009 NCAA Women's Final Four participant Oklahoma Saturday, Nov. 28, at 4:30 p.m. AST (3:30 p.m. EST). All three Irish games will be broadcast live on Pulse FM (92.9/96.1) in northern Indiana/southwest Michigan, as well as worldwide on the Internet at www.UND.com, with veteran broadcaster Bob Nagle on the call.
Mississippi State, Rutgers, Southern California and Texas will make up the four teams in the "Reef Division" portion of the Paradise Jam, with those tournament games being played in the evening all three days of the event. For more information, visit the tournament's official web site at www.paradisejam.com.
"This is a new adventure for our program and one that we're very excited about," Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw said. "The tournament organizers have done an exceptional job of bringing together a really strong group of teams. It's a good opportunity for us, not only to go up against some great opponents, but also to play in a tournament setting with multiple games in consecutive days, which is something that will benefit us later on in the season."
Notre Dame returns all 12 monogram winners, including senior all-BIG EAST Conference guards Lindsay Schrader (Bartlett, Ill./Bartlett) and Ashley Barlow (Indianapolis, Ind./Pike), from last year's squad that went 22-9 overall (10-6, tied for fourth in the BIG EAST) and advanced to the NCAA Championship for the 14th consecutive season (and 16th time in school history), falling in the opening round to Minnesota, 79-71. The Irish finished the season ranked 23rd in the Associated Press poll, were the top team among others receiving votes in the season-ending ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll, and they were ranked among the top 40 in the nation in scoring offense (27th - 71.5 ppg.), assist/turnover ratio (29th - 0.94), turnover margin (36th - plus-3.68) and scoring margin (40th - plus-9.2 ppg.).
Notre Dame will be facing San Diego State for just the second time in series history, and the first in nearly 29 years. The only prior meeting between the Irish and Aztecs came on March 21, 1981, at the Northern Lights Tournament in Anchorage, Alaska (nearly 5,000 miles away from the site of this Thanksgiving's Paradise Jam), with SDSU earning a 71-34 victory late in Notre Dame's first season as a Division I program in the old Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) under first-year head coach Mary DiStanislao. Jenny Klauke led the Irish with 13 points and five rebounds that day, while current Notre Dame deputy director of athletics Missy Conboy added six points.
San Diego State posted a 24-8 record in 2008-09, winning a share of its first Mountain West Conference regular season title with a 13-3 record, and reached the second round of the NCAA Championship. Along the way, SDSU defeated Notre Dame's fellow BIG EAST member, DePaul, 76-70, in its tournament opener before falling to eventual Women's Final Four qualifier Stanford, 77-49 in round two. After garnering votes in the final '08-09 ESPN/USA Today poll, the Aztecs have 12 letterwinners, including four starters, back from that club and are coached by Beth Burns.
Much like their series with San Diego State, the Irish have not played South Carolina since the program's early years as a Division I member. The Gamecocks won both prior contests against Notre Dame, taking a 124-48 victory on Jan. 31, 1981, at the Joyce Center, as well as a 76-54 decision on Feb. 20, 1982, in Columbia, S.C. Tricia McManus posted team highs of 16 points and five rebounds in the first series game, while Carrie Bates tallied a team-high 14 points and Mary Beth Schueth grabbed a team-best 13 rebounds in the rematch a year later.
South Carolina began a transition last season under new head coach (and three-time Olympic gold medalist) Dawn Staley, battling through an injury-plagued campaign with a 10-18 record. The Gamecocks are expected to have 10 players, including two starters, back next season.
Notre Dame and Oklahoma will square off for the second time in three years, and the first since the Irish posted a 79-75 overtime victory over the Sooners in the second round of the NCAA Championship on March 25, 2008, in West Lafayette, Ind. In that game, All-America guard Charel Allen poured in a career-high 35 points, the second-highest total ever posted by a Notre Dame player in NCAA Championship competition. OU won the only regular-season matchup between the schools by a 57-54 margin on Dec. 30, 1986, at the Seattle Times Classic in Seattle, Wash., ironically also a neutral-site tournament setting.
Oklahoma finished with a 32-5 record, winning the Big 12 Conference regular-season at 15-1, and advancing to the NCAA Women's Final Four before suffering a 61-59 loss to Notre Dame's BIG EAST rival Louisville in the national semifinals at St. Louis' Scottrade Center. The Sooners, who were ranked fourth in the final '08-09 Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls, will have eight letterwinners, including three starters, back in the fold next season and are led by 2009 Big 12 Coach of the Year Sherri Coale.
In 2008 Paradise Jam action, Wisconsin came from behind to take the lead with seven seconds to play, upsetting sixth-ranked Baylor to claim the Island Division championship. BIG EAST member Villanova finished ahead of Central Florida to earn third place in the division. In the Reef Division, second-ranked California cruised past Texas Tech, South Florida and Iowa to claim that division's championship, while USF defeated Iowa in overtime to earn second place.
Notre Dame is in the midst of preparing for a 10-day European tour, which gets underway Saturday night when the Irish head for Paris, France. Notre Dame also will make stops in Monaco and Italy during its trip, and will play three games during the tour, with a complete trip itinerary to be released later this week.