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ND Women’s Basketball

Irish set to host opening rounds as region’s top seed

| Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Notre Dame earned its fifth-straight No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament on Monday night, setting the Irish up for an opening-round game against No. 16 seed North Carolina A&T on Saturday.

The Irish (31-1, 16-0 ACC) are the top seed in the Lexington, Kentucky, region, where they will play if they advance past North Carolina A&T in the first round and the winner of No. 8 Georgia and No. 9 Indiana in the second round.

Beginning with last year’s tournament, the top four seeds in each region host the first two rounds of games, so the Irish will play their first two games at Purcell Pavilion before potentially heading to Lexington.

“We’re excited to be going to Lexington, but right now, we’ve got to focus on our first two games,” Irish head coach Muffet McGraw said. “We’ve got great teams coming in here, and we’ve got to do the job on them.”

The other teams to earn No. 1 seeds in the tournament were Connecticut, the overall top seed, South Carolina, who is on the same side of the bracket as Notre Dame, and Baylor.

Though their bid to the NCAA tournament was never in doubt, the Irish secured it last week by winning their third consecutive ACC tournament with a 68-57 victory over Syracuse. That was preceded by a 78-67 win over Miami (Fla.) in the semifinal and an 83-54 win over Duke in the quarterfinal.

Capturing the tournament victory was never really in question for Notre Dame, which trailed for just a combined eight and a half minutes in its three games. Graduate student guard Madison Cable was named the tournament MVP after averaging 14.3 points per game, including an 18-point game with six 3s against Syracuse. Junior guard Lindsay Allen and sophomore forward Brianna Turner joined Cable in earning first-team all-tournament honors.

Graduate student guard Madison Cable steps behind the line during Notre Dame’s 70-58 win over Boston College on Feb. 27.Sarah Olson | The Observer

Graduate student guard Madison Cable steps behind the line
during Notre Dame’s 70-58 win over Boston College on Feb. 27.

“I think the first one is always special, when you come into a new league,” McGraw said. “And coming out of the Big East, which was a great league, and coming into the ACC not knowing everybody and winning and going undefeated was really special for us. Then this year, looking at our team and thinking of what we’ve lost and what we’ve come through, who we’re playing and how it’s been working out, this team has surprised me.

“It’s probably not the most talented team we’ve had in the last five years, but it’s certainly one of the most fun. They are just a joy to be around, they work so hard, and it’s been really great watching them improve throughout the year.”

With the ACC trophy wrapped up, Notre Dame was able to take a much-deserved rest during the University’s spring break, McGraw said, before players return to the court this week in preparation for the NCAA tournament.

“I think that one of the things we’ve been able to do well over the years is give them a rest, because mentally, it’s just so big,” she said. “They’ve got so much work academically, and then they’re over here, when they have a day off, it’s never on the weekend because we’re playing Sunday or Monday. So for them to have time off to just get out and be kids and enjoy life and hopefully get into the gym and get a couple of shots up, but generally just really relax.”

Notre Dame hits to the hardwood with the goal of advancing to its sixth consecutive Final Four, which will take place in Indianapolis. The Irish will start that campaign this Saturday against North Carolina A&T, with tip at 6:30 p.m. at Purcell Pavilion.

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