Irish earn 17th straight NCAA bidPublished 10:25pm Tuesday, March 13, 2012
NOTRE DAME, Ind. — For the 17th consecutive season, and the 19th time in school history, Notre Dame has earned a berth in the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship.
The Fighting Irish are the No. 1 seed in the Raleigh Region — the second time in program history they have earned a top seed — and will play 16th-seeded Liberty (the Big South Conference champion) at approximately 2:30 p.m. Sunday at Purcell Pavilion.
The game will be televised by ESPN2 as part of that network’s “whiparound coverage,” while viewers in the South Bend market, as well as those watching on the internet at WatchESPN (formerly ESPN3.com), will see the game in its entirety. However, the majority of ESPN2 viewers nationwide will be shuttled between all four games in that time slot, including the Notre Dame-Liberty contest. All Fighting Irish games also can be heard live on the radio in the Michiana area on Pulse FM (96.9/92.1), as well as worldwide on the Internet at UND.com with veteran broadcaster Bob Nagle on the call.
Eighth-seeded California and No. 9 seed Iowa will square off in Sunday’s other first-round Raleigh Region game in South Bend (12:10 p.m. tipoff on ESPN2), with the two first-round winners advancing to a March 20 second-round contest at Purcell Pavilion — the start time for that game and the television coverage are still to be announced.
Single-game tickets for either of Sunday’s first-round matchups or Tuesday’s second-round game in South Bend ($16 adults/$11 youth college age and under) can be purchased immediately through the official Notre Dame athletics ticketing website, www.UND.com/tickets. These single-game tickets are now on sale through the Murnane Family Athletics Ticket Office, either by visiting the ticket windows on the first floor of the Rosenthal Atrium at Purcell Pavilion (accessible via Gate 9) or by calling (574) 631-7356.
In addition, ticket packages for all three games at Purcell Pavilion now are available ($32 adults/$22 youth college age and under) and can be purchased either online or through the Murnane Family Athletics Ticket Office — processing fees and service charges may apply.
“We did have a pretty impressive resume, and I was pleased with the way we played all year,” Fighting Irish head coach Muffet McGraw said. “We challenged ourselves with a tough schedule, and we were successful at it. You live for this time of the year. We’re so excited to be playing, getting everyone back together (after the Big East Championship) and getting ready for that first game.”
Notre Dame (30-3, 15-1 BIG EAST Conference) was ranked No. 4 in Monday’s final Associated Press poll of the season and No. 4 in the latest ESPN/USA Today coaches poll (final poll to be released after the NCAA tournament). The Fighting Irish earned their first outright Big East regular season title (and second in school history) by two games over second-place finishers St. John’s and Connecticut, and collected a school-record 12 victories over ranked opponents, including five against top-10 teams (No. 2/2 Connecticut, No. 4/4 Connecticut, No. 7/6 Duke, No. 7/9 Tennessee, No. 8/7 Kentucky, No. 12/14 Purdue, No. 13/14 Rutgers, No. 16/16 Louisville, No. 18/17 Georgetown, No. RV/23 DePaul — twice, and No. 25/RV West Virginia).
Notre Dame registered nearly half of its wins (14) against teams that qualified for this year’s NCAA Championship — each of the aforementioned 10 ranked squads, plus fellow Big East member St. John’s (unranked when it played the Fighting Irish, but now No. 21 in both polls), and non-conference foe Creighton. Notre Dame also defeated six programs that won either their conference regular season or tournament title — Connecticut (BIG EAST Championship), Creighton (Missouri Valley Championship), Duke (ACC regular season), Kentucky (SEC regular season), Purdue (Big Ten Championship) and Tennessee (SEC Championship).
For the second consecutive season, three Notre Dame players earned first-team all-conference recognition — junior guard Skylar Diggins (South Bend, Ind./Washington) was the Big East Player of the Year, as well as a unanimous first-team selection, garnering her second first-team all-Big East citation (and third all-conference certificate) in as many years. Senior guard/tri-captain Natalie Novosel (Lexington, Ky./Lexington Catholic) and fifth-year senior forward/tri-captain Devereaux Peters (Chicago, Ill./Fenwick) not only joined Diggins on the all-conference first team for the second year in a row, but Peters also was a repeat recipient as the BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year, becoming just the fourth player in conference history to earn that award twice.
Notre Dame is 32-17 (.653) all-time in 18 previous NCAA Championship appearances (all under McGraw), having won 14 of its past 16 NCAA first-round games, and advancing to the Sweet 16 (regional semifinals) nine times in the past 15 seasons. In addition, Notre Dame’s current streak of 17 consecutive NCAA tournament berths is the sixth-longest in the nation (and tied for eighth all-time), while its .653 winning percentage is ninth-best in tournament history. The Fighting Irish also have made three NCAA Women’s Final Four appearances and won the national championship in 2001.
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