Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw has been named a Naismith National Coach of the Year finalist for the fifth time in her career. (Daily Star Photo/File)

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McGraw Naismith Coach of the Year finalists

Published 2:45pm Friday, March 16, 2012

NOTRE DAME, Ind. — For the fifth time in her storied career, Notre Dame women’s basketball head coach Muffet McGraw has been selected as a finalist for the Naismith National Coach of the Year award, it was announced Friday by the Atlanta Tipoff Club.

McGraw previously was chosen as a finalist for the Naismith Award in 1998, 1999, 2001 and 2005, and she was accorded the honor in ‘01 when the Fighting Irish won their first NCAA national championship.

This season, McGraw has piloted Notre Dame to a 30-3 overall record and 15-1 mark in the rugged BIG EAST Conference, securing the outright BIG EAST Conference regular season title by two full games (the second BIG EAST crown for the Fighting Irish, and first outright championship in their 17 seasons as a conference member). She also has led Notre Dame to its second consecutive 30-win season, with the Fighting Irish reaching that milestone before the start of the NCAA Championship (both are first-time accomplishments in the program’s 35-year history).

Under McGraw’s guidance, Notre Dame has earned a school-record 12 wins over ranked opponents, including five against top-10 teams (the most ever compiled in the regular season). The Fighting Irish also rank among the top 25 in the nation in 12 NCAA statistical categories, having led the nation in scoring for much of the 2011-12 season (they currently are second at 79.6 points per game), and the Fighting Irish have appeared in the top five of both major national polls for all 19 weeks this season, the longest such stretch in school history.

On top of that, Notre Dame ranks fifth in the nation in attendance (school-record 8,811 fans per game) and is one of 22 schools in this weekend’s NCAA Championship to post a perfect 100 percent graduation rate. In fact, Notre Dame is one of just three schools to have both its men’s and women’s basketball team own perfect graduation rates and also be selected to compete in NCAA Championship play.

McGraw has a record of 586-214 (.733) in 25 seasons at Notre Dame, ranking second on the all-time wins list for all sports in the 125-year history of Fighting Irish athletics. A 2011 inductee into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, McGraw has a career record of 674-255 (.726) in 30 years on the sidelines, ranking among the top 20 in NCAA Division I history for both career wins and career winning percentage.

Joining McGraw on this year’s list of Naismith National Coach of the Year finalists are Jim Crowley (St. Bonaventure), Kim Mulkey (Baylor) and Tara VanDerveer (Stanford). The finalists were determined by the Atlanta Tipoff Club’s National Voting Academy, comprised of leading basketball journalists, coaches and administrators from around the country. The academy based its criteria on coaching performances this season.

Now in its 25th year, the Naismith Award is among the most prestigious national honors presented annually to the women’s college basketball coach of the year. This year’s recipient will be announced in early April.

Ranked No. 4 in the latest Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls, Notre Dame has earned the No. 1 seed in the Raleigh Region for the 2012 NCAA Championship, and will tip off tournament play at approximately 2:30 p.m. Sunday against Big South Conference champion Liberty at Purcell Pavilion. The game will be televised live on ESPN2 through its “whiparound coverage” (viewers in Indiana and the Chicagoland area, as well as western Virginia, will see the game in its entirety, while the rest of the country will rotate through all four games in that time slot). Viewers can also see the game in its entirety through ESPN3/WatchESPN and the ESPN Full Court package.

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