Posted March 23, 2013 on
AP on Fox
Notre Dame came into the season with a few goals. Now with two of the main ones accomplished, the Irish can turn their attention to the NCAA tournament.
Top-seeded Notre Dame (31-1) starts its quest to return to the Final Four on Sunday against Ohio Valley Conference champion Tennessee Martin (19-14) in the first-round of the NCAAs at Iowa's Carver-Hawkeye Arena. In the other first-round game, eighth-seeded Miami (21-10) takes on host Iowa (20-12), one of 13 schools in the nation to play in its sixth straight NCAA tournament.
The Irish, who are riding a school record 26-game winning streak, have made the NCAA title game the past two seasons falling both times. Now the Irish hope to get back there again and get the school's second national championship.
McGraw said her team's resiliency and chronic state of dissatisfaction has fueled their success. The Fighting Irish never stop searching for ways to improve.
''They come in after a win and we're going to watch what we did wrong,'' McGraw said. ''We don't really look at what we're doing well so much as how we can get better, and this team relishes that. They love to be challenged. They want to get better.''
Notre Dame swept the Big East Conference regular season and tournament titles, becoming the first school other than Connecticut to accomplish the feat since 1993.
The Fighting Irish's lone loss this season came at home to top-ranked Baylor back on Dec. 5. Notre Dame hasn't lost since despite being tested with three wins against UConn, two against Louisville and others against Tennessee and Purdue.
''We understand what it takes to get there,'' senior Skylar Diggins said. ''The conference schedule that we play is so tough. I've said this before - you're playing elite level Final Four, Sweet 16 games all the time. I think ultimately that's what really prepared us for the tournament.''
Notre Dame averages 80.8 points per game and boasts a balanced offense. Ten of the 11 players on the roster have scored in double figures at least once, including five with 20-point games.
The three-time All-American Diggins leads the Fighting Irish with 17 points and almost six assists per game. The senior guard is 52 points shy of the school's career scoring mark.
Notre Dame shouldn't intimidate Tennessee Martin.
The Skyhawks played Baylor, Stanford, Louisville and Purdue during their nonconference schedule.
Tennessee Martin is the only team in the nation with two top-10 scorers. Jasmine Newsome (22.9 points per game) and Health Butler (22) account for more than 60 percent of the scoring by the Skyhawks.
The guards weren't heavily recruited, perhaps because of their size.
''They look more like cheerleaders than basketball players,'' Tennessee Martin coach Kevin McMillan said.
The 5-foot-5 Butler played for McMillan in high school. The 5-6 Newsome's dad reached out to McMillan after paying close attention to his career path from nearby Millington, Tenn.
Iowa and Miami have a lot of similarities. Both teams have registered big wins and weathered tough stretches, and they both have the flexibility to score inside and outside.
The Hawkeyes once had more wins against ranked opponents than any other team in the country. Iowa lost six of seven games later in the season before pulling a few wins out at the end to secure the NCAA bid.
The Hurricanes knocked off top 10 teams Penn State and Duke. Miami also dropped five games in January.
Iowa coach Lisa Bluder was savoring the opportunity to play at home, where the Hawkeyes ranked in the top 20 in attendance this season. She planned to have the team over to her house for lasagna and chicken.
''This afternoon was kind of weird,'' Bluder said. ''I'm at home cleaning my kitchen. Not sure if that's what most coaches are doing during NCAA tournament time.''
Miami coach Katie Meier once dreamed of playing for the Hawkeyes as a high school guard in Wheaton, Ill., after two of her sisters and a brother attended school at Iowa.
Meier ended up at Duke after then-Iowa coach Vivian Stringer didn't offer a scholarship. Meier admitted she probably wasn't good enough.
''I'm not bitter,'' Meier joked. ''I still have the letter - no, just kidding, I don't.''
BEST OF MAXIM
AROUND THE WEB
Lost in the madness that is March, is the fact that Adidas will make camo uniforms for Notre Dame football in 2013. After mixed reviews over the the uniforms that Adidas made for the basketball team, they felt it would be best to wait to announce it until later this summer. It will be a one game thing and that means we could see it either against Michigan or in the Shamrock Series...
Jewell Loyd scored 27 points and top-seeded Notre Dame blew past Tennessee-Martin 97-64 on Sunday in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.
Kayla McBride had 22 points and 10 rebounds for the Fighting Irish (32-1), who have won 27 straight heading into Tuesday's second-round matchup with either Iowa or Miami. Natalie Achonwa added 16 points.
Heather Butler scored 23 of her...
If you thought that the Big East Tournament was the last time you’d see Notre Dame wear its awful Adidas “Shamrock Shake”-looking uniforms, think again. The Irish still haven’t discarded them, and are donning the white version tonight. I have no idea why.
Most viewers with HD televisions are probably rooting for Iowa State for the sake of their eyes.
Bring on the Irish!Need...
Notre Dame got another commitment for the 2014 class, when New Jersey prep star Andrew Trumbetti pulled the trigger and committed to the Irish during a recent visit. According to Trumbetti, Notre Dame was his "dream offer." For Fighting Irish fans, Trumbetti is another piece in building the team of our dreams.
Trumbetti is rated as a 4 star on both Scout and 24...
DETROIT (AP) -- Notre Dame is the final Central Collegiate Hockey Association champion.
The Irish, heading to Hockey East for the 2013-14 season, beat Michigan 3-1 on Sunday in the CCHA's final championship game.
All of the CCHA's teams have found other conferences to play in next season, making the CCHA's 42nd season its last.
Michigan, along with Michigan State and...
History was made at the Joe Louis Arena today but unfortunately for the University of Michigan, they fell on the wrong side of it… twice.
After an impressive 6-2 victory over Miami (OH) Saturday, the Wolverines fell to Notre Dame 3-1 in the final CCHA Championship game as the conference will cease to exist next season.
Michigan though struck first in the opening period as Derek...
Tight end Jeb Blazevich has Notre Dame in his top 6, and he's planning a June 1 commitment date. Blazevich visited Notre Dame for the first time on Saturday for junior day, and he talks about his visit, conversations with the staff, and future plans.
DETROIT (AP) -- Andrew Copp scored twice, and Michigan used a four-goal second period to post a 6-2 upset of Miami (Ohio) in a CCHA semifinal on Saturday night at Joe Louis Arena.
The Wolverines will take on Notre Dame in the conference final on Sunday (2:30 p.m. on FOX Sports Detroit), with the winner earning the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Notre Dame defeated Ohio State...
DETROIT (AP) -- Peter Schneider and T.J. Tynan scored goals and Notre Dame rallied past Ohio State in the first semifinal of the CCHA tournament on Saturday at Joe Louis Arena.
Ryan Dzingel gave the third-seeded Buckeyes a 1-0 lead with his 16th goal of the season in the first period, but the Irish, the No. 2 seed, rallied with a goal in each period. Jeff Costello sealed the victory...
Sherman Oaks (Calif.) Notre Dame defensive back Koa Farmer is one of the top safeties in the West and spent the weekend at Cal for the Bears Junior Day.
Notre Dame's offense was a touch vanilla last season, but 12 wins in the team's first 12 games relegated that reality to a minor lament. In 2013, head coach Brian Kelly believes his offense could walk hand-in-hand with the program's championship defense.
Notre Dame's season ended not the way Irish captain Eric Atkins expected to see. Following the game in the Irish locker room, Atkins addressed what was needed for the Irish to get over their tournament hump.
Things a Jersey guy took note of this week: My buddy Jim Donaldson, veteran columnist of the Providence Journal, was on his normal “how screwed up is this” rant about something which irritated him. As a Notre Dame guy, especially in the aftermath of Notre Dame’s non-performance in the BCS title blow out loss to Alabama… Read More
Lima Central Catholic (Ohio) safety Darius West was unable to attend Notre Dame junior day on Saturday, but he talks about his expectations for when does step foot on campus in the future.
IrishEyes.com was on hand for Notre Dame's loss to Iowa State and shot the comments of Pat Connaughton in the locker room.