Posted March 23, 2013 on
AP on Fox
Skylar Diggins enters her final NCAA tournament with a sense of calmness after losses in the championship game the past two seasons.
"I'm really coming in with a light mood, approaching practice wanting to have fun and enjoy this moment, because it's my last go around. But the sense of urgency is greater,'' Diggins said Friday before practice. ''But I don't think I'm putting any more pressure on myself or on our team than anyone else is.''
Diggins, one of four finalists for the Naismith Award, has led the Fighting Irish (31-1) to its best regular-season ever, with Notre Dame posting its first undefeated Big East season and winning the league tournament for the first time, beating rival UConn three times along the way.
Diggins believes winning the league tournament is an example of this squad's will to win and gives it momentum heading into the NCAA tournament, where the Irish open against Tennessee-Martin (19-14) on Sunday in Iowa City, Iowa. Notre Dame, which has won a school-record 26 straight, is a No. 1 seed for the second straight season and for the third time in program history.
Diggins, who was has started a school-record 139 games and played in 15 NCAA tournament games, said she isn't feeling any nervousness about her last chance.
''The calmness comes with experience. I know what I have to do in my job,'' she said.
Coach Muffet McGraw, who guided the Irish to a national championship in 2001, said Diggins had been feeling ''under the weather'' all week. All Diggins would say Friday was that she is feeling fine.
McGraw knows Diggins is putting pressure on herself heading into the tournament. McGraw believes that's a good thing because it's what makes her one of the nation's best players.
''She embraces that challenge. She wants to be great. She wants to be the best player and she wants us to be the best team. So I think for her, she's going to go into this tournament - like she does for every other one - with an incredible sense of urgency and ready to go,'' McGraw said. ''She doesn't have to prove herself to anybody. She can just relax.''
Diggins heads into the tournament 53 points shy of breaking the school scoring record of 2,322 held by current assistant coach Beth Morgan Cunningham (1993-97). She already holds the school record for career steals with 365 and needs 20 assists to move past assistant coach Niele Ivey (1996-2001) into second on the school's all-time list.
As good as Diggins has been in four seasons for the Irish, averaging 15.7 points a game on 44.8 percent shooting with 4.9 assists a game and 3.2 turnovers, she's been even better at tournament time. In NCAA tournament games, Diggins is averaging 17.4 points on 46 percent shooting with 5.7 assists and 3.6 turnovers.
Teammates say as much as they want to simply win a championship, they want to win one even more for Diggins.
''That's our end goal every year, but it makes it special this year,'' junior forward Natalie Achonwa said. ''Skylar's been such a great contributor to our program, not only this team, but the teams in the past as well. ''
Diggins doesn't feel the need to stress to her teammates how much she and fellow senior Kaila Turner want a national championship.
''I think they can feel our sense of urgency,'' she said.
The Skyhawks certainly won't be intimidated by facing Diggins and the Irish. They played other top seeds Baylor and Stanford back in November, and only lost 82-67 to the top-ranked Bears. UT-Martin was one of four teams to stay within 15 points of Baylor during the regular season, and Notre Dame and UConn were two of the others.
Jasmine Newsome and Heather Butler take more than 60 percent of the Skyhawks' shots. They're the highest-scoring duo in the nation, averaging 22.9 and 22.0 points to each rank among the NCAA's top seven in scoring.
UT-Martin lost 72-49 to second-seeded Tennessee in the first round of the 2012 tournament, and 90-45 to second-seeded Duke in the first round a year earlier.
BEST OF MAXIM
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...
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...
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) -- 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.