Head coach: Muffet McGraw
Potential matchup with Duke: Regional final
With her senior year nearing an end, Skylar Diggins has accomplished just about everything she possibly could in her collegiate career—except win a national championship.
She was named Big East Player of the Year for the second consecutive season and just capped off a 31-1 campaign by leading the Fighting Irish to the school’s first-ever conference title. Diggins has even repeatedly found a way to best archrival Connecticut, knocking off the Huskies six times during the past two seasons.
But still, no title, despite some close calls. The senior guard led Notre Dame to the NCAA championship game the last two years, only to fall short to Texas A&M in 2011 and Baylor in 2012. But this year, Diggins may be surrounded by her best supporting cast yet.
Diggins leads a balanced scoring attack that has four players averaging double-digit points, helping the Fighting Irish boast the nation’s third highest scoring offense with 80.8 points per game. Joining Diggins on the perimeter is junior guard Kayla McBride, who was named the Big East Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player after averaging 17 points while playing stifling defense. Rounding out the backcourt is the Big East Freshman of the Year, Jewell Loyd, who is deadly behind the arc, shooting nearly 40 percent.
Notre Dame also boasts one of the premier post players in junior Natalie Achonwa, who will likely be the key to a sustained Fighting Irish tournament run. She has a tendency to get into foul trouble, but when on the court she is dominant on the boards and has a knack for coming up big in clutch situations, as evidenced by her last-second basket to beat Connecticut in the Big East Tournament final.
How Duke beats Notre Dame: Alexis Jones breaks down Notre Dame’s punishing backcourt.
How Duke loses to Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish’s well-balanced attack runs on all cylinders.