Irish the favorite to win ACC women’s basketball title


Coach Muffet McGraw has high expectations for her Irish women’s basketball team entering every season. It appears the ACC has the same.

The defending champion Notre Dame Fighting Irish–which hasn’t lost a conference game yet–was the consensus preseason favorite, chosen by the league’s coaches and a panel of school representatives and media. The Irish went 16-0 in their inaugural season, won the regular season title, then claimed the tournament title before making a run to their fourth straight Final Four.

Notre Dame received 14 of 15 first-place votes from the coaches, 38 of 41 from the panel members.

“There’s no doubt it’s the best women’s basketball league in the country.”

Both groups had the top four in the same order; the Irish, followed by Duke, Louisville, and North Carolina.

The Blue Devils had pretty much had their way in the ACC, a top-three pick for the 14th straight year. But last year the Irish crashed the party, as Duke had won or shared the regular season title in four-straight years until last season.

The Irish have been so close for the past four years, making the Final Four each year, and playing for the title in three of the four (2011-Texas A&M, 2012-Baylor, 2014-UConn). Coach McGraw relayed that to the media.

"“We have been so close for the last four years, and I think that while we’re proud of what we’ve accomplished, we know that we really want to make that next step,” coach Muffet McGraw said."

Jewell Loyd was chosen by both groups as preseason player of the year. Loyd led the team, averaging 18.6 points, earning the conference MVP award in the ACC tourney, and eventually helping the Irish reach the title game.

Sitting next to Loyd, Coach McGraw said “She’s been there twice now. She wants to win the ring. That’s important for all of us. That’s what our goal is.”

With the changes in conference alignment, it’s high praise for the Irish to be the top pick. since 2006, Notre Dame, Louisville, Duke, and UNC have combined to reach nine Final Four’s. Sylvia Hatchell, the Tarheels coach who returns after a season away to battle leukemia, echoed what most in women’s basketball believe.

"“You look at the teams in there that’s been to the Final Four, there is no doubt — and I can’t imagine anybody would even challenge this league as far as the best league,” Hatchell said. “There’s no doubt it’s the best women’s basketball league in the country.”"

For many years, Geno Auriemma and the Connecticut Huskies played second fiddle to Pat Summit’s Tennessee Volunteers. The Irish have nearly reached the top the last four seasons, maybe it’s time for these ladies to play that first fiddle.