Notre Dame earned its highest preseason ranking in program history, opening the season at No. 4 in The Associated Press Top 25.
All 12 players from last season return. The Irish went 22-9 (10-6 Big East) and made at 14th consecutive appearance in the NCAA tournament but were eliminated by Minnesota in the first round.
Skylar Diggins is one of the most decorated freshmen in Irish history. The former South Bend Washington standout was the 2008-09 Gatorade National High School female athlete of the year and was the MVP in the McDonald’s and WBCA All-American games.
The Irish will play 14 teams that advanced to the NCAA tournament last season, including three of the four Final Four teams (Connecticut, Louisville and Oklahoma.)
Purcell Pavilion, which was part of a $34.3 million Joyce Center renovation project, is Notre Dame’s home. The renovated arena has a capacity of 9,149.
4 games of interest
Nov. 19 at Michigan State: Notre Dame doesn’t wait long to get challenged this season, as the Irish travel to take on the preseason No. 10 Spartans in their second game.
Nov. 28 vs. Oklahoma: The first of three games against teams that advanced to last season’s women’s Final Four. The Irish play the Sooners in the Paradise Jam.
Jan. 4 at Purdue: The Irish take on their in-state rivals in the first game for the team in 2010.
Jan. 16/March 1 at/vs. Connecticut: Notre Dame plays the No. 1 team and defending national champions twice, starting with an away game that will be the first women’s game highlighted on ESPN’s College GameDay.
3 best players
Ashley Barlow: The senior guard is a two-time All-Big East selection, and she led the in scoring (12.7) and was third in rebounding (4.8) last season.
Lindsay Schrader: The senior guard was a first-team All-Big East selection last year. She averaged career highs in points (12.6) and rebounds (7.4) last season.
Becca Bruszewski: The junior forward averaged 10.7 points and five rebounds after working her way into the starting rotation last season.
2 points of concern
Post play. Bruszewski is the only post player not coming off an injury, and it will take time for Erica Williamson (ankle), Erica Solomon (ankle) and Devereaux Peters (knee) to get back in game shape.
Defense. Notre Dame gave up 62.3 points per game and eight of its final 16 opponents scored more than 70 last season. During the team’s 11-day European tour in May, the Irish held teams to 50.3 points and forced more than 25 turnovers.
1 major issue
Setting a rotation. With every player back and trying to work in freshmen Diggins and Kaila Turner, coach Muffet McGraw has a tough task in finding enough playing time and scoring opportunities for the players. McGraw said the team has good chemistry and that she expects intense scrimmages in practice as players try to earn playing time.