Notre Dame sophomore guard Skylar Diggins has gone from talented up-and-comer to a force during this year’s NCAA women’s tournament.
And she can lay claim to being women’s college basketball brightest returning star next season if she can lead the Irish (31-2) past Texas A&M (32-5) in tonight’s championship game in Conseco Fieldhouse.
Diggins, who also won a state high school championship in Conseco in her sophomore season at South Bend Washington, has raised her game to a new level in the tournament.
Diggins averaged 18.6 points, 6.4 assists and has connected on 10 of 22 three-pointers in five tournament games. For the year, she averaged 14.8 points, 4.8 assists and made 35 of 103 three-pointers.
“I think she was the most important recruit we’ve gotten,” coach Muffet McGraw said of her point guard. “She had probably the most hype coming in, No. 1 player coming in from South Bend. You can’t let a kid like that get away from home.
“We worked hard for four years. And (assistant coach) Niele Ivey was instrumental when I hired her. And I hired her and I said, ‘You’ve got one job, that’s to get Skylar.’ She worked on it for a couple of years. And we couldn’t have been happier when she finally said yes. We felt like it was years of work and the future was very bright.”
Diggins will be the most important player for Notre Dame as the Irish try to handle the harassing pressure of Texas A&M’s Sydney Colson and Sydney Carter.
The Aggies guard have combined for 22 steals in five tournament games.
“I think that, you know, a lot of people, I don’t want to say they fear our defense, but I think they really respect what we do on the defensive end,” Carter said. “And we take so much pride on the defensive end and making people feel uncomfortable and making them do things that they don’t want to do.”
If Diggins can do what she wants tonight, Notre Dame will win. If the Aggies’ Sydneys cause enough havoc to throw Diggins off her game, Texas A&M will be a first time champ.
Prediction: Diggins does fine on the biggest stage, and Notre Dame wins 65-57