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Irish Insights

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Irish in new role entering NCAA women's tournament

Notre Dame enters its 17th consecutive NCAA women's tournament with a different feel from last season when it reached the championship game.

The Irish (30-3) are the No. 1 seed in the Raleigh Region and open play on their home court in Purcell Pavilion against No. 16-seed Liberty (24-8). The opening-round game tips off at 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

"It's a different look, a different side," Irish guard Skylar Diggins said. "The fact that we are here is different, because we are at our home place. We are on our home court. We have our home crowd. The No. 1 seed, you play against higher seeds. I think being a 2 seed is also a very good seed. They aren't very different, but you are playing against tougher teams as a 2 seed as compared to being paired up with higher seeds as a 1 seed."

Notre Dame was a No. 2 seed in last year's tournament, and the Irish began the tourney by traveling to Salt Lake City.

The Irish had to defeat Tennessee in the Dayton Region final last year and get past Connecticut in the national semifinals to reach the title game last season. Notre Dame fell 76-70 in the championship game in Indianapolis.

"I think last year, it was a lot about we were the sleeper team, nobody really expected that much from us," Irish forward Devereaux Peters said. "I think people brushed us off.

"Where as this year, people are looking at us like they are a great team. They are a No. 1 seed, we are coming after them as opposed to us going after other people."

If Notre Dame defeats Liberty on Sunday, it will face either No. 8 seed California or No. 9 seed Iowa on Tuesday.

Then Notre Dame has a few interesting potential opponents if it gets past the first weekend of the tournament.

Texas A&M is the No. 3 seed in the Raleigh Region. The two teams could meet again in the Elite Eight.

Notre Dame could also face a familiar foe if it reaches the Final Four. Connecticut is the top seed in the Kingston Region, and the two teams could play each other in the national semifinals in Denver this year.

The Irish defeated UConn in the national semifinals last season and won two regular-season games against the Huskies this year before losing to them 63-54 in the finals of the Big East tournament March 6.

"We do have some unfinished business," coach Muffet McGraw said. "But we can't afford to look ahead. It could be some good motivation to keep improving and get to that game."

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