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Irish basketball teams opposites

– The Notre Dame men’s and women’s basketball teams will enter this season with high expectations.

But the Irish teams will have different looks while trying to live up to those expectations.

The men’s squad returns all five of its starters – guards Eric Atkins, Jerian Grant, Pat Connaughton and Scott Martin and forward Jack Cooley – from last year’s NCAA tournament team that went 22-12.

“When you start with the experience we have coming back, that is a great place to start in college basketball,” men’s coach Mike Brey said.

The women’s team, which reached its second straight NCAA tournament title game and went 35-4 last season, will be replacing three starters after the graduation of forward Devereaux Peters and guards Natalie Novosel and Brittany Mallory.

“When I look at our team, I feel like we are young,” women’s coach Muffet McGraw said. “We have a lot of new faces that are going to be playing major minutes for us.”

The Irish women will have star guard Skylar Diggins, who averaged a team-high 16.8 points, and guard Kayla McBride, who averaged 11.6 points, back as it chases another Final Four appearance.

And Notre Dame added a freshmen class of Jewell Loyd, Hannah Huffman and Michaela Mabrey that was ranked as high as No. 3 in the nation, and the Irish will count on forward Natalie Achonwa, who averaged 7.6 points and 4.4 rebounds, to replace Peters’ 11.8 points and 9.3 rebounds per game.

Diggins said the expectations are the same as every year for a squad that has lost in the last two championship games.

“I expect us to perform at a high level,” Diggins said. “I expect us to compete with the best of the best, and at the end, I expect us to be in the position we were last year with hopefully a different outcome.”

The men’s team will have different expectations from last year when it was replacing three starters, and the additions of center Garrick Sherman, a transfer from Michigan State who had to sit out last year, and freshmen forwards Cameron Beidscheid and Zach Auguste have raised the bar of what is expected.

“We are not really worried about what everybody else is talking about,” Martin said. “For years, we’ve been told we are going to be terrible, and we ended up pretty good. We worry about what we believe we can do in that locker room, and the group of us working together, we can accomplish quite a bit.”

tkrausz@jg.net

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