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The Journal Gazette

  • Courtesy Notre Dame Notre Dame senior Arike Ogunbowale led the Irish to a national title last season, the second in program history, hitting game-winning shots in the Final Four and title game.

Thursday, November 08, 2018 1:00 am

Notre Dame women's breakdown

Schedule

Nov. 9: Harvard, 4 p.m.

Nov. 12: Pennsylvania, 7 p.m.

Nov. 17: at DePaul, 2 p.m.

Nov. 22: vs. Gonzaga, (at Vancouver, British Columbia), 3 p.m.

Nov. 23: TBA. (at Vancouver), TBA

Nov. 24: TBA. (at Vancouver), TBA

Nov. 29: Iowa, 7 p.m.

Dec. 2: UConn, 4 p.m.

Dec. 8: at Toledo, 1 p.m.

Dec. 16: Binghampton, 1 p.m.

Dev. 19: W. Kentucky, 7 p.m.

Dec. 22: at Marquette, 1:30 p.m.

Dec. 30: Lehigh, 1 p.m.

Jan. 3: Pittsburgh, 7 p.m.

Jan. 6: at Georgia Tech, 3 p.m.

Jan. 10: Louisville, 7 p.m.

Jan. 13: Wake Forest, 1 p.m.

Jan. 16: at Virginia Tech, 7 p.m.

Jan. 20: Boston College, 1 p.m.

Jan. 24: at Tennessee, 7 p.m.

Jan. 27: at North Carolina, 2 p.m.

Jan. 31: at Clemson, 7 p.m.

Feb. 3: Georgia Tech, noon

Feb. 7: at Miami (Fla.), 7 p.m.

Feb. 10: Florida State, noon

Feb. 13: at Boston College, 7 p.m.

Feb. 18: at N.C. State, 7 p.m.

Feb. 21: Duke, 7 p.m.

Feb. 25: at Syracuse, 6 p.m.

March 3: Virginia, 12:30 p.m.

March 6-10: at Greensboro N.C., TBA

5 facts

• The Irish are the defending national champions, having defeated perennial power Connecticut in the Final Four then Mississippi State to take the title. The championship was Notre Dame's second in program history as the Irish finished the season 35-3. 

• Arike Ogunbowale is back. The 5-foot-8 guard, who hit game-winning shots in the Final Four and the title game, led the ACC with 20.8 points per game and set a Notre Dame record for points in a season.

• The Irish won the title despite a rash of injuries, including a season-ending ACL tear for two-time ACC Defensive Player of the Year Brianna Turner, suffered in the 2017 Final Four. Turner returns this season and says she's “completely back.”

• Notre Dame won at least a share of the ACC regular-season title for the fifth straight season since entering the conference. The Irish won the first four ACC Tournaments they played in, as well, but fell to Louisville 74-72 in the 2018 conference tournament title game.

• Coach Muffet McGraw is entering her 32nd season coaching the Irish, having already led Notre Dame to eight Final Fours and two national championships. Notre Dame's 22nd win this year will be her 900th career victory, a mark only nine other coaches (men's or women's) have reached.

4 games of interest

Nov. 24 vs. South Carolina (tentative): The Irish play in the eight-team Vancouver Showcase early in the season. If Notre Dame and South Carolina win their first two games, the tournament's final would be a matchup between the last two national champions. 

Dec. 2 vs. Connecticut: These teams played an overtime thriller in the Final Four last season and Notre Dame emerged with a 91-89 win. The Huskies visit Purcell Pavilion for one of this season's best matchups.

Jan. 10 vs. Louisville: The Cardinals beat Notre Dame twice last season, including a 100-67 regular-season demolishing. Louisville didn't visit Purcell, however, and the Irish will have a chance for some revenge.

Jan. 24 at Tennessee: The Irish overcame a 23-point deficit to beat Tennessee at Purcell last year, a win McGraw called one of the most important of the season. The perennially strong Volunteers are coming off a 25-8 campaign.  

3 key players

Arike Ogunbowale, Sr., G: 20.8 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.4 steals, second-team All-American

Jessica Shepard, Sr., F: 15.6 points, 8.1 rebounds, 57 percent shooting

Brianna Turner, Sr., F: 15.3 points, 7.1 rebounds, 2.5 blocks, 62 percent shooting, second-team All-American (2016-17 stats)

2 points of concern

Avoiding injury: The Irish lost four players to ACL injuries before or during the 2017-18 season. This is a team that has the talent at every position to repeat as national champions. If it avoids the bad luck that marked the early months of last season, it will be difficult to derail Notre Dame.

Returning star: Having Turner back will give the Irish a defensive presence in the middle it mostly lacked last season. On the other hand, there might not be enough touches to go around with so many talented players on the roster.

1 major issue

Defending champs: Heavy lies the crown. The Irish will have a large target squarely on their backs all season.

– Dylan Sinn, The Journal Gazette

dsinn@jg.net