Editor's Note: The BIG EAST will be previewing both the men's and women's team from each BIG EAST member each weekday from October 22 to November 9 in advance of the 2012-13 season. Use hashtag #BECountdown to join the conversation on Twitter.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish Women's Basketball
The BIG Picture
The Irish enter 2012-13 coming off a second consecutive trip to the NCAA national championship game, a BIG EAST Conference regular season title and a season that featured 22 school records. For the second-straight year, the Fighting Irish knocked off BIG EAST Championship winner Connecticut in the Final Four to reach the national title game. ND won a program-record 35 games were ranked in the top five in both major national polls for all 19 weeks en route to picking up the school’s first outright regular season title. Notre Dame finished fifth in the country in attendance this season with an average of 8,571 fans.
The Fighting Irish will have two starters and eight veterans back, led by senior guard Skylar Diggins. A three-time All-American and the reigning BIG EAST Player of the Year, Diggins heads into her final season already appearing among the top 10 on nine Fighting Irish statistical charts. Junior guard Kayla McBride returns after her first full season at Notre Dame, in which she averaged 11.6 points and 4.6 rebounds per game, while starting 36 times. McBride was a member of both the BIG EAST Championship and NCAA Raleigh Regional all-tournament teams.
The Fighting Irish lost three starters in Natalie Novosel, Devereaux Peters and Brittany Mallory. Novosel averaged 15.2 ppg, 4.1 rpg and 2.0 apg. Peters averaged 11.8 ppg, 9.3 rpg and 2.3 bpg. Mallory added 5.8 ppg, 2.7 rpg and 2.3 apg. Novosel and Peters were two-time All-America selections. Novosel, who started all 39 games last season, was a first-round draft pick by the Washington Mystics (eighth overall), while Peters was a first-round draft pick by the Minnesota Lynx (third overall). Last year, Peters was the only BIG EAST player to rank among the top 10 in the conference in three major defensive categories.
Complementing Notre Dame’s returning core will be a group of three outstanding freshmen that collectively were ranked as the No. 3 incoming class in the nation by All-Star Girls Report. The incoming class is highlighted by Jewell Loyd, a consensus high school All-America selection and one of five finalists for the Naismith High School Player of the Year award in 2011-12, Loyd averaged 24.8 points, 11.9 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game during her prep career, adding 46 double-doubles in her final 62 high school games.