|| Wednesday, April 6
10:00 AM – Some final thoughts while packing up from the self-proclaimed Racing Capital of the World…
Notre Dame had a hell of a season and has absolutely nothing to be ashamed of in its performance last night. Numerous coaches commented that it was a great game for the sport of women’s basketball and for the BIG EAST to have two Final Four teams in the mix of it all is just another example of why the Conference is the best. The BIG EAST finished the year with a record nine teams in the NCAA Championship, including the Final Four appearance by Connecticut and Notre Dame.
The BIG EAST also went 19-9 during the NCAA Championship. The 19 wins ties the highest mark a conference has ever had during one tournament along with the ACC (2006) and SEC (1996 and 1997).
Notre Dame finished the year by posting the second-highest win total in school history (31) and just its third-30 win campaign.
Sophomore Skylar Diggins cemented herself as one of the top underclassmen in the country and has to be among the favorites for next year’s preseason All-America team as well as BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year. If nothing else, this national title appearance tripled her Twitter followers.
Also, Indy seems like a fine city to host a Final Four. While San Antonio is still among the best, there’s no reason to think that in 2016 it would be a good visit. A tour of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was among the highlights we were able to sneak in over the weekend.
Congrats again to the Irish on a season well-done!
• Notre Dame finished the season with 31 wins, tied for the second most in school history and its third 30-win season overall, joining teams from 1997 and 2001, which went 31-7 and 34-2, in those years, respectively.
• All eight of Notre Dame’s losses have come to teams ranked in the top 15 nationally, and by a combined total of 120 points (7.4 per game).
• With 23 points, Skylar Diggins has 51 points in the Final Four, tied for the sixth-most combined in a single Final Four.
• The combined point differential in this year’s Final Four was 16 – the fewest of any Final Four in history. This also marks just the second time in Final Four history that all three games have been decided by single digits. The only other time it happened was 1991 when Tennessee defeated Stanford, 68-60, and Virginia defeated Connecticut, 61-55, in the National Semifinals; and the Lady Vols downed the Cavaliers, 70-67 in OT in the title game.
2011 Final Four All-Tournament Team
Maya Moore, Connecticut
Deveroux Peters, Notre Dame
Skylar Diggins, Notre Dame
Tyra White, Texas A&M
Most Outstanding Player
Danielle Adams, Texas A&M
|| Tuesday, April 5 - NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAMEDAY!
10:00 AM – Well its Game Day here in Indy and following the national championship performance by the UConn men’s program last night, expectations are high! Notre Dame squares off against Texas A&M at 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN. Today’s preview story is available here.
BIG EAST staffers had a great dinner with a bunch of the league coaches and administrators last night. It is events like that which truly foster the family atmosphere of the BIG EAST. Some fans might be surprised to know that while there is intense competition on the court, many of the league coaches also are friends off of it.
We stopped by the Basketball Writers annual awards breakfast this morning had gleaned a few insights from the speakers, including outgoing NCAA WBB Selection Committee chair Marilyn McNeil. ESPN’s Carol Stiff formally received the Mel Greenberg Award and had some positive things to say as well.
In addition, Memphis guard Bilqis Abdual-Qaadir was honored as the USBWA “Most Courageous” award winner.
Other awards handed out last night saw UConn’s Maya Moore grab the Naismith Award presented by the Atlanta Tipoff Club. Moore becomes the first two-time College and two-time Naismith High School Player of the Year award winner.
Moore edged Nneka Ogwumike (Stanford), Danielle Adams (Texas A&M) and Brittney Griner (Baylor) on the final ballot. She was recognized by Kathy Betty and Mary Brock of the Atlanta Tipoff Club and Kris Rinne of AT&T at the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Awards Banquet at the 2011 Women's Final Four in Indianapolis.
Here’s an interesting tidbit from our friends at ESPN and former colleague Rachel Margolis.
Did You Know: The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the largest spectator sporting facility in the world, with more than 250,000 permanent seats.
|| Monday, April 4
5:30 PM – As we move on toward tomorrow’s national title tilt, both Notre Dame and A&M will carry high hopes and new expectations with them. The Irish are making their third appearance in the title game and first since they won it all in 2001. A&M is making its first appearance.
Both teams had to play league rivals for the fourth time to advance to Tuesday night’s matchup and overcome a 3-0 season series deficit.
The Aggies are led by senior forward Danielle Adams (#23) who averages 22.1 points and 8.5 rebounds. The Irish are led by sophomore sensation and guard Skylar Diggins (#4) who averages 14.8 points and 4.8 assists. Both were State Farm All-America selections in awards handed out on Saturday.
Did You Know: Notre Dame and Texas A&M have met once before on Dec. 3, 1995 in the Kona Classic in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. A&M won 88-84 in overtime.
Today’s complete Notre Dame press conference is available on bigeast.org in both video form and in text. Here’s our favorite line of the afternoon from coach McGraw:
Q. In the BIG EAST, of course, it's almost been like an NCAA Tournament since the beginning of January. Some of the other big teams that went down did not really see that kind of diet. Is that helpful when you get to this point that maybe the change in competition, once you get higher up in the tournament really isn't all that much from what you've seen as opposed to other teams that may not have seen as much along the way?
COACH MCGRAW: I don't think there's any question the BIG EAST is the best conference in basketball. What we had to go through this year to get where we are, I know Geno said it in the past, it's tougher to win the BIG EAST than it is sometimes to win the national tournament.
I know for us, we came in third in the BIG EAST. We played so many good teams that were ranked, but it prepared us so well. I think the rigors of the schedule, night in and night out, really helped us, and when we came up against Oklahoma and Tennessee, I think we looked back and said, this is just like what we faced in the BIG EAST, so we were ready for it.
Also, Maya Moore picked up yet another award at halftime of the A&M-Stanford game as she was named the NCAA Elite 88 Award for having the highest cumulative GPA average at the Final Four.
Here are a few more bullet points from last night’s magical game:
· Entering Sunday, Notre Dame’s largest lead against Connecticut this season was just six points (Jan. 8, 2011). Sunday night the Irish led by as many as 12.
· UConn had gone 263 games without allowing an opponent to shoot over 50-percent; the Irish shot at a 51.9 clip.
· Notre Dame and Texas A&M are both No. 2 seeds marking the first time since 1994 that a No. 1 seed will not play for the title. No. 3 North Carolina played No. 4 Louisiana Tech.
· A ND win Tuesday would put Irish head coach Muffet McGraw in some elite company. Only four other coaches have won multiple national titles: Pat Summitt (Tennessee 8), Geno Auriemma (UConn 7), Linda Sharp (Southern California 2) and Tara VanDerveer (Stanford 2).
From the postgame press conference:
Q. There's been a lot of talk about the 2001 team, how it compares to this team. How much did it feel like tonight that 2001 semifinals knocking off UConn?
COACH MCGRAW: The same, we weren't down as much. I think that team was down 16 before they came back to win the game.
This team was down a little bit. But there have been a lot of parallels to that season. And the championship team sent a card to the hotel with each player and everybody associated with the team had a quote or something to say to the girls.
And, you know, they really appreciated it. There was some really good stuff. And I think that tradition, carrying on that tradition was good for them.
8:00 AM – Wow, what a game last night. UConn and Notre Dame played one for the ages with a game worthy of a national championship. Featuring four ties and 13 lead changes, the Irish topped UConn 72-63. Of course the early game between Texas A&M and Stanford turned out to be a doozy as well as the Aggies edged the Cardinal 63-62.
So Tuesday night at 8:30 p.m. ET we have Notre Dame representing the BIG EAST against Texas A&M for the national championship. GO IRISH!!!!!
We also must take a minute to congratulate UConn on a tremendous season. Reaching four Final Fours over the past four seasons, including two national championships is pretty remarkable. Senior Maya Moore almost single-handedly led the Huskies back and finished with a game-high 36 points. She closes her amazing career ranked 4th on the all-time NCAA scoring list with 3,036 points.
A complete recap of the game, including video highlights can be found here.
We'll head over for the team press conferences later today and have a full report later this afternoon.
|| Sunday, April 3
3:00 PM – It’s Game Day here in the Racing Capital of the World and the eyes of the sports world will shift gears and focus on UConn-Notre Dame tonight. Tipoff is set for some time after 9 p.m. ET on ESPN. Stanford and Texas A&M tip off at 7 p.m. in the early game. A complete preview story of the UConn-Notre Dame game can be found here, we also would encourage folks to check out the BIG EAST media notes linked here.
Of course the success of the UConn men’s team last night had the BIG EAST staff celebrating on the streets of the city. Thanks to the folks at the Italian restaurant Ambrosia for their wonderful hospitality. The food was surpassed only by the service of their fine wait staff.
The UConn women’s team is obviously pulling for Kemba and crew as well.
A few other items to pass along, tickets are still available at the 18,165-seat arena. With the Notre Dame campus a few hours away, it will be interesting to see how many fans make the 140-mile trip this evening.
In weather news, a wind advisory has been issued for most of the Midwest. We can attest that while the temperature has been a comfortable 69 degrees, with radiant sunshine, the winds have been gusting upwards of 40 mph!
Did You Know: Sunday will mark the seventh matchup between UConn and ND in the last 16 months (since Jan. 16, 2010).
|| Saturday, April 2
5:00 PM - Here are the links to today's team press conferences. UConn is posted here, while Notre Dame is here.
Here's an interesting quote from Maya Moore about tomorrow's game:
Q. Maya, you guys played Georgetown a week ago, and it was a familiar foe. Now you're playing Notre Dame for the fourth time. Is it kind of like if you were playing a little brother or sister or big brother, sister, you know each other well like in the backyard, that sort of thing?
MAYA MOORE: We're definitely very familiar with each other, and I think that can make it tougher, just because both teams know what each other likes to do. So we're going to do a good job of trying to take that away from each other. So it's really going to come down to the little things, and whatever team has prepared the best and has the better will to win. In this situation it really does come down to who has the bigger will to win.
UConn also swept the Associated Press awards this afternoon as Maya Moore was named player of the year and Geno Auriemma earned coach of the year honors.
We also stumbled across this gem of a story written by Rutgers head coach C. Vivian Stringer: She is in the unique position of having coached against all four Final Four teams this season.
The link to today's photo gallery also is posted online here. We encourage fans to give it the facebook thumbs-up!
Finally some closing thoughts: Conseco Fieldhouse really incorporates Indiana's basketball history into every nook and cranny of the arena. From listings of all-time players, to historical ABA photos, to local high school fieldhouses, you can easily see why Indiana is the self-proclaimed basketball capital of the world.
Today's Did You Know: The Pacers were a former ABA team which incorporated into the NBA with the league merger in 1976. The team nickname was a combination of the state's rich history with the harness racing pacers and the pace car used for the running of the Indianapolis 500.
2:30 PM - House Maya Moore wins the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award for women's basketball. To be eligible for the award, a student-athlete must be classified as an NCAA Division I senior and have notable achievements in four areas of excellence – community, classroom, character and competition. An acronym for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School®, the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award focuses on the total student-athlete and encourages students to use their platform in athletics to make a positive impact as leaders in their communities.
West Virginia senior Liz Repella and DePaul senior Sam Quigley also were cited on the Second Team.
1:00 PM – We're here onsite in Conseco Field House. Built in 1999, the arena is home to the NBA's Indiana Pacers and WNBA's Indiana Fever. It is considered to be one of the best sports facilities in the world, and modeled after nearby Hinkle Fieldhouse. In case you were curious, Conseco is local financial services organization.
Team press conferences and open practices are set at 2:45 (UConn) and 3:50 (Notre Dame). There also is press conference for Associated Press Coach and Player of the Year awards around 4:15.
11:30 AM – It is officially a historic day in women’s basketball history as UConn senior Maya Moore became the first person to win the Wade Trophy three times. Not surprisingly, Moore also was named to the State Farm WBCA Coaches All-America Team. She was joined by Notre Dame sophomore Skylar Diggins.
In addition, numerous BIG EAST players were recognized as Honorable Mention selections:
Keisha Hampton DePaul University
Tiffany Hayes University of Connecticut
Natalie Novosel University of Notre Dame
Devereaux Peters University of Notre Dame
Samantha Quigley DePaul University
Liz Repella West Virginia University
Angel Robinson Marquette University
Sugar Rodgers Georgetown University
8:00 AM - What a nice event! The NCAA put on a wonderful evening officially welcoming the teams and fans to the Final Four. Titled a Cirque du Salute, it was an entertaining event hosted gracefully by ESPN's Sage Steele.
League staffers also made their way to the live "Shootaround" podcast with Beth and Debbie. Always an entertaining event, these two comrades mix humor and insight into their take on all things basketball. Notre Dame's Muffet McGraw and UConn Geno Auriemma stopped by for a few questions as well. DePaul head coach Doug Bruno and St. John's bench boss Kim Barnes Arico also were spotted in the crowd.
This morning kicks off a full media day of interviews and press conferences. We'll have numerous updates through out the day, or you can follow along the @BIGEASTWBB twitter page.
|| Friday, April 1
4:30 PM - Some items collected while touring around the city and grabbing lunch at the Weber Grill Restaurant for a bite to eat, here’s a photo gallery of our travels...
UConn and Notre Dame played three times this season, check out highlights below…
Jan. 8, 2011 in South Bend, Ind. (UConn won 79-76) HIGHLIGHTS
Feb. 19, 2011 in Storrs, Conn. (UConn won 78-57) HIGHLIGHTS
Mar. 8, 2011 in Hartford, Conn. (UConn won 73-64) HIGHLIGHTS
The latest online video of Full Court Press is now posted online, also the transcripts from Thursday’s teleconferences have been posted for UConn and Notre Dame.
Later tonight we’re headed off to the Cirque du Salute held at the Indiana Convention Center. The event will pay tribute to the coaches and student-athletes in a gravity defying and magically, celebratory Salute hosted by ESPN Commentator, Sage Steele.
Did You Know: Sunday’s game will mark the 26th time BIG EAST teams have met in a top-25 matchup this season. It also will be the 10th time UConn and Notre Dame have met as members of the Associated Press top-10.
UConn leads the all-time series against Notre Dame 28-4. The Fighting Irish have earned three of their four series wins against UConn in these top-10 matchups.
Fun Fact: Notre Dame is located about three hours away, 140 miles. UConn is located about 14 hours away, approximately 860 miles.
10:00 AM - We've arrived! Most of our staff escaped the weather issues back East and arrived here in the Hoosier State just fine. Today's we'll soak up the local atmosphere, before heading to the NCAA "Cirque du Salute" event later tonight. Some staffers are going to try and check out the NCAA Hall of Champions which is located across town. We'll also be posting a photo gallery of the sights around the city, its evident that while Indy is braced for 20,000+ this weekend for the Final Four, there is excitement over hometown Butler's run in the men's Final Four. Saturday night should be exciting.
Happy April Fool's Day!
If you have any questions, suggestions, or comments, please let us know on facebook, twitter or via email.
|| Thursday, March 31
PROVIDENCE, RI - Fans of BIG EAST women’s basketball, as part of a historic Final Four including two BIG EAST teams (Connecticut and Notre Dame), we’ll be sending “Postcards from Indy” documenting the trip. This blog will contain news, notes, insights and quotes from all the events surrounding the games, press conferences, award ceremonies and basketball hoopla direct from BIG EAST staffers in Indy. We’ll be onsite in the “Cross Roads of America” and have our first update mid-day on Friday.
If you have any questions, suggestions, or comments, please let us know on facebook, twitter or via email.
Here’s today’s Did You Know: Indianapolis is the second largest city in the Midwest (behind Chicago).