The Irish women's basketball team is preparing to face Duke in the Elite 8 Tuesday night at 7pm in Norfolk, Virginia. But it's the loss of another #1 seed that is the talk of the women's college basketball world the last 24 hours.
Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw took the diplomatic approach when asked Monday about defending national champion Baylor being upset by Louisville in the Sweet 16 Sunday.
"We had the opportunity to watch the finish," McGraw said. "Just so happy for Louisville. I think it’s great for the BIG EAST Conference. Three teams in the Elite Eight. Just a great win for Jeff Walz and his team. Played an extraordinary game, as you know. Shot the ball so well. I don’t think anybody in the country had that one on the bracket, so it was a big bracket buster across the nation. Just really thrilled for Louisville."
Baylor beat Notre Dame for the national championship last season and with all its top stars back including reigning national player of the year Britney Griner, the Bears were heavy favorites to win it all again this year.
Some Irish players didn't get a chance to see the historic moment of the Baylor loss, which is considered one of the biggest upsets ever in the women's NCAA Tournament.
"I was writing an accounting exam," Irish center Natalie Achonwa said of what she was doing while Louisville was making history. "We still have to focus on us. We are on the different side of the bracket. We have Duke tomorrow, a great team and we are focused on one step at a time. Duke is our next step and that’s where our focus and heads are at right now."
Notre Dame has lost in the national championship game each of the last two seasons. This is the last chance for senior and South Bend native Skylar Diggins to win it all. With Baylor out, the Irish are now the favorites to do so.
"I cannot say that it has not run through my mind," Diggins said Monday. "This could be my last game possibly. Whether I like it or not, I only have three games left to play if we keep winning. This experience has been amazing and it would be great to cut down the nets in New Orleans. I try not to spend too much energy on it though. I try to focus one game at a time. We cannot get to that point if we do not win the next one against Duke. That is our task at hand."
Diggins became the school's all-time leading scorer with a 27 point performance Sunday against Kansas in the Sweet 16. The Irish admit they are playing with a sense of urgency to get their star a national title.
"I want it for her--I want it bad," McGraw explains. "I think she has been such a phenomenal presence in our program – legendary. I don’t think that what she’s done is ever gonna be matched and I would love nothing more than to see her go out a champion. Whether we win or lose, I think she will leave as a champion, but it would be great for her to cut down the nets."
First things first, the Irish are looking to cut down the nets in Norfolk Tuesday night with a win over Duke that would send Notre Dame to the Final Four for the 3rd straight season.