Irish gearing up for NCAA Tournament run without Olivia Miles

Published: Mar. 16, 2023 at 6:42 PM EDT
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - The Notre Dame women’s basketball team is getting ready to tip off its NCAA Tournament journey.

The Irish play their first game of this year’s tournament on their home court on Friday afternoon against Southern Utah. However, they will be without one of their star players throughout their entire run.

The team announced on Thursday morning that sophomore point guard Olivia Miles will miss the remainder of the season with a knee injury. Miles was sidelined for the ACC Tournament, but her status was uncertain for the NCAA Tournament up until Thursday morning. Now, we know she won’t go.

“She’s been working with our doctors and trainers over the last couple of weeks, and while it’s devastating not to have her, she’s progressing in rehab every day,” said head coach Niele Ivey. “She’s going to be an active cheerleader like Dara (Mabrey); leading from a different capacity.

“We’ve determined that she’s going to have her surgery late next week,” Ivey added. “The current timetable for her return is that we hope that she’ll be back for the summer in order to participate for the workouts.”

Miles is an AP second-team All-American this year, and one of the driving forces of this team. But rest assured, the Irish are not just throwing in the towel without her.

“It’s really unfortunate, but we know that regardless of where she is on the court, she’s going to give us her heart,” said Maddy Westbeld, junior forward. “She’ll be with us on the sideline and for the rest of the season. We know that we have her and are wishing her all the best for a speedy recovery, and we know that we have her, so she’s good.”

Freshman guard KK Bransford agreed.

“I mean, it’s super heartbreaking,” she said. “I think the most important thing right now is having her back.”

Miles now joins veteran guard Dara Mabrey on the bench. Those two were the starting backcourt at the start of the season. Now, they’re both forced to watch from the sideline the rest of the way.

Despite the negative news about Miles, this is an exciting time for the Notre Dame women’s basketball program. The Irish are a No. 3 seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament, which means the committee believes they’re one of the top 12 teams in the country — and that’s no small feat.

On Friday, they match up against a Southern Utah team that will be playing its first NCAA Tournament game ever. Meanwhile, the team is excited that March Madness is returning to South Bend for the first time since 2019.

“During all this time leading up from the beginning of the season, this is what we looked forward to. So, it’s just super exciting that now it’s here,” Bransford said. “I’m just super excited, and it being here at home, my parents are able to travel and come see, so it just makes it even more special.”

Friday’s matchup also marks the first time in Ivey’s tenure leading the program that Notre Dame gets to play a tournament game on its home floor.

“(I’m) excited for this opportunity to play here back in South Bend,” Ivey said. “(This is) a team that has overcome a lot of adversity. (I’m) super excited that we brought the regular season ACC title back to South Bend, (and I’m) looking forward to trying to make a deep run in the tournament.”

Tipoff at Purcell Pavilion is set for 3:30 p.m. The game will air on ESPN2.

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