Notre Dame, Turner earn preseason ACC women’s hoops honors
GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) Notre Dame has made itself right at home at the top of women’s basketball in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
For the second straight year, the Fighting Irish have been picked as the league favorite – and this time, they’ve replaced one ACC preseason player of the year with another one.
”It’s really been just phenomenal, the way that we can attract high-quality players,” coach Muffet McGraw said Wednesday during media day. ”I think, with us, it’s all about the program, it’s not about the individual, and I love that.”
The two-time defending ACC Tournament champions were the choice in separate voting by both its coaches and a panel of 51 media members and school representatives.
Both groups picked the same top six teams: Florida State was second, followed by Louisville, Duke, Syracuse and Miami.
Some of the perennial standard-bearers slipped down the poll to make way for some newcomers: The Blue Devils haven’t been picked this low since they also were fourth in 1999.
And a North Carolina team ravaged by transfers, and dealing with the lingering cloud of an NCAA investigation, was chosen seventh by sets of voters – its lowest preseason spot since the 1991-92 team was picked last in the then-nine-team league.
Coach Sylvia Hatchell declined to discuss those NCAA issues ”because I really don’t know anything about it.
”People think (this is a) rough time, all this stuff. No, this is a great time,” she added. ”You remember the Apollo Flight 13, people thought it was going to be a disaster. … One of the astronauts said, `No, this will be our finest hour.’ This will be our finest hour.”
Still, the league has plenty of name recognition and programs with pedigrees: Notre Dame, Duke, Louisville and UNC have combined to reach 10 Final Fours since 2006 – including five in a row by Notre Dame and two each by the Cardinals and Tar Heels.
”There will be multiple ACC teams in the Final Four,” Miami coach Katie Meier said.
The Irish’s Brianna Turner was picked by both groups as the preaseason player of the year. Turner – last year’s ACC freshman of the year – made a school-record 65.2 percent of her shots while averaging 13.8 points.
Her selection comes a year after Jewell Loyd won both the preseason and end-of-the-year player of the year awards while leading the Irish to a 36-3 record, their second straight ACC Tournament title and another Final Four berth.
McGraw said Turner has ”come back a different player in terms of maturity. … She’s a little bit more vocal, a little bit smarter.”
Florida State was picked to finish where it ended the best season in school history last year – in second place, its best predicted finish since preseason voting started in 1991.
Behind Kansas State transfer Leticia Romero and junior college transfer Adut Bulgak, the Seminoles set a school-record with 32 wins, reached their first ACC championship game and advanced to the regional semifinals before falling to South Carolina.
”This year’s team is obviously a more experienced team,” coach Sue Semrau said. ”Last year’s team … it was an influx of talent that came in. … This was a group that was extremely hungry as they were older. You had Adut coming in off a (junior college) national championship with two years (to play), she didn’t have time to mess around. It was, I think, a special team for that. And now knowing that it’s Adut’s last opportunity, I think the passion and the fire in her is different.”
Louisville was picked third for the second straight year, returning key contributors Mariya Moore and Myisha Hines-Allen from the Cardinals’ fifth straight 20-win team.
”We’re very flattered by being picked third in the league, (but) at the same time we’re quite aware of we’ve got a lot of work to do,” coach Jeff Walz said. ”I feel good offensively, but really concerned right now with getting our freshmen further along defensively, because all five are going to play. … Honored to be picked third, but cautious that we understand that we have a lot of work to do before we start playing Nov. 15.”
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