OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer and Notre Dame’s Muffett McGraw will coach against each other Friday in the Sweet 16 for just the third time in their Hall of Fame careers and the first time in the NCAA Tournament.
VanDerveer said she is surprised she hasn’t faced McGraw more often. VanDerveer is in her 29th year at Stanford, and McGraw is in her 28th at Notre Dame.
”It’s amazing to me that in all the time we’ve been in the tournament and all the time they’ve been in the tournament, we’ve never been in the same bracket together,” VanDerveer said.
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The winner will advance to the Elite Eight and play Baylor or Iowa on Sunday.
VanDerveer has a career record of 953-216. She has won two national titles at Stanford and led the 1996 U.S. Olympic team to a gold medal. She is a member of the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame and the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.
McGraw has a career record of 784-261. She has won a national title at Notre Dame and is in the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.
McGraw is impressed that VanDerveer is still a ”student of the game.” She changed Stanford’s offense this season, with favorable results.
”She is someone I have great respect for – what she’s done for the women’s game, how she’s represented the women’s game with USA Basketball and what she’s done with Stanford,” McGraw said. ”I think she’s a class person, does everything in the right way, and is really good for our game.”
Stanford (26-9) has never lost to the Fighting Irish (33-2). The Cardinal beat Notre Dame 97-67 on Dec. 2, 1990 and 88-76 on Nov. 24, 1991. VanDerveer knows adding another win to the list will be difficult.
”I think Muffet does an excellent job,” VanDerveer said. ”They really pass the ball. Their team, if you weren’t playing them, would be really fun to watch. Quite honestly, they really don’t have any weaknesses.”
STANFORD’S BIG WIN: Stanford is the only team in the nation with a win over Connecticut this season, something that helps the Cardinal believe that a win over Notre Dame is a legitimate possibility.
”In order to beat a team like Notre Dame, you have to do what you did against Connecticut, and it’s good for our team to know they’re capable of playing that caliber of team,” VanDerveer said.
LOYD CLIMBING: Loyd is up to seventh on Notre Dame’s career scoring list. If she remains on her current pace, she’ll surpass all-time leader Skylar Diggins late next season. She enters the weekend with 1,841 points. Diggins scored 2,357 from 2009-13.
”She is an absolute phenom,” VanDerveer said.
Loyd also could catch Katryna Gaither for Notre Dame’s single-season scoring record this season. She has 704 points; Gaither scored 776 during the 1996-97 season.
BRIGHT FUTURES: Notre Dame has no senior starters. Loyd and Michaela Mabrey are juniors, Taya Reimer and Lindsay Allen are sophomores and Brianna Turner is a freshman.
Loyd said the youth doesn’t affect the team’s results.
”People always said that we were really young, and right now, I don’t see that in us at all,” Loyd said. ”We’re very confident, motivated, and we’re going along with the ride and having fun.”
Four of Stanford’s top six scorers, including scoring leader Lili Thompson, are freshmen and sophomores.
Thompson averages 13.6 points, sophomore Briana Roberson averages 6.5, sophomore Karlie Samuelson 6.4 and Kaylee Johnson 6.0.
HOOPS ROYALTY: Stanford is making its eighth straight trip to the Sweet 16, whole Notre Dame is making its sixth. They are just two of five schools to reach the Sweet 16 in each of the past six years. Notre Dame has been to the past four Final Fours, playing for the national title three times during that run.
LOW SEED STANFORD: Stanford’s No. 4 seed is its lowest since being a No. 6 seed in 2004. The Cardinal actually lost 4 of 8 before reeling off five straight wins to reach the Sweet 16.
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP