Notre Dame Fighting Irish
| MESSAGE BOARD
RECORD: 19 - 10
REGION: East SEED: 5
COACH: Muffet McGraw CONFERENCE: ACC
Road to the Final Four ...................................................................................
Jacqueline Batteast must continue to set herself apart. She really struggled in the NCAAs a year ago in Manhattan, and must raise her game to another level. Be wary of Notre Dame and the very much improved floor leadership of Megan Duffy. That February win over UConn wasn't a fluke. Coach Muffet McGraw put together one of the toughest nonconference schedules in the country, and it prepared her team for big wins like that and for the postseason.
|PLAYER TO WATCH|
A South Bend native, Batteast is the poster child for Local Girl Makes Good. All Batteast has done is pepper her name throughout the Big East stat sheets. Scoring? Ninth with 15 points per game. Rebounding? Fourth with 8.3. Blocked shots? Fifth with 1.29. Double-doubles? Second with 10. The 6-foot-2 junior forward also rises to the caliber of her opponents. Against Top 25 teams, she averaged nearly 16 points and nine boards, including four double-doubles in 10 games.
ANALYSIS BY ESPN'S STACEY DALES-SCHUMAN
Like many coaches, Muffet McGraw believes adamantly in the phrase, "offense wins games, but defense wins championships." And defense has been a major point of emphasis for the Fighting Irish -- and one of the reasons they find themselves once again competing in the postseason.
Look for the Irish to utilize both zone and man, with the occasional trap tossed in the mix for added stealth. Really keep your eye on Notre Dame's "storm" defense -- this is a match-up zone that shut down the likes of Kansas State's potent offense in last season's NCAA Tournament.
Offensively, Notre Dame wanted to push the ball more in transition this season. While that hasn't been as effective as the coaches would have liked because this team just isn't as quick as others, Notre Dame still manages to stress the inside-outside halfcourt game that it's known for.
Jacqueline Batteast is coming of age. Now a junior, the 6-foot-2 forward has figured out how to play in high-pressure situations, such as leading her team to key victories against the likes of Connecticut. She has accumulated nearly 10 double-doubles on the season, an impressive accomplishment in the competitive, 14-team conference. Against top-25 programs, Batteast is averaging approximately 15 points and nine rebounds. One might say that she has arrived.
Batteast's support comes from a variety of players. Seniors Le'Tania Severe, Monique Hernandez from Germany and Jeneka Joyce, all members of Notre Dame's 2001 national championship team, have provided the leadership necessary for this club to evolve through Big East play. Severe adds speed and quickness, Hernandez brings defensive prowess and Joyce, an injury-stricken worker, is the team's long-range sharp shooter.
The most improved player in the lineup is sophomore point guard Megan Duffy. You might recall that she really started showing the nation what she could do in last year's tournament. That level of play carried over into this season's action, as she has been consistently strong running the point guard duties for McGraw. Duffy's passing, scoring, directorship and ability to read basketball situations have improved significantly.
Notre Dame will need all the leadership it can get, and the continued pressure play of Batteast, to knock off someone in the NCAA Tournament. Be aware of the team's blistering "storm" defense as it just might come in handy once again.