Editor's note: Before the ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll was released, ESPN.com put together its own preseason top 25. We then broke down the top 16 teams of the rankings, ending with this brief look at Notre Dame. To read any of the other capsules, click on the links in the chart below.
Megan Duffy was the starting point guard for gold-medal winning Team USA at the World University Games this summer. Now, the senior returns to South Bend, Ind., where she'll find herself playing a little shooting guard this season as well.
Charel Allen would have been starting at the two, but Allen is still sidelined with a torn ACL suffered in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Allen had major reconstructive knee surgery in May and isn't expected to be completely healthy until March. She likely will not be ready for the season opener and will have her minutes severely limited until she's fully healthy.
That means Duffy, the best 3-point shooter on the team, will get better looks at the basket as Tulyah Gaines runs the point. Gaines averaged just 13.7 minutes last season with no starts, dishing out 31 assists but also committing 56 turnovers.
Duffy can do a little bit of everything and is the leading returning player in the Big East in assists, steals and free-throw percentage. She is a true superstar and her leadership can't be underestimated.
Breona Gray will start for the second straight season. She is a top defender, but provides little in the way of offense, averaging just 5.5 points last season despite starting all 33 games and averaging 24 minutes.
Freshman Lindsay Schrader will likely be the first player off the bench. She is the reigning Ms. Basketball of Illinois and a McDonald's All-American. The 6-foot rookie will help Notre Dame play more up-tempo this season and is versatile enough to play any position on the floor.
Courtney LaVere will be the primary low-post scorer and the probable second-leading scorer on the team behind Duffy. LaVere must make huge strides offensively this season because the team lost two of its top three scorers from last season. Jacqueline Batteast, who graduated, was the Big East Player of the Year and a third-team All-American. She led the Irish in scoring and rebounding. Teresa Borton is also gone. She was third on the team in scoring, second in rebounding and led the team in blocks and field goal percentage.
Replacing the production of Batteast and Borton will be the biggest challenge for coach Muffet McGraw. The Irish could use some scoring punch, but Duffy's experience will keep them in every game.
Peter Newmann is the college basketball researcher for ESPN. He can be reached at email@example.com.