#1 Notre Dame Women's Basketball 2018-2019 Preview

Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Overall Rank: #1
Conference Rank: #1 ACC
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Notre Dame won the national championship last season in dramatic fashion as Arike Ogunbowale hit a pair of shots heard around the women’s college basketball world to beat UConn and Mississippi State. The turning point of the season for the Fighting Irish was how they responded to getting blown out at Louisville 100-67 back on January 11, 2018. Notre Dame went on to win 20 out of their final 21 games only losing to the Cardinals in the ACC Conference Tournament title games in Greensboro by two points. Resilience in the face of adversity displayed by the Fighting Irish last season should carry over into this season as they return four starters and a healthy Brianna Turner.
2017-18 Record: 35-3, 17-1
2017-18 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Muffet McGraw
Coach Record: 800-230 at Notre Dame, 888-271 overall
Key Departed Players (starters in bold)
Kathryn Westbeld, Forward, 7.7 ppg
Lili Thompson, Guard, 5.9 ppg
Kristina Nelson, Center, 5.2 ppg
Mychal Johnson, Guard
Key Returning Players (starters in bold)
Arike Ogunbowale, Senior, Guard, 20.8 ppg
Jessica Shepard, Senior, Forward, 15.6 ppg
Jackie Young, Junior, Guard 14.5 ppg
Marina Mabrey, Senior, Guard, 14.4 ppg
Mikayla Vaughn, Sophomore, Center, 8.0 ppg
Danielle Patterson, Sophomore, Forward, 2.9 ppg
Kaitlin Cole, Junior, Guard, 1.3 ppg
Maureen Butler, Senior, Forward, 0.8 ppg
Brianna Turner, Senior, Forward, DNP last season
Key New Players
Jordan Nixon, Freshman, Guard
Katlyn Gilbert, Freshman, Guard
Abby Prohaska, Freshman, Guard
Danielle Cosgrove, Freshman, Forward
Notre Dame is going to get everyone’s best shot and then some heading into this season as they have got the belt as the defending national champion. Arike Ogunbowale is one of the best guards in the country and should only get even better as she is on pace to be the second or third pick in the 2019 WNBA draft. Jessica Shepard will provide plenty of inside scoring after averaging just under 16 points per game while shooting 56.5 percent from the floor last season. Shepard also is a strong rebounder, collecting eight rebounds per game and should see those numbers grow a little bit with the return of a healthy Brianna Turner. Turner is an elite inside post player that has 81 career double-doubles and will be a huge asset for the Fighting Irish if she can come close to replicating her production from the 2016-17 season. Jackie Young and Marina Mabrey round out a deep and talented backcourt. Mabrey is the better outside shooter, but Young has that knack of attacking the basket that can be tough to slow down. The schedule is loaded with a preseason trip out to Vancouver in late November to play Gonzaga and potentially South Carolina. Connecticut comes to Purcell Pavilion on December 2nd in what should be an epic rematch of last year’s National Semifinal. On January 10th, Louisville will come to town and then two weeks later a trip to Tennessee will test this veteran squad. Overall, unless another year of catastrophic injuries takes place, you can expect Notre Dame to be back in the Final Four in Tampa this spring. And they are the favorite to repeat as national champions.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 85.1 (3rd in nation, 1st in conference)
Scoring Defense: 67.8 (239, 13)
Field-Goal Percentage: 50.2 (3, 1)
Field-Goal Defense: 40.5 (153,11)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 4.9 (255, 13)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 36.9 (27, 3)
Free-Throw Percentage: 75.6 (34, 1)
Rebound Margin: 8.2 (20, 3)
Assists Per Game: 18.8 (8, 1)
Turnovers Per Game: 13.9 (69, 3)
Madness 2019 WNBA Draft Rankings:
#6 Arike Ogunbowale
#7 Jessica Shepard
#11 Brianna Turner
#14 Marina Mabrey
Madness 2018 Women’s Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#17 Katlyn Gilbert
#25 Jordan Nixon
#74 Abby Prohaska
#83 Danielle Cosgrove