Notre Dame's week of waiting isn't easy for Muffet McGraw

Al Lesar
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — Remember, this is the lady who races against Mapquest — and refuses to lose.

If the app says her destination is 2 hours and 15 minutes away, Muffet McGraw will be there in 2.

Bank on it.

Needless to say, the Notre Dame women’s basketball coach is driven.

That’s why McGraw is so conflicted this week.

It’s like a kid who sees presents under the tree but has a hard time waiting for Christmas.

In the world of women’s college basketball, Christmas won’t come until next Monday. That’s when the NCAA selection committee will assign the tournament path for the Irish and the other 63 teams in the field.

Until then, all McGraw — she of the type-A personality — can do is recruit, game plan against her own team, tweak practice plans and tweak them some more, project who possible opponents might be, don’t forget about tweaking practice plans, and wait for her players to report back from spring break on Friday night.

While the Irish players were sent home after winning the ACC Tournament last Sunday, McGraw and her staff have been criss-crossing the country in search of the best available talent, hopefully, a couple bigs to go along with Brianna Turner.

Since November, McGraw has had every step methodically plotted out. Now, like she has for the past several years, she’s dealing with a week of uncertainty. She’ll analyze the conference tournaments, trying to project teams that might be 8-9 seeds and possible second-round opponents for the No. 1-seeded Irish.

Gotta pass the time on those long flights somehow.

Lou Holtz used to call it preparing against ghosts. McGraw is trying to cover every base to avoid being haunted by a lack of preparation.

Then there’s a part of McGraw, somewhere in the recesses of her psyche, that allows her to take a deep breath and relish the opportunity step away from the grind and re-charge her battery.

“I kind of look forward to this down time, because the season’s so intense,” McGraw said Tuesday. “Now, (the staff) gets to work just on us.”

The Irish will have three practices before they know for sure what their tournament trail might be.

“We get to fix what’s wrong with us — and that’s a big list,” said McGraw. “There are plenty of things we can work on.”

McGraw and her assistants are spending the down time game-planning against themselves. When they gather as a staff, they will put those insights together to come up with possible ways the opposition might approach specifics of their game.

“I look at it like, ‘What would I do against us?’ and that’s what we practice,” McGraw said.

Of course, she wouldn’t share any of her evaluations. Well, she did draw back the curtain a bit.

“We’ll work on our late-game stuff,” McGraw said. “Our late-game shot clock was abysmal in our last game (the ACC Tournament championship win over Syracuse). That was my fault. I tried to take the air out of the ball (in the fourth quarter). We usually are pretty good at late shot clock, but we weren’t in that game.

“It’s almost like we’re starting over — 0-0. We did our job up 'til now. Now it’s a six-game season.”

Those three practices leading up to Monday’s revelation will be focused inward. Monday, though, is one of the more difficult for McGraw to navigate.

“Monday is such a long day for me,” McGraw said.

Patience comes before the presents get unwrapped.

And, sometimes, McGraw can struggle with patience.

Remember… Mapquest?

Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw receives an honorary basketball during a ceremony to celebrate 800 career wins before an NCAA college basketball game on Sunday, Jan. 10, 2016, in South Bend, Ind. (Tribune Photo/Robert Franklin)