Notre Dame women snag No. 3 seed in Greenville Regional 1, will host No. 14 Southern Utah
SOUTH BEND — One of two anxiously awaited reveals regarding Notre Dame women’s basketball was completed Sunday night.
The other remained tabled.
The Irish were awarded a No. 3 seed — and thus the opportunity to host during the first two full rounds — by the NCAA Tournament selection committee.
More:Niele Ivey named ACC coach of the year after leading Notre Dame to regular-season title
ND (25-5), at home in postseason for the first time since 2019, faces No. 14 seed and first-time NCAA Tourney participant Southern Utah (23-9) on Friday at Purcell Pavilion at 3:30 p.m.
What wasn’t cleared up Sunday was whether recently injured Olivia Miles, ND’s star point guard, will be available to participate.
“We’ll know more this week,” Irish coach Niele Ivey said. “She’s gonna be with the doctors a little bit more this week, but she is progressing.”
Ivey said she could not share a percentage on whether Miles will play.
One of four finalists for the Dawn Staley Award that goes to the nation’s top guard, Miles suffered a right knee injury during the first half of Notre Dame’s 68-65 comeback win over Louisville on Feb. 26.
The sophomore sat out ND’s 66-60 Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament quarterfinal victory over North Carolina State, as well as its 64-38 semifinal loss to Louisville.
During Sunday’s selection show watch party at ND, Miles walked with a pronounced limp.
When ESPN touched on her status near the top of its telecast, accompanied by a replay of her sustaining the injury, Miles winced, turned her back to the screen and offered a somber smile while being comforted by fellow guard Dara Mabrey, who suffered her own knee injury, a season-ending one, on Jan. 22.
“I think we’ve just kind of been preparing for everything, with or without (Miles),” junior forward Maddy Westbeld said, adding that the Irish have had “great” workouts on the heels of the ACC Tourney. “It’s just one day at a time, but we’re just approaching practice at every angle.”
While the NCAA is allowed to take injuries into account while picking and seeding teams, “there was no inquiry” made on Miles by the selection committee, according to Ivey.
The No. 11-ranked Irish were generally projected by bracketologists as a No. 2 or 3 seed before Miles’ injury, while some suggested ND might drop to a 4 or 5 if the selection committee received word that Miles would not play again this season. Anything below a 4 would’ve meant the Irish would not host, as those assignments go to the top 16 selections overall.
Ivey expressed appreciation that the committee appeared to consider ND’s entire body of work, which included a regular-season ACC title as well as wins over No. 1 seed Virginia Tech and No. 2 seed Connecticut.
“I am thrilled,” said Ivey, a longtime Irish assistant now in her third year as head coach after one season away to assist in the NBA. “It was a dream of mine coming back here to be able to have the opportunity to host. I remember two years ago just hoping to be in the tournament (ND was not), and now we get an opportunity to host, so it’s a big deal for me and the program. … I’m excited to share this moment with the team and the community.”
The Irish were hopeful of earning a No. 4 seed last winter, but were instead shipped as a No. 5 to Norman, Okla., where they beat UMass 89-78, then shredded the fourth-seeded host Sooners 108-64 to advance to the Sweet 16.
“It’s amazing,” sophomore guard Sonia Citron said of securing a home assignment this time around. “We love playing on our home court and it’s definitely a huge advantage.”
Also coming to South Bend will be No. 6 seed Creighton (22-8) along with No. 11 seeds Illinois and Mississippi State.
The Illini (22-9) and Bulldogs (20-10) — because they were among the last clubs to make the 68-team field — face off in a “first four” game on Wednesday at Purcell. That winner meets Creighton on Friday.
The ND-Southern Utah winner plays next Sunday in South Bend against the survivor among Illinois, Mississippi State and Creighton.
The Irish and the rest of the South Bend field are part of the Greenville (S.C.) 1 Regional, which features overall top seed South Carolina (32-0).
Thus, a potential ND meeting against the Gamecocks, in the latter’s home state, would come in the Elite Eight, while the list of possible foes in the Sweet 16 includes No. 2 seed Maryland (25-6).
The Terrapins edged the host Irish 74-72 on Diamond Miller’s last-second shot on Dec. 1.
Although recently sidelined, former Goshen High standout Brynn Shoup-Hill is a member of the Illini.
A sophomore, she’s averaging 6.3 points and 5.6 rebounds in 25 minutes per game over 27 appearances off the bench after transferring from Dayton.
Shoup-Hill has not played in Illinois’ last four games after suffering a foot injury prior to the team’s Feb. 22 contest.
► Notre Dame is 22-2 all-time at home in the NCAA Tournament with 16 straight wins, the last 14 coming as a No. 1 seed.
As it so happens, both losses occurred as a No. 7 seed against 10th-seeded Minnesota teams, when formatting was different. Those came in 1994 when the Irish hosted for the first time in their history, and in 2009.
► ND is a No. 3 seed for the first time ever.
The Irish, making their 28th NCAA Tourney appearance, have been a No. 1 on nine occasions, a No. 2 three times, a No. 4 once and a No. 5 four times.
They’ve also been seeded sixth to 12th a combined 10 times.