And the winner will be ...
Irish face Aggies in surprising National Championship game
TEXAS A&M WILL WIN BECAUSE...
Texas A&M is very familiar with the mountain that Notre Dame climbed on Sunday night, as the Aggies accomplished a parallel feat on Tuesday evening when they beat Baylor for the first time in four meetings in the Dallas Regional Final.
The difference between the two situations is recovery time. The Aggies had four full off-days to savor their win over the Baylor Bears, then shift their focus to Stanford for Sunday night’s National Semifinal. By contrast the Irish will have less than 48 hours to ride that rollercoaster of emotion from big victory against UConn to Tuesday’s National Championship game.
During Sunday’s semifinal games, both teams were streaky from the field with the Irish shooter shot and the Aggie shooters cold.
Texas A&M’s team shooting percentage hovered just below 30 percent well into the second half and finished at 35.4 percent for the game. In the second semifinal, the Irish were hitting at a 51.9 percent clip from the floor. Chances are good that both teams will normalize closer to their season shooting percentages, 44.8 percent from the floor for the Aggies and 48 percent for Notre Dame. Even if A&M starts cold from the floor, they have proven they can overcome that hurdle here in Indianapolis.
Conversely, the Aggies were perfect from the free-throw line (10-for-10) in their semifinal win over Stanford with all 10 shots in the second half. Notre Dame’s season 71.6% free-throw percentage for the season is nearly 10 points higher than what they shot from the stripe on Sunday night, going 14-for-22 (63.6%). The Aggies shoot 73.6% from the line for the season. If the Aggies can win the battle from the free-throw line, that could make the difference in the national championship game.
Texas A&M head coach Gary Blair ends the 2011 NCAA Tournament with five consecutive games against members of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. He has defeated four, and Notre Dame’s Muffet McGraw is in line to be the fifth victim.
Following an opening-round win against McNeese State, Blair’s squad faced a Rutgers team coached by C. Vivian Stringer (a 70-48 win), Georgia and head coach Andy Landers (79-38) in the regional semifinal, Baylor and head coach Kim Mulkey (58-46) in the regional final and Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer (63-62) in the national semifinal. Notre Dame’s Muffett McGraw will be inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame on June 11 in Knoxville, Tenn. -- Amy Hughes, NCAA.com
NOTRE DAME WILL WIN BECAUSE...
Everybody in Indianapolis is talking about Texas A&M’s pressure style of defense, but the Irish are no slouches when it comes to defensive play.
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Notre Dame enters the contest ranked fifth in the nation in steals per game (12.8), ninth in rebound margin (8.5) and 19th in turnover margin (4.55), and boasts Big East Defensive Player of the Year Devereaux Peters, who leads the Irish with 7.4 rebounds per game and has blocked 67 shots on the season.
“I think they’re very similar to us in that they’re very aggressive and take a lot of pride in their defense, but we do as well,” Peters said. “We’ve contained some of the best teams in the country the same way that they have, so it’s going to be a defensive battle. We have a lot of scoring options on offense and we’re going to be put to the test tomorrow with as well as they’ve been playing on defense.”
While their defense is solid, the Irish can also score from every position. Three players are averaging in double-figures with Natalie Novosel pouring in 15.5 points per game. Eight players are averaging at least 6.4 points per game, and the Irish enter the contest ranked 11th in the nation in scoring offense (77.2) and fourth in the nation in field goal percentage (48.0). They shot 51.9 percent against UConn on Sunday night, breaking the Huskies streak of 263 games with allowing an opponent to shoot over 50 percent from the field.
“Notre Dame runs their stuff,” Texas A&M head coach Gary Blair said. “And what's good about Notre Dame, it's a five person team, not a one person team, and all five people can score."
The Irish’s confidence should be riding high coming off an upset of No. 1 Connecticut, plus regional victories against Oklahoma and Tennessee, but they know Texas A&M’s aggressive style of play and versatile post player Danielle Adams will pose a tough challenge in taking home the trophy.
“Our team philosophy is to play great team defense,” senior guard Brittany Mallory said. “We’ve played teams with great guards, great posts. We have Danielle Adams we have to guard. It’s going to be tough keeping them in front of us but it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. It’s about being in the right position at the right time, rotation and playing as a team.”
If the Irish can protect the basketball against the Aggies’ quick guards, limit turnovers and Texas A&M’s points off turnovers, their luck will continue and Notre Dame will be cutting down the nets on Tuesday night. -- Amy Farnum, NCAA.com