DUKE PICKED NO. 1

Oct. 23, 2013 @ 10:31 PM

Having flexed its muscle by winning 32 of 34 league regular-season games over the last two seasons, Duke’s women’s basketball team has proven superiority over the ACC.

Even with the addition of three new teams, including perennial Final Four participant Notre Dame, the Blue Devils remain the envy of the league.

With five starters returning from last year’s 33-3 team, Duke was the overwhelming choice in polling of both the league’s coaches and a Blue Ribbon Panel of media and school officials.

“It’s nice to be picked first because we have pride in the ACC and being at the top,” Duke senior Tricia Liston said Wednesday at the ACC’s women’s basketball media day at the Grandover Resort. “But, also, the big thing that we’ve talked about it not really being worried about the rankings at the beginning as much as at the end.”

Duke’s season has ended in the same place in each of the last four seasons. The Blue Devils have made the NCAA Tournament’s Elite Eight, only to lose one win short of the Final Four.

Last season, Notre Dame ended Duke’s NCAA Tournament run with an 87-76 win over the Blue Devils at Norfolk, Va.

This season, the Irish will compete with Duke for the ACC title for the first time. Notre Dame is one of three league newcomers, along with Syracuse and Pittsburgh.

The Irish carry more weight than the other two, though. Notre Dame has played in three consecutive Final Fours and the Irish have defeated Duke each of the last two years.

Accustomed to going head-to-head with eight-time NCAA champion Connecticut in Notre Dame’s previous league home in the Big East, Irish coach Muffet McGraw is eager to build new rivalries in the ACC.

With both schools ranked among the nation’s top 10 in several preseason polls, she said Duke-Notre Dame already feels that way.

“I think it’s already a rivalry,” McGraw said. “We played them two years ago down in the Bahamas and beat them at the buzzer and we played them last year in the Elite Eight. So I would say that for both of us that’s going to end up being a pretty good rivalry.”

Duke has three players on the preseason All-ACC teams in Liston, fellow senior guard Chelsea Gray and junior center Elizabeth Williams.

Gray and Williams were named to the 10-player All-American team by The Sporting News.

Gray is back playing following a knee injury that prematurely ended her junior season. Before getting hurt, she averaged 12.6 points and 5.44 assists per game.

Even without Gray, Duke finished the regular season at 17-1 in ACC play before winning its third ACC Tournament title in the last four years. The NCAA Tournament run was enjoyable, but it also left the Blue Devils wondering what might have been.

“It was a great season. It was an unbelievable season,” said Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie, the reigning ACC Coach of the Year. “It was a very exciting season and then an incredibly painful one last season. There were a lot of challenges we had and unexpected things that occurred. At the same sense, we were extremely disappointed in terms of what we thought we could so and how we did things. But without question, when you look at anything — the statistics, the way we attacked, who we were all year — it was an incredible year.”

With all five starters back, including the five-player senior class that’s known nothing but ACC dominance, Duke is once again shooting to finish their season a little better than the last four years.

“This is our last go-round at it,” Liston said, “and we want to make the most of it.”

ACC WOMEN’S BASKETBALL
PRESEASON POLLS
Blue Ribbon Panel (Media)
Place/School     Total pts.    1st place votes

1. Duke     843     39
2. Notre Dame     794     14
3. Maryland     745     3
4. North Carolina     715     1
T5. Georgia Tech     527     —
T5. Florida State     527     —
7. Syracuse     517     —
8. Virginia     470     —
9. Miami     419     —
10. N.C. State     363     —
11. Boston College     304     —
12. Wake Forest     263     —
13. Virginia Tech     213     —
14. Clemson     159     —
15. Pittsburgh     102     —
 
Blue Ribbon Panel (Media)
Preseason All-ACC Team
Chelsea Gray, Sr., G, Duke
Tricia Liston, Sr., G,  Duke
Elizabeth Williams, Jr., F/C, Duke
Tyaunna Marshall, Sr.,  G, Georgia Tech
Alyssa Thomas, Sr., F,  Maryland
Natalie Achonwa, Sr., F, Notre Dame
Kayla McBride, Sr., G, Notre Dame
Xylina McDaniel, So., F, North Carolina
Ataira Franklin, Sr., G, Virginia
Chelsea Douglas, Sr., G, Wake Forest

Blue Ribbon Panel
Preseason Player of the Year

Alyssa Thomas, Maryland

Blue Ribbon Panel
Newcomer Watch List

Oderah Chidom, Fr., F, Duke
Kendall McCravey-Cooper, Fr., F/C, Duke
Kaela Davis, Fr., G, Georgia Tech
Lexie Brown, Fr., G, Maryland
Diamond DeShields, Fr., G,  North Carolina
Taya Reimer, Fr.  F, Notre Dame

ACC Coaches’ Poll
Place/School     Total pts    1st-place votes

1.  Duke     220     10
2. Notre Dame     211 points     5
3. Maryland     195 points     —
4.  North Carolina     182    —
5.  Georgia Tech     146    —
6.  Florida State     137    —
7. Syracuse     133    —
8.  Virginia     128    —
9.  Miami     103    —
10. N.C. State     90    —
11. Boston College     75    —
12. Wake Forest     68    —
13. Virginia Tech     58    —
14. Clemson     34    —
15. Pittsburgh     20    —
 
Coaches’ Preseason All-ACC Team
Chelsea Gray, Sr., G, Duke
Tricia Liston, Sr., G, Duke
Elizabeth Williams, Jr.,  F/C, Duke
Tyaunna Marshall, Sr., G, Georgia Tech
Alyssa Thomas, Sr., F, Maryland
Jewell Loyd, So., G, Notre Dame
Kayla McBride, Sr., G, Notre Dame
Diamond DeShields, Fr., G, North Carolina
Xylina McDaniel, So., F, North Carolina
Ataira Franklin, Sr., G, Virginia

Coaches’ Preseason Player of the Year
Alyssa Thomas, Maryland

Coaches Newcomer Watch List
Oderah Chidom, Fr., F, Duke
Morgan Jones, Fr. G, Florida State
Kaela Davis, Fr., G, Georgia Tech
Diamond DeShields, Fr., G North Carolina
Taya Reimer, Fr., F, Notre Dame