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Notre Dame women grab a one-seed in NCAA tournament

NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Like dozens of other teams across the country, Notre Dame women's basketball was locked into the nationally televised selection show to learn their NCAA fate.

But unlike so many others, the Irish were one of four teams standing atop the college hoops landscape.

"We were really unsure. We were either going to get a 1 or a 2," said junior guard Arike Ogunbowale. "I'm super excited that we got a number one seed and they took into consideration our RPI. I think we had the number-one RPI in the country and the toughest schedule."

Through four season-ending ACL injuries to the roster and a rare loss in the ACC title game, Notre Dame still put together a resume solid enough to grab a number-one seed for the eighth time in program history.

The Irish did have the toughest schedule in the country. They posted a 29-3 record with the only losses coming to two other top seeds: once to UConn and twice to Louisville. They tallied the second-most ranked wins in the country, with nine, but seven of those wins came away from home, which led the nation.

"It's been an emotional ride for us," said head coach Muffet McGraw. "Coming off a loss, we feel like this is a new season and a new opportunity."

As the top seed in the Spokane region, Notre Dame's journey towards a Final Four berth begins Friday against 16-seed Cal State Northridge.

While they don't want to look too far ahead, the Irish couldn't help but think of the possibilities in the next few weeks.

"My freshman year we went to the championship, and we didn't make it to the Final Four the past couple years," said senior Kathryn Westbeld. "That would really be nice. We were able to get this out of the way, and we can really start preparing and looking forward to our game Friday."

The opening game on Friday is set to tip at 5 p.m. at Purcell Pavilion.

“We’re going to need everybody to get out here Friday," said McGraw. "We want a great crowd. We need a hostile environment. We need everybody just like they’ve supported us all year long. [We have] the best fans in the country.”

If the Irish earn their expected victory in the opening round, a matchup with the winner of South Dakota State and Villanova awaits on Sunday.

Following the opening two rounds at home, Notre Dame would go out West to play the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight rounds in Spokane.

The Final Four, which takes place March 30 and April 1, is set to be played in Columbus, Ohio.

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