November 11, 2020 

ACC Notebook: Louisville picked to win ACC; Muffet McGraw joins ACC Network

Cardinals were picked by the coaches and media; Dana Evans named Preseason Player of the Year

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Louisville’s Dana Evans has been tabbed as the ACC’s Preseason Player of the Year. (Mitchell Northam / The Next)

Louisville is the favorite to win the ACC in 2020-21, according to preseason polls released Tuesday.

The conference put out a pair of polls, one voted on by its 15 head coaches and one voted on by its Blue Ribbon Panel (of which this writer is a member). The Cardinals received 45 of the 57 first-place votes from the panel and 13 of 15 votes from the head coaches. Jeff Walz’s side was also voted No. 5 in the preseason Associated Press Top 25 Poll, which was also released Tuesday.

Louisville won the ACC regular season title last season for the third straight year, but N.C. State won the conference tournament.

Additionally, Louisville took home several preseason player awards. Senior guard Dana Evans was named Preseason Player of the Year and voted to the Preseason All-ACC Team. Evans was the conference’s Sixth Player of the Year as a sophomore and the Player of the Year last season as a junior. She led the league in three-pointers made (90) and three-point percentage (43.1). She was third in scoring with 18 points per game and fourth in assist-turnover ratio with a +1.7 mark.

Louisville’s Kianna Smith – a Cal transfer who is now eligible after sitting out last season – and freshman Hailey Van Lith were named to the league’s Newcomer Watch List as well.

Evans garnered 40 votes for the league’s Preseason Player of the Year from the Blue Ribbon Panel. N.C. State’s Elissa Cunane had 11 and Tiana Mangakahia of Syracuse and Taylor Soule of Boston College each had three.

Along with N.C. State’s Jakia Brown-Turner and Syracuse’s Kiara Lewis, Evans was also named to the Ann Meyers Drysdale Award watchlist on Tuesday.

N.C. State received two first-place votes in the head coaches’ predicted order of finish and 10 from the Blue Ribbon Panel. Syracuse also received two first-place votes in the panel’s predicted order of finish.

In the AP Top 25 preseason poll, N.C. State checked in at No. 8, Notre Dame at No. 22 and Syracuse was tabbed 23rd. Florida State, North Carolina, Boston College and Duke all received votes. No. 8 is the highest N.C. State has been ranked in the AP’s preseason poll since 1990. The Wolfpack went to the Final Four at the end of that season.

The predicted order of finish voted on by the Blue Ribbon Panel is as follows: Louisville, N.C. State, Syracuse, Notre Dame, North Carolina, Florida State, Virginia Tech, Boston College, Georgia Tech, Duke, Miami, Wake Forest, Clemson, Virginia and Pitt.

These players made the Blue Ribbon Panel’s All-ACC Preseason Team: Taylor Soule (Boston College), Dana Evans (Louisville), Janelle Bailey (UNC), Elissa Cunane (N.C. State), Sam Brunelle (Notre Dame), Kiara Lewis (Syracuse), Tiana Mangakahia (Syracuse), Elizabeth Kitley (Virginia Tech), Aisha Sheppard (Virginia Tech) and Ivana Raca (Wake Forest).

McGraw joins ACC Network

Muffet McGraw coaches in the 2019 Final Four vs. UConn in Tampa, Florida. After 33 years on the job at Notre Dame, she’s headed to television. (Mitchell Northam / The Next)

Muffet McGraw won’t be on the sidelines this season, but women’s basketball fans will still be able to hear from her.

The legendary former Notre Dame head coach is joining the ACC Network as a studio analyst for women’s basketball. She’ll make her debut there on Nov. 11 as part of the “ACC Women’s Basketball Tipoff,” which begins at 5 p.m. EST.

McGraw will also contribute to other shows on the network, including “All ACC” and “Nothing But Net.” According to the AP, she’ll be doing shows from her home because of the pandemic.

“Muffet McGraw is on the Mount Rushmore of women’s college basketball coaches and we are elated to have her join ACC Network,” ACC Network coordinating producer Aaron Katzman said in a statement. “Along with her hall of fame pedigree Coach McGraw will bring to our studio shows informed perspective, in depth analysis, and insight that transcends beyond the court.”

McGraw, 64, unexpectedly retired from Notre Dame in April after 33 years on the job. She racked up 936 career wins, including a pair of national championships in 2001 and 2018. She led the Irish to nine Final Four appearances and was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2017.

In seven seasons in the ACC, McGraw won five ACC tournament titles and had a 86.8% winning percentage in conference games.

McGraw has also coached countless WNBA players, including a pair of No. 1 overall picks in Jewell Loyd and Jackie Young.

“I am thrilled to be joining ACC Network,” McGraw said in a statement. “As a coach, I loved being part of the ACC and have always believed it is one of the best conferences in the country. I am thankful to be surrounded by a great studio team, including Kelsey Riggs, Kelly Gramlich and Monica McNutt to help me make a smooth transition from coach to analyst.”

McGraw is also teaching a class at Notre Dame on sports business leadership. On Election Day, she volunteered as a poll worker.

ACC extras

  • A source close to the situation told The Next that Azana Baines – who transferred from Duke to Virginia Tech this offseason – is not yet eligible to play for the Hokies. In a normal year, Baines would have to sit out due to transfer rules. It’s unclear whether Virginia Tech applied for a waiver for her. She has three seasons of eligibility remaining.

  • Duke announced Tuesday that it won’t have any fans inside Cameron Indoor Stadium for men’s and women’s basketball games this season. When it’s full, the historic arena is one of the loudest in the conference.

  • Clemson will allow 1,860 fans inside Littlejohn Coliseum for home basketball games this year. Its capacity is a bit more than 9,000 people.

  • Louisville has been selected to represent the United States at the 2021 World University Games, which will be played Aug. 18-29 in Chengdu, China. The games are held every two years. Mississippi State represented the U.S. there in 2019. This will be Jeff Walz’s seventh coaching assignment representing Team USA. Current Cardinals Olivia Cochran, Dana Evans, Mykasa Robinson and Hailey Van Lith have previously competed for Team USA.

  • Four ACC players made the watchlist for the Nancy Lieberman Award. They are Louisville’s Hailey Van Lith, Syracuse’s Tiana Mangakahia, N.C. State’s Raina Perez and Florida State’s Tiana England. None of these players played in the ACC last season.

  • Very much here for: Kara Lawson, Designated Hitter.

How I Voted

  • ACC order of finish: N.C. State, Syracuse, Louisville, UNC, Notre Dame, Duke, Boston College, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, Pitt, Florida State, Miami, Clemson, Virginia.

  • All-ACC Preseason Team: Elissa Cunane (N.C. State), Tiana Mangakahia (Syracuse), Dana Evans (Louisville), Janelle Bailey (UNC), Ivana Raca (Wake Forest), Kiara Lewis (Syracuse), Taylor Soule (Boston College), Mikayla Boykin (Duke), Elizabeth Kitley (Virginia Tech).

  • ACC’s Newcomer Watch List: Jayla Everett (Pitt), Hailey Van Lith (Louisville), Deja Kelly (UNC), Raina Perez (N.C. State), Kamilla Cardoso (Syracuse).

  • And here’s how I voted in the AP Top 25 Preseason Poll.

Written by Mitchell Northam

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