February 28, 2023 

ACC notebook: Notre Dame is the top seed, but Olivia Miles’ status uncertain

And Katie Meier discusses NIL infraction

Heading into the ACC regular season finale games on Sunday, just two of the 15 seeds in the conference’s tournament were locked in. Then, the madness happened. North Carolina upset Duke, Florida State fell to Clemson, N.C. State escaped a tough game from Pitt, and Notre Dame pulled out a victory at Louisville.

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When the dust settled, the Irish had claimed the ACC regular season championship outright, and the No. 1 overall seed in Greensboro, N.C., where the conference tournament gets underway this Wednesday.

For Notre Dame, the victory was emotional and historically notable. Let’s begin with the latter.

It’s Notre Dame’s first ACC title since 2019, a year in which Muffet McGraw guided Arike Ogunbowale and co. to an appearance in the national championship in Tampa. It is also the first time the Irish had won in Louisville’s Yum! Center since 2016. And, it made Niele Ivey the first Black woman head coach to win a regular season ACC Championship.

But all of those accomplishments came, unfortunately, at a cost for Notre Dame. With 2:37 left in the second quarter, standout point guard Olivia Miles seemed to bump into Louisville’s Olivia Cochran, and then fell to the floor. She immediately grabbed her right knee and started cursing. Miles limped off the floor and never returned to the game.

Thanks to a season-best 27 points from Sonia Citron, Notre Dame was able to win without Miles, but having consistent success in March without her could be extremely difficult for the Irish. Not only is Miles 10th in the nation in assists with 6.9 per game, but she is second in scoring for the Irish and first in rebounding with 14.3 points and 7.3 boards per game. She’s also 14th in the nation in defensive win shares. She’s not just one of the best players in the ACC, but one of the best guards in the country; a player who will likely earn ACC Player of the Year votes and All-American votes.

Speaking to reporters Monday via Zoom, Ivey did not have an update on Miles’ status and said she would be examined closer by doctors that afternoon.

“Just prayers up,” Ivey said. “Hopefully it’s not season-ending.”

Without Miles, it’s entirely possible that Notre Dame could see an early exit from the ACC Tournament. On Friday, the Irish will face the winner of Thursday’s clash between N.C. State and Syracuse. Notre Dame has already lost to N.C. State once before this season – and that was with Miles on the floor.

Ivey will have to lean on Citron to lead and create offense for herself and others. She’ll need Maddy Westbeld and Lauren Ebo to be effective in the paint on both ends. And she’ll need youngsters in KK Bransford and Casandre Prosper to step up.

But this is not the first time Notre Dame has dealt with losing a starter. Dara Mabrey’s season – and career – ended prematurely on Jan. 22 when she suffered a knee injury. And all Notre Dame did after that was win eight of their last 10 games to win the ACC crown.

“It’s honestly been very challenging, really tough,” Ivery said. “The resiliency – it’s a credit to the character of my team. We have been through a lot this season. Our growth, our maturation has just shown by being in the fire.”

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Johnson’s status unclear

N.C. State could join Notre Dame on the list of teams in Greensboro playing without its starting point guard. Wolfpack junior Diamond Johnson has battled an ankle injury for the majority of the season and hasn’t played since Feb. 16.

On Monday, N.C. State coach Wes Moore said she could miss the entire ACC Tournament, too.

“I’m not real sure. We’ll kind of see how she’s feeling. We’re also considering just holding her out until the NCAAs and giving her, essentially, about two weeks more break before we’d have to crank her back up completely,” Moore said. “Hopefully that will help Diamond be closer to 100%. But we’ll see. You never know. We’ll see how she’s feeling in the next few days.”

Last season’s ACC Sixth Player of the Year, Johnson has started in 21 of the 22 games she’s featured in this season and is the only N.C. State player averaging in double figures with 12.3 points per game. She also leads the team in assists with 3.5 per game.

Louisville guard Mykasa Robinson at ACC Media Day in Charlotte in October 2022. (Mitchell Northam / The Next)

Robinson key to Louisville’s resurgence

Louisville seemed to be in a rut near the end of January when it lost back-to-back games; at home to N.C. State and on the road at Wake Forest. Cardinals’ coach Jeff Walz thought his team needed consistency, a steady hand and veteran leadership.

As he has done often over the past five seasons, Walz turned to Mykasa Robinson.

“The kid is a winner. She’s a competitor. You know, for five years now, there’s not one day when I come to practice or a game where I’m concerned if I’m going to get her best effort,” Walz said. “The one thing I can be guaranteed of is I know I’m going to get 100% from her. Her consistency day-in and day-out, her basketball IQ are things you just can’t take for granted.”

Walz inserted Robinson into the starting lineup after the loss to Wake Forest and never took her out. She has started the last eight games and played more than 35 minutes in each one while averaging 7.5 points, 7.2 rebounds, 7.1 assists and 2.3 steals per game. Louisville has won six of those eight games, with their only losses coming to Notre Dame by a combined five points.

Robinson does a little bit of everything and does it incredibly well. She is the only player in the country this season averaging at least five points, four rebounds, four assists and two steals per game while also committing less than two turnovers per game – according to HerHoopStats.

And according to Louisville director of video analytics LaMont Russell, Robinson has 103 deflections this season and has drawn 15 charges.

“She not only guards her man, but everybody else’s when the play breaks down,” Walz said. “So, we’re going to need her playing at her best… And you know, I’ve challenged her too to score some more. I really want her to shoot the ball more. But she’s just an outstanding and spectacular player.”

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Meier on NIL case

Here’s what Miami coach Katie Meier had to say in regards to the NCAA’s NIL infractions ruling against the Hurricanes, which was made public last week:

“I think the difficult part in this whole situation has been the timing. It’s really unfortunate for my team. Beginning of the season, kind of a sudden announcement, and then really the timing of now, part two. I feel like my team has suffered twice and I just don’t like that. And I wish I could have stopped that from happening. I think it’s really important that somebody recognizes – don’t worry about my support – but my team did not deserve any of this and none of my players have done anything wrong at all. I support them. They didn’t deserve that.”

The penalties levied by the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions stems from Miami’s recruitment of the Cavinder twins last offseason. The NCAA said Miami committed Level II violations when Meier helped arrange a meeting between the Cavinders and Miami super-booster John Ruiz before they committed last spring. It was the first time the NCAA announced a penalty related to a NIL investigation in any sport.

Meier served a three-game suspension at the beginning of the season. Miami’s one-year probationary period began Friday. The Hurricanes will also pay a $5,000 fine, plus one percent of the women’s basketball budget, and will endure multiple recruiting penalties, which include the loss of some official visits.

Combined this season, Haley and Hanna Cavinder have averaged 17.2 points, six rebounds and 4.1 assists per game, helping Miami to its most ACC wins since 2019.

Written by Mitchell Northam

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