CHARLOTTE, N.C. — It seems like an annual rite of the preseason to pick Notre Dame to win the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The three-time defending champion Fighting Irish were selected Wednesday to win the ACC again. They’ve been the favorite every year since joining the conference before the 2013-14 season.
Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw knows it won’t be easy to win a fourth straight title.
“This league is getting better every year,” she said. “We have a lot of young talent to go along with a strong veteran group, but there are a lot of really good teams in this conference.”
To win a fourth consecutive conference title, the Irish will have to do it in a new venue. The ACC announced Wednesday that its conference tournament would relocate from Greensboro, North Carolina, to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, because of a state law that restricts the rights of LGBT people. The ACC pulled 10 neutral-site championships out of North Carolina last month because of the law.
“It’s been a difficult time in the state with lots of things,” Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “I feel for the conference for the adjustments they had to make so late. We didn’t want to ever leave Greensboro, nothing could match that. Credit to the conference for finding an appropriate place that could handle us at that late hour.”
Coastal Carolina will host the tournament from March 1-5. It will be the conference’s seventh appearance in South Carolina and first since a five-year run in Rock Hill from 1992-96. ACC women’s basketball associate commissioner Nora Lynn Finch said the conference also looked at sites in Florida and Virginia as possible hosts.
“Myrtle Beach had everything we were looking for in a site and was able to accommodate us for what we needed,” Finch said.
She didn’t know if Myrtle Beach was going to be a one-year site.
“That’s out of our hands, we love Greensboro,” she said. “Greensboro’s been the gold standard for women’s basketball tournaments. … We hope it’s one year, but we don’t know. That rests in the hands of state government.”
North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell was a big fan of the move. She has a house in the area and has taken her team to Myrtle Beach to play for the last 22 years.
“I love it,” Hatchell said of the relocation. “We get better crowds down there than we do in Chapel Hill. They love us, they love women’s basketball. … They’ll have a great setup.”
Challenging the Irish will be Louisville and Florida State, who are second and third in the preseason poll. Syracuse, fresh off its appearance in the NCAA championship game, was picked fourth.
Miami, Duke, North Carolina State, Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Virginia round out the first 10. Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, Boston College, Pitt and Clemson finish out the voting.
The Cardinals are led by returning conference player of the year Myisha Hines-Allen. She also was selected as the preseason player of the year.
“It’s an honor,” Hines-Allen said. “Seeing the coaches and media recognize me as one of the best players in this conference, which is the best conference in the country, is a blessing.”
Joining the Louisville junior on the preseason squad were teammates Asia Durr and Mariya Moore; Rebecca Greenwell of Duke; Leticia Romero and Shakayla Thomas of Florida State; Adrienne Motley of Miami; Lindsay Allen and Brianna Turner of Notre Dame; and Alexis Peterson of Syracuse.
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