Notre Dame’s women’s basketball team enters the offseason before the 2022 season in a privileged position. They will return four out of five starters. Their leader in points, assists and steals was only a beginner, and may very well be the best beginner in the country. As a program, the upward trajectory under their (relatively) new head coach, Niele Ivey, is clear: a marginal record improvement in year one and a Sweet Sixteen appearance in year two.
But as Ivey himself has said, the bar for Notre Dame women’s basketball is not Sweet Sixteens. These are national championships. And as the Irish prepare for an even better race in 2022, the team, despite all their strengths, has one immediate and gaping hole: center.
This week, graduate student Maya Dodson announced that she would commit to the WNBA draft process when her request for a six-year eligibility was denied by the NCAA. Without going into the absurdities of the NCAA’s eligibility claim, this announcement creates an immediate problem for Notre Dame in fifth place.
As long as she was out of bad trouble, there was not a minute last season where the Irish did not have Dodson as their anchor down. The former Stanford transfer was an integral part of the midfield for a reason: A member of both the All-ACC First Team and the All-ACC Defensive Team provided Dodson with an almost unmatched mix of consistent scoring (12.6 points per game) and rebounding 7.3 per. play and rim protection (she had 91 blocks, no one else on the list had more than 30).
On the bright side, the Irish are not without immediate possibilities, at least in the hypothetical. Sophomore Maddy Westbeld was forced to play out of position in parts of Notre Dame’s Sweet Sixteen match against North Carolina State when Dodson got into foul trouble and handled one of the best centers in the country in Elissa Cunane relatively well. Although moving Westbeld out of position would open up another lineup spot, freshman Sonia Citron has proven capable of delivering minutes in the top four, and Ivey has suggested that even KK Branford, Notre Dame’s highest rated incoming freshman , could play any of 1-4. places as a guard. Looking back at the current list, sophomore Natalija Marshall has struggled with injuries throughout her Irish career, but the former top-40 recruit stands at 6-foot-5 and has determined the height to profile herself as a center.
But in all likelihood, the best place for Ivey and the Irish to go is to find a replacement for the almost irreplaceable Dodson back where they picked her up in the first place: the transfer portal. Since Dodson made the switch from Stanford to South Bend last year, the portal has exploded from a relative anomaly to a fundamental part of how championship lists are built. This offseason, more than a thousand college basketball players have already come to women, and more seem to be coming every day. Notre Dame faces some unique challenges in acquiring portal players: The strict rules regarding grades and credits have been noticed and regretted more than a few times, especially as far as the football team is concerned. But the strict rules, as set out in Dodson, do not mean that Notre Dame cannot bring in transfers. It just means that the fit needs to be a little more perfect, and the search a little more careful. But if one ignores the unknown grades or credits, based solely on the basketball resume, here are three options that Irish could turn to to fill Dodson’s shoes down low.
Taya Corosdale (Oregon State): A relatively recent entry into the portal, Corosdale announced Friday that she would explore other options for the rest of her eligibility. Redshirt junior offers invaluable experience that could boost a generally young Irish core, as well as a high physical frame that stands 6’3. Corosdale was not as productive of a goal scorer as Dodson was, only averaging 7.3 points per game. match, but she was a slightly better rebounder than Dodson was – with an average of 7.4 a match to Dodson’s 7.3. She also got the team lead on the Beavers in blocks and had an average of several minutes per. match than any other player on the list. While her stats are not as conspicuous as the other two names on this list, do not count experience as an important trait in Ivey’s quest for a Dodson replacement. The fact that Corosdale has been playing college ball for years now could make her an attractive option if Ivey were to try to balance his young lineup further.
Dre’una Edwards (Kentucky): Although the shortest name on this list is “only” 6-foot-2, Edwards brings a strong resume to the table after a year in Kentucky. The former 2019 PAC-12 freshman of the year took some time to get up to speed with the Wildcats handling injuries (and even this season started only 12 games), but when she was on the field she was one of the teams’ most influential players. With an average of 16.8 points per. fight back with 8.4 rebounds, Edwards also possesses an effective shot. The red-shirted junior shot 52% from the field last season and showed an offensive versatility that, when mixed with her natural length and abilities in the paint, could make her a great fit for Ivey’s up-tempo attack.
Angel Reese (Maryland): Although Reese does not profile himself as a traditional center and plays more in the form of a Sonia Citron hybrid forward / guard, the native Baltimore would be a slam dunk addition for the Irish. Bringing Reese in would require the Irish to play a little less than last year, but the other student has the height required to be present on the boards, standing at 6 feet-3. The question of why the Irish would change their game to accommodate Reese is answered by her statistics and acknowledgments: she had an average of a double double with 17.8 points per game. match and 10.6 rebounds per. match. Even more impressive came these flashy numbers, while she only had an average of 25.8 minutes per. match. Reese is also not sluggish on the defensive side of the ball – when he was named the all-important defensive team last season. Reese, who is a third team that is only American, would be an addition to the Irish, as a number of national title candidates no doubt have an interest in picking her up.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily The Observers.