San Antonio Stars guard Kayla McBride knows a thing or two about the NCAA Tournament, having reached the Final Four every year of her college career. Now entering her fourth WNBA season, McBride was an All-American at Notre Dame and ranks among the top scorers in program history.
This year’s Notre Dame team is a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and the Irish won their first two games to reach the Sweet 16. But they’ll have to continue without star forward Brianna Turner, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in the second round.
By Kayla McBride, as told to WNBA.com
Watching Notre Dame in the NCAA Tournament is really special for me. I haven’t been able to watch a ton of games this year, because they are on so late here in Turkey. But I will definitely be tuned in when they play Ohio State in the Sweet 16.
There’s a sense of pride with us Notre Dame alums in terms of keeping our program at the top. We worked hard be successful, and it’s cool to see an entirely new group of players continue that.
It’s so unfortunate Brianna Turner tore her ACL. I know she’ll be back stronger than ever, but it’s just awful to have to miss the tournament, the most exciting time of year. I can’t imagine having to watch from the sidelines. When my team was in the Elite Eight my junior year, we lost a starter to an ACL injury just like Turner’s. So I do understand what they’re going through.
What it does is give players an opportunity to step up. Obviously there’s going to be a different game plan without Brianna, but if you want to be a championship team, you need players who can step up and contribute in difficult times.
What’s so crazy about the tournament is, all it takes is one bad game and you’re done. Any team that gets to the Sweet 16 – even a Cinderella team like Quinnipiac this year – is going to be a tough matchup. Odds are that, even as the No. 1 seed, you’re going to in a close game before the Final Four. I remember being down at halftime against Duke in Norfolk, Va., before we took control in the second half and advanced to the Final Four.
Everybody is coming in with the same mindset – they don’t want to go home. You have to just enjoy the moment, play your game, and don’t take it for granted.
One of these years, Notre Dame will get over the hump and be back at the top of college basketball. My teams were so close to winning the championship every year. To be that close, it brings out who you are as a person not only on the court, but off the court. It was really tough, but it makes you think about the big picture.
You just have to leave it all on the court. As a former player in the NCAA Tournament, I know I gave everything I had. As long as you do that, you have nothing to be ashamed of.