Notre Dame isn't planning business as usual this Final Four.
Coach Muffet McGraw realized after the Fighting Irish clinched the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season title for a second straight season that the team didn't seem to celebrate much. Then it happened again when the Irish won the ACC tournament.
The always intense McGraw sensed her young team was taking on her what's-the-next-challenge attitude. She wants to make sure the Irish recognize how significant making the Final Four is and enjoy the experience. She is trying to get away from the "business-like" feel of recent appearances.
The Irish (35-2) face South Carolina (34-2) in the first semifinal game on Sunday in Tampa, Fla.
Leading scorer Jewell Loyd said the lighter atmosphere will help.
"The teams in the past we probably wouldn't have said that, but this team plays better when we're nice and loose and joking around and having fun," she said.
The Irish say they don't feel any extra pressure because the four previous Final Four squads failed to bring home a title.
"I don't think it adds stress, I think motivation more that we've gotten there but haven't finished it out," Mabrey said. "We definitely want to finish it this year."