With 4 starters back, Irish shoot for top

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) -- Notre Dame knocked off Tennessee and Big East foe Connecticut to advance to the NCAA championship game last season.

The Irish couldn't quite cap their bid for a second title in 10 years, losing to Texas A&M in a tough game that still lingers.

The nucleus for another run is back. The Irish have four returning starters, including Skylar Diggins, the Big East preseason player of the year. With Deveraux Peters (11.9 points and 7.5 rebounds per game) and last year's leading scorer Natalie Novosel (15.1 ppg) returning, Notre Dame is the preseason pick to win the league.

Brittany Mallory, another starter from the 31-8 team, is also back.

Notre Dame opens the regular season Nov. 11 at home against Akron.