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Notre Dame Sweeps Big East Women's Regular Season Awards

A good day for the Irish.

Notre Dame is the favorite to cut down the nets at the 2013 Big East Women's Basketball Championship on Tuesday night, and while they do not even take the floor until Sunday afternoon, they are already piling up the hardware.

Prior to tip-off of the opening game between No. 13 Cincinnati and No. 12 Seton Hall, the Big East Conference announced the winners of its four most prestigious awards.

DePaul senior Anna Martin was named the Big East Scholar-Athlete of the Year. Martin, a marketing major, is maintaining a 3.595 GPA while averaging 15.7 points and 3.6 assists per game.

"The past four years that I've been here, DePaul's been ranked in the top 10 academically," Martin said, "and the past two years we've been third in the nation, and that's really amazing."

The final three awards went to the Fighting Irish, starting with Freshman of the Year, which was awarded to guard Jewell Loyd.

Loyd started 27 of the 28 games she appeared in for the Fighting Irish, averaging 11.7 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. The four-time Big East Freshman of the Week set career highs against Baylor in points (24) and three-point field goals (4).

Playing a big role on one of the nation's best teams as a freshman can be difficult. Loyd took time to praise the teammate that helped her succeed, calling senior guard Skylar Diggins "the best mentor ever."

After leading her team to a 16-0 record in Big East play, Coach Muffet McGraw was named the conference Coach of the Year.

Despite speculation that Syracuse's Quinten Hillsman would be in contention, McGraw took home the award for the first time since 2001 – when Notre Dame won the national championship. McGraw was praised for leading her team to the nation's No. 2 ranking and the conference's regular season title after losing three starters from last year's team that fell to Baylor in the national championship.

"I would like to thank the coaches in the conference for bestowing this honor on me," McGraw said, "but it's definitely a team award. I think I've got the greatest staff in the country, and I also love my team. When you love the people that you work with, and you're happy to come to work everyday, it makes your job so much easier."

The final award came as a surprise to no one, as Skylar Diggins was named the conference Player of the Year. The face of the conference's best team, Diggins averaged 17.3 points, 5.9 assists and 2.9 steals during the 2012-13 season, and will be in contention for the national Player of the Year award.

"I'm glad to say I finished my four years in the Big East Conference, the best conference in the country," Diggins said.

Notre Dame is the No. 1 seed in the tournament and will begin play on Sunday at 2 p.m. against the winner of Saturday's game between No. 8 South Florida and No. 9 Rutgers.