CHARLOTTESVILLE — There are so many layers to it, so many ways to look at it, so many possibilities.
When it comes to the NCAA tournament, the difference between what could happen, should happen and eventually does happen can represent quite a range.
So Sherri Coale chose to clear it up.
“I can make it even simpler for you,” the Oklahoma women’s coach said. “We don’t turn it over and we win. If we keep this thing around 10 or 12 turnovers, we win the game. Now that’s real simple. Doing that is another thing entirely.”
Could it be that simple?
No. 6 seed 21st-ranked OU (22-11) meets No. 3 seed and 11th-ranked Miami (28-4) at 6 p.m. today in the second-round of the Dayton Regional at John Paul Jones Arena.
OU is young, but its veterans have the experience of reaching two straight Final Fours. Miami, starting three sophomore and two juniors, reached the WNIT final last season, but the entirety of its Big Dance experience under sixth-year coach Katie Meier was gained Sunday in the Hurricanes’ 80-62 victory over Gardner-Webb.
“Obviously, the advantage goes to Oklahoma on that one … The thing that is different is right now is (there are) two teams,” Meier said. “What are your strengths, what are your weaknesses. You’re playing in Charlottesville, period. It is one game.”
Maybe she’s right.
But if she’s right, if the game is played in a vacuum in which yesterday and tomorrow are hardly relevant, could it still be as simple as Coale tried to make it?
Well, those listening to what Sooner and Hurricane coaches and players had to say Monday would have to conclude she’s pretty close. Turnovers aside, it would seem, at least, to be about pressure: exerting it and surviving it.
Miami wants to run.
“We are going to run it and we are going to play our game,” Hurricane guard Morgan Strohman said.
OU wants to run.
“I think we’re going to run regardless, even if (Miami) runs as well” Sooner point guard Danielle Robinson said. “That’s part of our identity and we can’t stop just because they’re a running team, too.”
But OU would like to stop Miami from running.
“We know we have to slow the ball down (defensively),” Robinson added. “They are very effective in transition. We are going to have to be more conscious of stopping the ball earlier.”
Also, Miami wants to slow OU down.
“They have everything you want in a basketball team. It’s going to be a big challenge to defend the entire court,” Meier said. “You have to defend the entire court at a very high pace … I mean, we run, but their pace of play, even in the quarter court, is impressive.”
Coale said Miami reminds her a lot of Kentucky, the team the Sooners beat to reach the Final Four last season. Kentucky played frantically and frenetically and when the Sooners were able to handle it on both ends of the floor, the Wildcats had no answers.
It may be the same for Miami. On the other hand, if it were easy to do that against the Hurricanes, more than four teams would have beaten them this season.
“Defensive transition will be key. The other part is you can’t give them second chances,” Coale said. “They rebound offensively like crazed maniacs. They just go after the ball, so our blockouts will be huge. I just think those are the two biggest keys.”
OU can’t succumb to Miami’s pressure. In transition, or on the glass. Or when it has the ball. Because as big as those defensive keys are, if the Sooners don’t turn it over, they win. Anyway, that’s what Coale said.
She did, though, before she left, widen her scope a little.
“This time of year, that’s what it comes down to,” she said. “Fundamental things, not giving up second shots, not giving up layups, valuing the basketball.”
It may not be that simple, but it doesn’t sound very complicated.
Clay Horning 366-3526 firstname.lastname@example.org