The Norman Transcript

March 28, 2010

No clear favorite today

By Clay Horning
The Norman Transcript

KANSAS CITY — When it comes to common opponents Oklahoma and Notre Dame have played this season, the edge clearly goes to … actually, it’s not very clear.

The Sooners and Irish have played three common opponents. They’ve also played each other, with the Irish prevailing 81-71 at the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Also at the Jam, both teams met South Carolina and San Diego State. The Aztecs’ season ended Saturday, in a 66-58 loss to Duke at the Memphis Regional. The Gamecocks’ season ended at the SEC Tournament.

The Sooners beat South Carolina 75-67 and pummeled San Diego State 87-48. The Irish beat South Carolina 78-55 and beat San Diego State 84-79.

Both teams have played top-ranked Connecticut. OU lost to UConn 76-60 at Lloyd Noble Center. The Irish lost to UConn at UConn 70-46, lost to UConn in South Bend 76-51 and lost to UConn at the Big East Tournament 59-44.

Those wishing to spin such facts the Sooners’ way can look at the San Diego State game, where OU handed the Aztecs their worst loss of the season, and the Connecticut game, where OU scored more points against the Huskies than the Irish managed in three tries.

Coaches

It was 20 years ago today Oklahoma announced it was killing women’s basketball. Of course, rightfully shamed by local protest and that of coaches at the women’s Final Four, the program was reinstated quickly.

Six years later Sherri Coale became the Sooner coach. Her third season she went to the WNIT and her fourth to the NCAA Tournament for the first time. This season makes it 11 straight NCAA Tournaments, seven of which have included Sweet 16 runs and two to the Final Four. Notable is the fact OU has never ended its season in the Elite Eight. Each time it’s gotten that far, it’s won another game to reach the Final Four. Under Coale, the Sooners have gone 311-142 (.687).

Irish coach Muffet McGraw was already at Notre Dame when OU killed the program and, in 23 seasons, she has gone 525-202 (.722), going to 16 NCAA Tournaments, two Final Fours and winning the 2001 national championship. This season marks the Irish’s 14th straight trip to the Big Dance.

Two years ago

Notre Dame ended OU’s 2007-08 season with a 79-75 second-round NCAA Tournament overtime victory in West Lafayette, Ind. It was the junior season for Ashley and Courtney Paris and the least of OU’s four seasons during the era of the Paris twins.

Courtney Paris led OU with 24 points and 16 rebounds. Amanda Thompson, then a sophomore, added 19, while Jenna Plumley, playing what turned out to be her last game for OU, added 18, with all 10 of her attempts and all six of her made baskets coming from 3-point land.

Charel Allen scored 35 for the Irish, who started three players who will also start tonight: Erica Williamson, Ashley Barlow and Lindsay Schrader. Barlow notched 16 points, Williamson eight and Schrader two.

So much for picks

OU and Notre Dame tip off what’s left of the Kansas City Regional at 6:34 p.m., while Nebraska and Kentucky play afterward. When the season began, only the Irish figured to be in such a spot.

Big 12 Conference coaches picked the Sooners fifth and Nebraska sixth in the preseason. Meanwhile, SEC coaches chose Kentucky 10th (next to last), while Big East coaches chose Notre Dame second.

Big 12 best?

At least when it comes to teams reaching the Sweet 16, the Big 12 has bragging rights, though they must be shared with the SEC. Both claimed a fourth of the Sweet 16.

Baylor, Iowa State, Oklahoma and Nebraska reached from the Big 12, while Tennessee, Georgia, Mississippi State and Kentucky reached from the SEC.

The Big East had two reach in Connecticut and Notre Dame, as did the ACC with Duke and Florida State. Four conferences had one team advance: the Pac-10 (Stanford), the Mountain West (San Diego State), the West Coast (Gonzaga) and the Atlantic 10 (Xavier).

Clay Horning 366-3526 cfhorning@normantranscript.com