By Clay Horning
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — The Oklahoma women have been gathering at coach Sherri Coale’s home on selection Monday for a very long time. Monday night marked the second time since 2000 the Sooners arrived at their coach’s address not absolutely sure good news awaited.
Just like the last time, nine years ago, the wait was not a long one. In 2005, OU’s was the first game announced. This time, the Sooners weren’t the first game, but they were in the first bracket.
“It was a great feeling,” senior point guard Morgan Hook said. “I think a few of us even started crying. We were just so happy and relieved that we still have another chance.”
The Sooners were awarded a No. 10 seed in the Lincoln (Neb.) Regional and will meet No. 7-seed DePaul at approximately 12:30 p.m. Saturday inside Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, N.C.
Before the Sooners (18-14) and Blue Demons (27-6) meet, homestanding and No. 2-seed Duke (27-6) will take on Winthrop (24-8) at 10 a.m.
The winners of the two games will meet each other on Monday at a time to be determined.
“You can read all the projections and do the metrics and do the research, and still nothing is sure until you see your name on the screen,” Coale said. “It was nice to have it happen in the first bracket. We’re not really sure what happened after that bracket.”
Though OU’s season to date has been a far cry from the way it was projected to be, when Big 12 coaches chose OU to win the conference in the preseason — the Sooners finished sixth with a 9-9 league record, while Baylor and West Virginia were head and shoulders above the rest of their conference rivals — Coale still saluted her squad for not giving into the fight.
“This group has hung in there, and they’ve scratched and clawed and given themselves a chance to live again,” she said. “We have another shot at life this basketball season. We don’t intend to take that for granted.”
The fact that OU’s streak of 14 straight NCAA tournament appearances did not end was significant to the players.
“A lot of relief, and just for this season, to know that you’re going to have another chance, a clean slate,” senior shooting guard Aaryn Ellenberg said of the moment OU’s name was called. “And for the program, too, knowing that (we’d) been to the tournament 14 consecutive times, keeping that alive.”
To get out of Durham and into Lincoln, OU will have to put two superior games together — or one good game and one great one — because it will most assuredly mean having to get past Duke, a team that beat OU at Lloyd Noble Center 94-85 on Dec. 8.
“You can’t string together two good games if you don’t have a good game, and at least we’ve shown repeatedly that we have that game in our arsenal,” Coale said. “The flip side of that is that we’ve also shown that we have the dinosaur egg in our arsenal, and we also have to figure out how to squash that … and put all the good ones together.”
It’s March and the Sooner women are dancing again. Anything seems possible.
Follow me @clayhorning
Strength of schedule: Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale believes she knows exactly why her 14-loss, No. 59-RPI women’s basketball team was selected into the NCAA tournament for a 15th straight season Monday night.
“I think strength of schedule is huge. I think pre-conference strength of schedule is probably what pushed us in … Performing the way we did against top-10 teams in the country, even though we didn’t win those games, that’s that proverbial eye test that they talk about.
“I think how you schedule is imperative, and I think you only have to look at teams that don’t get in and look at the men’s brackets to understand how strong that’s a factor.”
About that schedule, OU played six top-10 teams in No. 3 Louisville, No. 5 Baylor twice, West Virginia twice and No. 9 Duke.
OU lost all those games, but fell to Louisville in overtime, West Virginia by a point at home, Baylor by seven in Waco and Duke by nine at home.
Other NCAA tournament teams on OU’s schedule include Big 12 rivals Oklahoma State, Texas and Iowa State, but also Gonzaga, Marist and Wichita State.
The Sooners split with OSU, Texas and Iowa State, beat Gonzaga and Wichita State in Norman and lost at Marist.
Six teams: The Sooners’ selection made it six Big 12 conference teams in the tournament.
Baylor received the No. 2 seed in the South Bend (Ind.) Regional, West Virginia received the No. 2 seed in the Louisville (Ky.) Regional, Texas received a No. 5 seed in the Louisville Regional, OSU received a No. 5 seed in the South Bend Regional and Iowa State received a No. 7 seed in the Stanford (Calif.) Regional.
Blue Demons?: OU’s opening opponent, DePaul, finished the season ranked No. 23 in the AP poll and carried a No. 25 RPI into selection day.
The Blue Demons are members of reformulated Big East and are coming off victory at the Big East postseason tournament, where they topped St. John’s 65-57 in the championship game.
DePaul went 15-3 in the league, falling once each to Creighton, St. John’s and Marquette.
Breaking news, severe weather alerts, AMBER alerts, sports scores from The Norman Transcript are available as text messages right to your phone or mobile device. You decide which type of alerts you want to receive. Find out more or to signup, click here.