Norman — Oklahoma will be a big favorite when it takes on South Dakota State in the first round of the women’s NCAA Tournament at Lloyd Noble Center tonight.
On the other hand, it’s not like the Jackrabbits are simply happy to be here. Nor is it like they’re being here is anything odd. Plain and simple, they’ve come to expect it.
The Jackrabbits have a long and successful NCAA basketball history, only most of it has been comprised at the Division II level.
The Jacks won the 2002-03 Division II national championship and two seasons later moved up to Division I, though they could not become eligible for NCAA Tournament play until last season.
As it turned out, things worked out just right. SDSU went to the WNIT in back-to-back seasons prior to last season, going 25-6 and 23-7 those campaigns. Last season, the Jacks’ first year of NCAA tourney eligibility, they earned a spot, spanked TCU 90-55 in the first round and finished a bucket short of Baylor, 60-58, to just miss reaching the Sweet 16.
Given the Jacks’ history, they have every reason not to feel intimidated.
“This is my third year in the program and I have never stepped on the floor and felt like we didn’t have the ability to beat the other team,” SDSU junior guard Kristen Rotert said. “I think that is something our coaching staff gives us. They give us confidence. We may be the underdog … but we really believe we’re good enough to compete with any team out there.”
Oklahoma was asked who SDSU reminds it of. There was no hesitation. The Jacks remind the Sooners of Iowa State. Amanda Thompson and Danielle Robinson, who met the media along with coach Sherri Coale, both intimated it was an advantage to have played a similar team.
On the other hand, left unsaid was the fact the Sooners lost to Iowa State. The Cyclones topped the Sooners 63-56 Jan. 23 in Ames.
If Georgia Tech can get past UALR tonight, whether it’s facing OU or SDSU Tuesday, it will be trying to buck history. This is the Yellow Jackets’ fourth straight NCAA Tournament and sixth appearance overall, though it has yet to win a second round-game.
In the past, its executioner has been OU (2009), Iowa State (2008), Purdue (2007), Virginia Tech (2003) and Northwestern (1993).
It could be that Arkansas-Little Rock coach Joe Foley, so bright-eyed to be in the NCAA Tournament for the first time, didn’t know what he was saying. More likely, hardly intimidated by the moment, he didn’t care. Whatever, everybody now knows Chastity Reed’s primary weakness.
Reed is the Trojans’ all-time leading scorer and rebounder. Only a junior, she’s averaging 25.3 points and 7.8 rebounds.
“Ballhandling is probably still a weakness because she played inside so much in high school,” Foley said. “So, once she becomes better with the ballhandling and going left and things like that, that’s what limits her a little bit right now … but that’s what she’ll work on this offseason.”
As for Foley, he’s danced before, just not big danced. As the coach of Arkansas Tech, in Russellville, Foley guided the Golden Suns to NAIA national championships in 1992 and 1993.
It’s an old storyline around here, but not elsewhere. Basically, what does it mean or how does it help that so many Sooners have famous family member athletes?
In addition to Abi Olajuwon and Carlee Roethlisberger (daughter to Hakeem and sister to Ben, respectively), Amanda Thompson is a cousin to Bryon Russell, best known as a member of the Utah Jazz, though he also played for the Washington Wizards, Denver Nuggets, Seattle Supersonics and Los Angeles Lakers.
Thompson took the question. Her answer was that it’s no big deal.
“We really don’t think about that unless somebody else brings it up,” she said. “I mean, the only benefit is being around the game for a long time and knowing about it and just seeing people compete when I was younger. Other people have probably seen the same thing.”
Clay Horning 366-3526 email@example.com