By Wendell Barnhouse | firstname.lastname@example.org
Oklahoma is in familiar territory, appearing in its 15th consecutive NCAA Tournament. Only six schools have longer streaks.
What's unfamiliar is where the Sooners find themselves in the bracket. An 18-14 record left OU sweating on Selection Monday and put them in the field as a No. 10 seed. That equals the lowest seed Oklahoma has ever had.
"You read all the projections and you can do the metrics and do the research, and still, nothing is sure until you see your name on the screen," Sooners coach Sherri Coale said of being relieved to see her name slotted into the bracket.
The first challenge is to advance past the first round. Oklahoma will face No. 7 seed DePaul in a first-round game in Durham, N.C.
"They're a really, really good team," Coale said. . "They're a really good seven seed. They could have been a five seed."
The Blue Demons won the Big East Conference's automatic bid. They are one of the nation's top scoring teams and like to force a fast tempo with pressure defense.
Coale believes the keys to success include her post players scoring and defending the basket while her perimeter players lock down on defense.
"We have to demand the ball first of all," said Oklahoma's Nicole Griffin, a 6-6 senior who averages 10.2 points and six rebounds per game. "If we do what we're supposed to do, what we think we can do, we'll be set for the game."
OU has had a 14-day break since being knocked out of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Women's Basketball Championship.
"It's been a big benefit in terms of resetting our focus to what we want to do," OU senior guard Aaryn Ellenberg said, "the way we approach work. And just for this season, we have another chance, a clean slate for our program as well."
12:30 p.m. Saturday, Durham, N.C.
No. 10 Oklahoma (18-14) vs. No. 7 DePaul (27-6)
Probable Oklahoma starters: Aaryn Ellenberg, 5-7 Sr. G; Sharane Campbell, 5-10 Jr. G.; Morgan Hook, 5-10 Sr. G; Nicole Kornett, 6-1 Soph. G; Nicole Griffin, 6-6 Sr. C.
Probable DePaul starters: Megan Rogowski, 5-9 Jr. G; Brittany Hrynko, 5-8 Jr. G; Chanise Jenkins, 5-5 Soph. G; Megan Podkowa, 6-2 Soph. G/F; Jasmine Penny, 6-1 Sr. F.
Fast breaks: Oklahoma averages 20.1 points from its bench. That's 26 percent of the team's total scoring. That's an increase of 10 points per game from last season's team that reached the Sweet 16. … OU coach Sherri Coale needs one more victory to reach 400 in her career. … DePaul is making its 12th consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. Last season, the Blue Demons lost a first-round game to Oklahoma State … The Blue Demons have won seven straight and 16 of their last 17 games. DePaul is fifth in Division I the country in scoring at 83.4 points per game and second in the country with 12 steals per game. … DePaul is led by Jasmine Penny, a 6-1 forward who is the only senior starter. She averages 15.8 points per game.
What's next: The winner of Oklahoma-DePaul plays on Monday against the winner of No. 2 seed Duke and No. 15 seed Winthrop.