By Wendell Barnhouse | firstname.lastname@example.org
SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Jim Littell is sure about what he's unsure about as fifth-seeded Oklahoma State gets ready to take on top-seeded and undefeated Notre Dame.
Littell is uncertain about the playing status of senior point guard Tiffany Bias. She injured her ankle in the second half of the Cowgirls' second-round victory at Purdue.
"I wish I knew right now," Littell said Friday during a news conference for the Notre Dame Regional. "I'm not one who tries to hold anything out from somebody – if she was going to play I'd tell you, if she wasn't going to play I'd tell you."
Bias left no doubt: "My ankle's feeling better so I'm planning on playing."
Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw agrees with Bias' assessment.
"Bias is a phenomenal point guard and she really makes them go as a team," McGraw said. "We have to plan on her playing."
There's one thing that Littell is certain about. His team is playing its second consecutive NCAA Tournament game on its opponent's home court. The Cowgirls advanced to the Sweet 16 by winning at Purdue.
"I'm not thrilled about it to be quite honest," he said. "That (playing on home courts) is the difference between the men's and the women's games. But we're thrilled to be playing right now. There are 16 teams left in this thing and this is a very, very big deal for our school."
Bias' health is one factor facing Oklahoma State. The other is that it is facing a team that rarely loses at home, a team that has won all 34 of its games and averages 87 points a game while out-rebounding foes by nearly 10 a game.
"After watching film, they're one of the most efficient teams I've ever scouted," Littell said. "They have great talent and can score in numerous ways. They've got slashers, great perimeter players and post players."
Oklahoma State sophomore Brittney Martin had a 20-20 game in the second round – 20 points and 20 rebounds. She embraces the challenge of playing in front of a pro-Irish crowd.
"I like it," she said. "I think it's fun to play in front of the other team's fans. It's loud and it's just exciting. It's one of the atmospheres as a basketball player I've always wanted to play in.
"I'm glad we're playing, no matter where we're playing."
Notre Dame Regional semifinal
1:30 p.m. Saturday, South Bend, Ind., ESPN.
No. 5 Oklahoma State (25-8) vs. No. 1 Notre Dame (34-0)
How the Cowgirls got here: Oklahoma State earned an at-large bid from the Big 12 Conference. The Cowgirls defeated No. 12 seed Florida Gulf Coast, 61-60 in overtime, in the first round and then defeated No. 4 seed Purdue, 73-66, in the second round.
How the Fighting Irish got here: Notre Dame won the Atlantic Coast Conference's automatic bid. The Irish defeated No. 16 seed Robert Morris, 93-42, in the first round and No. 9 seed Arizona State, 84-67, in the second round.
Oklahoma State update: This is the Cowgirls' third trip to the Sweet 16. They previously mad regional semifinals in 1991 and 2008. … Oklahoma State's 69 victories over the last three seasons is the best three-year run in school history. … Sophomore Brittney Martin had 20 points and 20 rebounds in the second-round victory. She has double doubles in five of the last seven games. … Senior guard Tiffany Bias will set the school record for starts (132) and games played (133) if she takes the court as the starting point guard against Notre Dame.
Notre Dame update: The Irish are one of five schools to reach the Sweet 16 each of the last five seasons. … Notre Dame played in the national championship game in 2011 and 2012 and lost to Big 12 teams each time (Texas A&M and Baylor). … At 34-0, the Irish have far surpassed the previous best start in school history (23-0 in 2000-01). … Notre Dame leads the nation in field goal accuracy (51.3 percent) and 3-point shooting (41.4 percent). … South Bend is hosting a regional for the first time since 1983.
What's next: The winner of Oklahoma State-Notre Dame faces the winner of Baylor-Kentucky in the regional championship game Monday.