By Wendell Barnhouse | firstname.lastname@example.org
After 18 regular-season games and two games in the Phillips 66 Big 12 Women's Basketball Championship, Oklahoma State is more than ready to start NCAA Tournament play.
"The Big 12 is a grind the whole year, you don't know who is going to win," Oklahoma State's Tiffany Bias said. "You beat up each other the whole season and then you have to play them again. ... I'm really looking forward to playing someone we haven't seen."
That would be Florida Gulf Coast. The automatic qualifier from the Atlantic Sun Conference, the 12th-seeded Eagles will take on the fifth-seeded Cowgirls at 10 a.m. Saturday in West Lafayette, Ind. It's a first-round game in the Notre Dame Regional. The winner advances to face the winner of Purdue vs. Akron.
Oklahoma State started 12-0, a school record for beginning a season. All eight of the Cowgirls' losses have come against Big 12 teams – seven in the regular season and one in the Big 12 Championship, a 65-61 decision to eventual winner Baylor.
Coach Jim Littell believes that the Big 12 season is great preparation for the NCAA Tournament.
"You see a little bit of everything," he said. "TCU got a great zone, you see sagging man from Iowa State. This league there isn't too much you haven't seen when you go through it."
Oklahoma State is making back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances for just the second time in school history. Bias, the team's senior point guard, provides leadership, scoring and assists. She is the only senior in the starting lineup.
"Tiffany has had a lot of experience and postseason experience, as has Liz Donohoe and Brittney Martin," Littell said. "We feel pretty good about our guard-play."
Notre Dame Regional
10 a.m. Saturday, West Lafayette, Ind.
No. 5 Oklahoma State (23-8) vs. No. 12 Florida Gulf Coast (26-7)
Probable Oklahoma State starters: Tiffany Bias, 5-6 Sr. G; Brittney Martin, 6-0 Soph. G; Brittany Atkins, 5-10 Fr. G; Liz Donohoe 6-0 Jr. F; Brittney Martin, 6-0 Soph. G.
Probable Florida Gulf Coast starters: DyTiesha Dunson, 5-8 Soph. G; Jenna Cobb, 507 Jr. G; Sarah Hanson, 5-10 Sr. G; Kaneisha Atwater, 5-7 Soph. G; Whitney Knight, 6-3 Soph. G.
Fast breaks: The Cowgirls have a 6-5 record all-time in first-round tournament games, and they have won the first game in each of their three previous appearances. … Four Oklahoma State's NCAA Tournament victories have come in its last three appearances. … The Cowgirls won their opener last season but lost to Duke, 68-59, in the second round on the Blue Devils' home court. … Florida Gulf Coast is making its second NCAA Tournament. The Eagles have won at least 20 games in 10 consecutive seasons. Senior Sarah Hansen was named Atlantic Sun Player of the Year for the second-straight year and earned a position on the All-Conference First Team for the third-consecutive year. She averages 13.8 points and 7.1 rebounds per game.
What's next: The winner of Oklahoma State-Florida Gulf Coast plays on Monday against the winner of No. 4 Purdue and No. 13 Akron.