NCAA Tourney Primer: Similarities & Opportunities

March 22, 2011

March 22, 2011


By Chris Freet, Associate AD

Norman, Oklahoma and Miami, Florida do not have many things in common.

There is no comparing the demographics, city size, landscape or economic impact between the two.

Yet what both towns boast are college athletics departments steeped in history.

And a torch bearer for that history at the University of Oklahoma is women’s basketball.  

The question is how long until Miami women’s hoops is on the same level?

If you look closely there are a ton of similarities between the programs, both right now, and when comparing the ascent that OU made to a top 10 program and the meteoric rise the Canes program is currently enjoying.  

Leadership Similarities
I have a unique perspective on Oklahoma since I worked there for five years and spent part of that time as the main contact with the women’s basketball team.

OU head coach Sherri Coale is a dear friend and mentor.  Katie Meier is a dang good basketball coach and someone I gain new respect for every single day.

When I watched Katie Meier work the room during her first NCAA Tournament press conference, I smiled quietly and thought of Coach Coale.

Coale works wonders in the press conference setting and so can Meier.

Take for example the Virginia reporter that asked about whether or not Miami was getting enough credit for being ACC Champions.

“Oh, please say that again,” pleaded Meier with an ear-to-ear smile. The room chuckled and Meier achieved three things.  She reminded everyone that Miami won the ACC Championship during the regular season.  She emphasized that she didn’t think the Canes were getting enough credit. And lastly she made everyone in the room laugh.  A question that could have been controversial was flipped into a feel good moment.

Outside of interview skills, there are plenty of other similarities.

Meier and Coale both coach an entertaining brand of basketball.  

As you will see during their round of 32 matchup on Tuesday at 7 p.m. Eastern (on ESPN2 and, they both want to get out and run on offense.  They want their players to play free and with youthful exuberance.  That is not only their offense, but a replication of their personalities. Both have the innate skill of blending seamlessly with a group of 18 years old or the local senior citizen group.

Want more?

Meier went through a tough patch or two during her first five years with UM.  Coale was hired away from a Norman high school (yes you read that right), in a move that was so bold it had to work to keep the critics from chirping.

The list could go on, but let’s turn our attention to the court.

When Oklahoma made its rise to becoming a national player, it was on the shoulders of Stacey Dales.  Dales was a Canadian that played point guard, but could do just about everything on the court.  The UM equivalent is Shenise Johnson, who is from the north too (Rochester, N.Y.) and is a threat to post a triple double every night.

Dales sidekick was LaNeisha Caufield.  Caufield was a gritty, physical player that was a machine on offense. Hmmm,  kind of sounds like Riquna Williams, who is as tough a women’s basketball player as I have seen and has an unconscious fill up the bucket mentality.

The Sooners had Rosalind Ross, the defensive stopper that carried the same traits as Morgan Stroman and was a glue player. And you could go down that roster and make more comparisons, but the real key for Miami is whether or not they can maintain this level of excellence from year-to-year.  The future looks extremely bright with Pitt transfer Shawnice Wilson and newcomer Suriya McGuire ready to contribute next year to a team that returns every other player.

The Potential of Tuesday Night
The thing about this Miami team though is that they do not want to wait until the 2011-12 basketball season.

They already have 28 wins and a No. 3 national seed.  Tonight they want to make some noise.

That reminds me of Oklahoma.

In 2000, the Sooners played the defending-national champion Purdue Boilermakers in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

OU was 25-8 that season and emerging as a national player. But they weren’t established.

OU defeated the Purdue, 76-74, on their home court in West Lafayette, Indiana.  The ESPN announcer for that game was Beth Mowins. Yes, coincidentally, she will be on air tonight in Charlottesville. Her classic call at the end of the OU-Purdue game was, “a stunner in West Lafayette” and it is legendary in Oklahoma.

OU didn’t wait until the next season to make some noise.  The Sooners went on to make the Sweet 16 and have been to the NCAA Tournament every year since, plus three Final Four appearances.

“We have great respect for OU, they are a top-10 program in every way,” said Meier on Monday.

Tonight the Canes can take a huge step toward establishing THE U as a top-10 program, not for just this season, but for years to come.

To make that leap and be ahead of schedule, they need their own Purdue.

They need to hear Mowins say, “a stunner in Charlottesville, Va.”