If you want to understand why this Oklahoma women's basketball team has been able to overcome a slew of injuries, play with a short bench but still be able to make a surprising run to the Sweet 16, you need to walk in the locker room with Eden Williams.
She is a Sooner volleyball player who was asked to join the basketball team midseason after four players suffered season-ending injuries. Even though she has practiced lots and played a bit and become part of the team, she still looks at this team with fresh eyes.
What has she seen?
What makes it tick?
She's been on lots of teams during her life at different levels and in different sports, but she's never seen a team quite like this.
“What's different is the love that each one of these girls has for everyone,” she said. “You have teams where not everyone gets along. That's not the case for this team.”
It's obvious every time she walks into the locker room.
“And everyone's having a conversation with everyone,” she said.
No one is an outsider. Everyone is a friend. Teammates aren't tolerated. They are loved.
“That's what makes them want to fight for each other,” Williams said.
That might seem like an Oprahfied answer for why this team won a pair of games last week and will play Tennessee on Sunday in the Sweet 16, but what if that love is actually the secret sauce in this NCAA Tournament run?
These Sooners started building bonds before the season even began. In August, they went on a two-week tour of Australia. They played four games, but they also saw the sights. They petted kangaroos and went whitewater rafting and snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef.
The trip not only integrated new players but also brought everyone closer on and off the court. This would become a team that would have weekly Bible study together, randomly call each other on Friday nights and end up at the movies, even hang out on their off days.
But those bonds were tested by a horrific run of injuries.
In October, Kaylon Williams ruptured her Achilles tendon.
In early November, Lyndsey Cloman ended her career because of a recurring back issue.
In late November, Maddie Manning tore her ACL.
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