Sitting in the locker room before practice Saturday, assistant coach Jan Ross choked up talking about this year's group of Oklahoma players.
Ross, in her 17th year as an OU assistant, was diagnosed with breast cancer last April and fought through chemotherapy treatments last summer.
Today, Ross is cancer-free and “feels great,” she said, adding that the 2012-13 team will always be special to her.
“This group of kids ... it's a special group,” Ross said. “They helped me through a lot. Regardless of what happens or how long we still play, they'll always have a special place in my life because they helped me through a not-so-good time. I love them all.”
TENNESSEE'S OKLAHOMA CITY REGIONAL HISTORY
The last time Tennessee played in the NCAA Tournament regional site in Oklahoma City, the Lady Vols had a winning outcome.
In 2008, Tennessee faced Notre Dame, then Texas A&M, winning both before advancing to the Final Four in Tampa, Fla. where the Lady Vols beat LSU and Stanford to win the national title.
Warlick recalled that weekend when she spoke with the media Saturday at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“You can't forget that opportunity we had here,” she said. “Great crowd. We played Texas A&M in the finals. Very eventful for us.”
TO STOP GRINER OR NOT TO STOP GRINER?
Some teams are known for doing crazy, odd, uncanny things to try to beat an opponent everyone thinks is unbeatable.
Baylor's dominance in the last few years has left a lot of teams desperate to find a way to win, or even keep the score close.
Louisville coach Jeff Walz has his own plan.
“I'm trying to put six,” Walz said. “I'm hoping our officials are bad at math ... and we just get 'em real confused.”
The media laughed as Walz grinned. So how do you stop Baylor? Walz believes you don't.
“Instead of getting all concerned about how you are going to stop Brittney Griner from scoring 30, forget it, she's going to,” he said. “Figure out a way how we can score 70. If we can figure that out, then you might have a chance to get the last five minutes of the ballgame where shots start to matter.
“With the success they've had, it's been a while since a shot's mattered in the last four or five minutes of the game.”
COALE, HAND SHARE SPECIAL BOND
Coale enjoys close personal relationships with all her players, but her bond with Hand is undeniably special.
That connection made Hand's career-ending ACL tear all the more difficult.
Hand injured the knee late in the first half of Oklahoma's Dec. 6 win over North Texas. After the game that night, Coale went to Hand's home and visited with her, her father Rich Hand and her husband, former OU quarterback Landry Jones.
“That really helped me process things,” Coale said. “I told her at that time, ‘I'm not ready to tell you all the things that I want to tell you when we're done. I'm not ready yet.' It was good to have those moments.”
Hand said the in-home visit that night was just more evidence of what she already knew about her coach.
“She came over to my house that night and just cried with me,” Hand said. “You know that it's real to her, and that she loves you, not just for what you can do on the court, but for who you are as a person.”
Baylor star Griner on her free spirit and how it's helped her deal with some of the national attention: “Definitely. Like a butterfly in a cocoon coming out.”