Oklahoma City Region
Oklahoma gets the nod, not only because the Sooners are talented but because they are trying to advance to the Final Four on their home turf. Senior center Courtney Paris has boldly proclaimed that if the Sooners don't win the national championship, she'll give back the $64,000 she has used on athletic scholarships the past four years. Think she's confident?
Auburn, Rutgers, North Carolina. It's Oklahoma's home turf, but the Tigers are one of the most underrated teams in the country. The SEC has seven teams in the tourney, and you don't roll through that league with just two regular-season losses without being really good. Auburn has quickness, depth and the SEC player of the year (DeWanna Bonner), who can dominate in the paint — and shoot. If the two were meeting on a neutral site, Auburn might be favored. Rutgers and North Carolina haven't had the type of seasons they've become accustomed to, but No. 3 seed North Carolina is dangerous and C. Vivian Stringer's stingy defensive teams are always a threat for an upset.
Auburn vs. Oklahoma. It's the best of the SEC vs. the best of the Big 12. Paris vs. Bonner inside, quick, sharp-shooting guards that like to play uptempo. And the X's and O's of Oklahoma's Sherri Coale vs. Auburn's Nell Fortner. Classic.
Paris. Oklahoma's senior center averages 16.5 points and 13.7 rebounds. At 6-4, she's tough to handle.
Antonya English, Times staff writer