West Lafayette, Ind. The Jayhawks and Golden Eagles might not be birds of a feather, but they appear to flock together.
No. 9-seeded Kansas University and No. 8 seed Marquette have plenty in common heading into tonight's NCAA Women's Tournament first-round game. (Tipoff is 5 p.m., Lawrence time, at Purdue's Mackey Arena.)
First and foremost, neither team is looking ahead to a potential second-round matchup against host Purdue, the No. 1-ranked team in the country.
"I don't know that the team relates to Purdue the same they might a Connecticut or a Tennessee," KU coach Marian Washington said. "They're trying to figure out who Marquette is, and they will try and figure out who Purdue really is.
"Purdue's done a great job this year, but I just don't think they pose the same kind of image in these player's minds."
Washington's counterpart also isn't worried about looking past the first round.
"Honestly, we try and focus on one game at time," Marquette coach Terri Mitchell said. "I know that sounds like an old coaching cliche. But if we don't do what we need to against Kansas, it won't matter. If we expend too much energy worrying about facing Purdue, we won't play well against Kansas and we won't even face Purdue.
"With Purdue, they're a great powerhouse, proven they are the team to beat. If it comes to that, we'll address Monday on Sunday."
The winner of the KU-Marquette game will take on the Purdue-Oral Roberts survivor at 6:30 p.m. CST on Monday night.
The similarities don't end there, though. To wit:
- Both teams boast similar records -- the Jayhawks are 22-9 and the Eagles 21-7.
- Both squads are coming off losses in the semifinals of their respective conference tournaments. Kansas was defeated by Iowa State, 79-64, in the Big 12 tournament. Marquette fell victim to Cincinnati in the Conference USA semis, 77-68 in overtime.
- And, neither team is a stranger to the NCAA Tournament.
"It helps because I've got so many players who have been there," said Washington, who has compiled a 44-28 mark in the postseason, including two NCAA Sweet 16 appearances in the last three seasons. "We got past that first game (last year, a 72-68 win over Tulane). It was a horrible first game for us. It was tough, everybody was edgy and everything was very new."
But KU survived the Green Wave and knocked off host Iowa before falling to Arkansas in the Regionals. All told, the Jayhawks have been to the NCAAs 10 times in Washington's 26 years, including eight straight berths.
Although Marquette has only been to the NCAAs four times, compiling a 1-4 overall record, Mitchell has led the team to the Big Dance in all three of her seasons with the Eagles.
"Coming into our third year in the tournament is mainly because of (junior forward) Lisa Oldenburg and (junior center) Abbie Willenborg," Mitchell said. "The leadership from Lisa and Abbie and their maturity has really helped our team go from the No. 12 seed to the No. 10 to the No. 8 seed this year in the tournament."
The 6-foot-2 Willenborg and 6-2 Oldenburg, who are two of five Eagles who have started every game this season, lead the team in scoring at 16.9 points per game and 13.9 ppg, respectively.
"I think it was great we came in our freshman year and we won a game in the tournament," Oldenburg said of a surprising 70-66 win over then-No. 5 seed Clemson two years ago. "Last year we didn't do what we wanted, which made our team work harder in the offseason. Coming into this game, we remember that feeling we had last year in the locker room."
If Kansas is going to cause Marquette the same suffering this season, it will need to try and contain the Eagles' twin towers.
"I know that we have a big challenge with their inside players," KU senior center Nakia Sanford said. "I think that's their bread and butter pretty much."
Actually, scoring is one area where KU and Marquette differ.
While the Eagles utilize a two-headed attack, the Jayhawks have been led in scoring by 6-2 junior forward Lynn Pride (17.5 ppg) in 21 of their 31 outings.
"Lynn Pride is no doubt one of the top players in the country," Washington said. "She can play any position from the point to the power forward, and she can defend well in all of those positions. Lynn is going to do whatever she needs to do to help this ball club win."
-- Robert Sinclair's phone message number is 832-7185. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
F -- Lynn Pride, 6-2, Jr.
F -- Jaclyn Johnson, 6-1, Soph.
C -- Nakia Sanford, 6-3, Sr.
G -- Brooke Reves, 6-0, Soph.
G -- Jennifer Jackson, 5-10, Soph.
F -- Lisa Oldenburg, 6-2, Jr.
C -- Abbie Willenborg, 6-2, Jr.
G/F -- Heidi Bowman, 6-0, Soph.
G/F -- Keisha Oliver, 5-9, Jr.
G -- Kristi Johnson, 5-6, Fr.
Tipoff: 5 p.m. CST at Purdue's Mackey Arena.