Commentary

Now introducing: Maryhoma Soonerps

Originally Published: March 5, 2009
By Mechelle Voepel | Special to ESPN.com

All season, we have been asking the same question: Can any team beat UConn?

[+] EnlargeCourtney Paris/Ashley Paris
AP Photo/Sue OgrockiOklahoma seniors Courtney, left, and Ashley Paris would start in the frontcourt for the "Maryhoma Soonerps."

After the Huskies clobbered then-No. 2 (and also undefeated at the time) North Carolina in Chapel Hill on Jan. 19, it occurred to me that there was a better question to ask: Could any two teams beat UConn?

That is, if you combined the best elements of two squads this season, could you come up with a team good enough to topple the No. 1 Huskies, who capped the program's fifth undefeated regular season (30-0) on Monday?

I have my doubts that the NCAA would allow this, of course … but the first combo that came to mind that night is still the one I'm sticking with: Oklahoma and Maryland.

Now, since we're creating a completely fictitious situation, we can make up the rules. UConn can have its whole team, but Oklahoma-Maryland can have only eight players, four from each squad.

UConn basically uses a seven-player rotation for the most part anyway. Besides, "limiting" the combined squad to eight players also forces me to make some tough choices.

The OU players to compete for the "Maryhoma Soonerps" would be Courtney Paris, Ashley Paris, Danielle Robinson and Amanda Thompson. Yes, it's hard to leave Nyeshia Stevenson and Whitney Hand (a healthy Hand, that is) off this team.

But I'm taking Thompson for her defensive versatility and rebounding. The 3-point prowess we leave on the table with Stevenson and Hand will be offset by the other team in this equation.

Three of the four from College Park, Md. -- Kristi Toliver, Marissa Coleman and Marah Strickland -- will try to take care of things from behind the arc. The fourth Terp-turned-Soonerp is Demauria Liles.

It goes without saying that Toliver and Coleman were automatic choices. But then it was a difficult matter of picking the other two. Should it be Strickland and Liles … Strickland and Lynetta Kizer … or Liles and Kizer? I debated all three combinations.

It was tempting to go with the two pure post players, Liles (a power forward) and Kizer (a center). However, I think there needed to be three effective long-range shooters for Maryhoma, so Strickland (a wing who has hit 45 3-pointers this season) got the nod.

Then it was down to Liles versus Kizer … again, a hard call. Kizer would give the Soonerps a backup for fellow 6-foot-4 player Courtney Paris. She has had a terrific freshman season.

[+] EnlargeMarissa Coleman/Kristi Toliver
G Fiume/Getty ImagesMaryland seniors Marissa Coleman, left, and Kristi Toliver would need to hit some shots from behind the arc to give the "Maryhoma Soonerps" a chance against UConn.

However, I went with the 6-1 junior Liles because she has a little more experience (winning a junior college national championship last season) and she can rebound with and defend against different kinds of players. As would be the case with Thompson.

The starting five for the Soonerps would be Toliver, Coleman, Paris, Paris and Liles. But the bench -- Robinson, Strickland and Thompson -- would get a lot of time.

Now, who gets to be head coach: Brenda Frese or Sherri Coale? Coale has been a head coach longer, but Frese has a national championship. Since it would be wimpy to just say they are co-head coaches, I'll make myself pick.

I'll go with Coale, and here's as good a reason as any: Last season, Frese had to get used to being in charge but not the one who stands and yells during games. That was because she was pregnant with her twins and ceded "standing up and yelling" duties to assistant Daron Park.

So while Coale and Frese would be co-head coaches for all practical purposes, Coale would be the one prowling the sidelines. They'd both give pregame and halftime talks. I'm OK with their both going to the postgame news conference, too. In fact, I would kind of insist.

And finally, would Maryhoma beat UConn? Well, probably not if the Soonerps were thrown together because they wouldn't all know each other or feel as comfortable/cohesive as the Huskies. But as long as this is a total fantasy …

If the Soonerps had a couple of weeks to practice together first, they would have a very good chance to win. It's a game I'd like to see, wouldn't you?

If they didn't win, though …

I wonder what three teams might beat UConn.

Mechelle Voepel, a regular contributor to ESPN.com, can be reached at mvoepel123@yahoo.com. Read her blog at http://voepel.wordpress.com/.

Mechelle Voepel joined ESPN.com in 1996 and covers women's college hoops, the WNBA, the LPGA, and additional collegiate sports for espnW.