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Associated Press

NORMAN, Okla. -- Sherri Coale pumped her fists in the air, flashed a smile and plopped back onto the couch as her Oklahoma team celebrated being seeded third Sunday in the NCAA Tournament's Midwest regional.

Then she turned to star forward Caton Hill and asked her, "What do you know about Marist? What state are they in?"

Correctly, Hill answered, "New York."

But the Sooners (23-8) know little else about Marist (20-10), which earned an automatic bid by winning the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament.

Coale wasn't sure what to say.

"Um, Marist College, I don't know. Or is it Marist University?" she said. "I feel bad. I don't know."

For now, the Big 12 tournament champs are just excited to be a third seed. They'll head to Tempe, Ariz., for their first-round game Saturday. A second-round matchup looms against Pacific 10 Conference champion Stanford or Big 12 foe Missouri, which beat Oklahoma 77-65 in the regular season.

With back-to-back wins, the Sooners would be lined up to play two games at home with a trip to the Final Four on the line.

"You would coach all your life and never ever get to play on your home floor with an opportunity to go to the Final Four," Coale said. "That's one of those once-in-a-lifetime kind of things."

Coale said she thought her team's run through the Big 12 tournament -- winning four games in five days -- was crucial. Going into the tournament, she thought the Sooners were a fifth or sixth seed. Winning the tournament put Oklahoma in position to get back to Norman without beating a higher-seeded team.

"We've put ourselves in a position to do something special and that's all you can ask to do," Coale said.

Marist has already done something special. The Poughkeepsie, N.Y., school with an enrollment of about 4,000 undergraduates earned its first bid to the NCAA women's tournament by hanging on to beat Canisius 76-74 in the MAAC finals.

Marist is led by forward Stephanie Del Preore, who averages 14.1 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. She had 30 points and 16 rebounds in the conference championship game. Center Maureen Magarity is Del Preore's main backup, scoring 12.9 points per game.

The Red Foxes will face an Oklahoma team that has all three of its stars clicking. Hill and guards Maria Villarroel and Dionnah Jackson each averaged more than 13 points per game in the Big 12 tournament and each topped 20 points once in the four games.

Hill said the winning streak has the Sooners in a groove.

"I just think that it's kind of gotten us where we understand ourselves more and we've figured out how much we're capable of," Hill said "When we're playing that well going into the NCAA Tournament, you can't ask for a better situation.

"We're playing our best basketball right now."

1 Penn State
2 Connecticut
3 Houston
4 North Carolina
5 Notre Dame
6 Colorado
7 Auburn
8 Virginia Tech
9 Iowa
10 North Carolina State
11 UC Santa Barbara
12 Southwest Missouri State
13 Middle Tennessee
14 UW-Green Bay
15 Penn
16 Hampton
1 Duke
2 Kansas State
3 Boston College
4 Texas Tech
5 Louisiana Tech
6 Ohio State
7 Minnesota
8 Old Dominion
9 Marquette
11 West Virginia
12 Montana
13 Maine
14 Eastern Michigan
15 Valparaiso
16 Northwestern State
1 Texas
2 Purdue
3 Georgia
5 Miami
7 Villanova
8 Michigan State
9 Arizona
10 Mississippi
11 Temple
12 Maryland
13 Austin Peay
14 Liberty
15 St. Francis (Pa.)
16 Southern
1 Tennessee
2 Vanderbilt
3 Oklahoma
4 Baylor
5 Florida
6 Stanford
7 Rutgers
8 George Washington
9 DePaul
10 Chattanooga
11 Missouri
12 New Mexico
13 Loyola Marymount
14 Marist
15 Lipscomb
16 Colgate