- Melanie Jackson, Women's Basketball
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The NCAA Tournament can make for strange bedfellows.
Senior forward Efueko Osagie-Landry and Marquette are back in the women's NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2003-04. The surprise of the Big East, the Golden Eagles are in the midst of their best season, having already notched a program-record 25 victories. On Monday, Marquette received a sixth seed, also a new high for the team.
But Osagie-Landry's husband did even better on Selection Sunday. A 6-foot-7 sophomore forward on the Wisconsin men's team, Marcus Landry and the Badgers head into the men's NCAA Tournament as a No. 2 seed -- also the highest in Wisconsin's history.
"It is such an exciting time of year for our whole family to be involved," Osagie-Landry said Tuesday.
And by whole family, let us explain. In addition to the couple, Marcus' older brother, Carl Landry, is a 6-7 senior and leading scorer on the ninth-seeded Purdue men's team. Their sister, Shenita Landry, is a starting sophomore forward for the eighth-seeded Temple women.
One extended family. Four teams. Two tournaments. Talk about March Madness.
"It is a big deal to all of us to have everyone in the family playing in the tournament. It's something that you'll never experience, really," Osagie-Landry added. "We have the Landry name represented on four teams. Not many can say that. I am happy for Marcus and the success he has had as well as for his brother and sister. All around it is a great accomplishment for us Landrys to shine on this giant national stage."
Considering they play for rival programs, Efueko's and Marcus' 11-month marriage marriage sounds like a perfect plot line for ESPN's next Rivalry Week commercial. And if trying to support each other's tournament dreams when living 80 miles apart most of the week weren't enough, how about the fact they have a nearly 10-month-old daughter to care for?
The couple rendezvous as often as they can in a home on Milwaukee's northwest side that they share with daughter Moriah, Landry's father, mother, two younger siblings and Landry's 2-year-old son (also named Marcus) from a previous relationship, according to a story from last December in the Wisconsin State Journal. Moriah won't be traveling to either NCAA Tournament, but it's not unusual to see her nearby during Marquette's practices. And the infant also attended the Big East tournament.
The couple -- Efueko is 23 and Marcus is 21 -- met in 2002. On her recruiting trip, Osagie-Landry, a native of Oklahoma City, Okla., sought out a church. Landry's grandfather is the pastor there, and Efueko's and Marcus' paths crossed briefly. Still, they seldom saw each other afterward, and the relationship didn't take off until 2005, right before Landry's freshman year at Wisconsin, according to the State Journal.
Marquette, 2-7 all-time in NCAA Tournament play, seems to be the one taking off these days. Picked to finish eighth in the Big East preseason poll, the Golden Eagles put together a school-record 14-game winning streak at one point and finished 12-4 in league play -- losing only to Connecticut, Rutgers, Pitt and Seton Hall -- to earn the third seed in the Big East tournament, where they eventually lost to Rutgers again in the quarterfinals.
The inside-outside combo of senior Christina Quaye (16.3 ppg, 6.2 rpg) and sophomore point guard Krystal Ellis (team-high 18.2 ppg, 3.6 apg and 2.2 spg) is responsible for a lot of Marquette's success this season. But it's worth noting, too, that after Osagie-Landry debuted in the starting lineup on Jan. 13, the Golden Eagles went 10-4. In 21.3 minutes per game, Osagie-Landry is averaging 5.3 points and 5.5 rebounds, which ranks second on the team. She also shoots 42 percent from the field.
Landry, meanwhile, averages 5.9 points and 3.1 rebounds, and shoots 52 percent from the field for the 29-5 Badgers. He has started four games and averages 18.9 minutes.
Wisconsin opens against 15th-seeded Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Friday. Marcus could meet up with Carl should the Badgers and Boilers both advance to the Midwest Regional final.
Marquette faces 11th-seeded Louisiana-Lafayette on Saturday. The only way Osagie-Landry would face her sister-in-law would be if Temple and Marquette met in the national championship game.
But no matter where March Madness takes Efueko and Marcus, they'll have plenty to celebrate this spring, like their first wedding anniversary on April 22 and Moriah's first birthday on May 21.
Coop back, to face familiar foe
Twenty-one years have passed since her last NCAA Tournament appearance, but Cynthia Cooper is back.
Granted, a lot has changed since Cooper helped lead Southern California to the 1986 national championship game her senior season. For starters, she's retired as a player (after winning four WNBA titles). Her name is also different (it's officially Cynthia Cooper-Dyke after her marriage to sports agent Brian Dyke). And this time, she'll stay on the sidelines.
Cooper-Dyke, in her second season as head coach at Prairie View A&M, has guided the Panthers to their first NCAA Tournament. Prairie View advanced after winning the school's first Southwestern Athletic Conference tournament championship, beating Jackson State -- which swept Prairie View in the regular season -- on Saturday. The Panthers also are enjoying their first winning season in program history (19-13).
Of course, being that Prairie View received a 16th seed and will face top-seeded North Carolina in Sunday's first-round matchup, no one's expecting the Panthers or Cooper -- who has compiled a 26-34 overall record (.433 winning percentage) in two seasons -- to win.
But chew on this. Along the way to the '86 NCAA title game, Cooper's top-seeded Women of Troy met -- who else? -- fourth-seeded North Carolina in the regional semifinals. Coop & Co. ended the Tar Heels' season with a 84-70 win on March 20, 1986.
Cooper-Dyke, who helped USC win NCAA titles in 1983 and '84, recently was named an assistant coach for the 2007 USA women's U-19 national team.
First for many
Prairie View A&M is hardly the only team dancing for the first time. After upsets occurred in several conference tournaments, nine schools are appearing in their first NCAA Tournament: Belmont, Delaware State, Gonzaga, Louisiana-Lafayette, Maryland-Baltimore County, UNC-Asheville, Pittsburgh, Prairie View and Robert Morris.
The Ragin' Cajuns and Pitt Panthers received at-large bids; the other seven teams won automatic berths. Of note, UMBC's conference title was the school's first Division I championship in men's or women's basketball.
Tennessee is the only team to advance to all 26 NCAA Tournaments. Louisiana Tech had been the only other team to make it every year since the first tourney in 1982, but failed to win the Western Athletic tournament and didn't receive an at-large. Eastern Carolina, meanwhile, is playing in its first NCAA Tournament since 1982.
Everybody knows Courtney Paris is probably the country's most dominant player in the paint. The Oklahoma sophomore has established a new NCAA mark with 58 consecutive double-doubles. This season, the 6-4 Paris is averaging an astounding 23.6 points and 16.2 rebounds.
But check the Division I stats and you might be surprised: Paris trails Southeast Missouri State's 6-2 center Lachelle Lyles as the country's No. 1 rebounder, both in total boards and rebounds per game.
Lyles -- who granted hasn't played against the same competition this season as Paris and OU -- has snared 17.2 rebounds per game. Entering the NCAA Tournament, she has 32 more rebounds than Paris (Lyles' 517 boards to Paris' 485).
And lo and behold, the third-seeded Sooners and 14th-seeded Redhawks meet in the first round (that tricky committee!) at noon Saturday.
Lyles hit the game-winning layup with 6.5 seconds to play as Southeast Missouri State clinched the Ohio Valley Conference tournament title.
Bales' block party
With 140 blocks this season, Duke senior Alison Bales has swatted more shots than all 31 of the Blue Devils' opponents (111). Bales also leads the country (just edging Michigan State freshman Allyssa DeHaan) with 4.5 blocks per game.
If she can keep up the average, and if top-seeded Duke plays at least three games this NCAA Tournament, Bales could establish a new Division I single-season record.
Amie Williams of Jackson State holds the current best of 152 blocks, set in 2003. Bales needs 12 to tie her, and would pass TCU's Sandora Irvin along the way. The Horned Frogs' former star had 150 blocks in 2005.
Incidentally, Irvin holds the NCAA's career blocks record, 480 over 127 games. Bales enters the Big Dance at 423.
Melanie Jackson coordinates ESPN.com's women's basketball coverage. E-mail her at Melanie.J.Jackson.-ND@espn3.com.
A March Madness marriage? The return of Cynthia Cooper? Some intriguing first-round matchups? Check out our tourney primer for some storylines you might not have heard.