Budke Happy With No. 3 Seed, Littell Staying

STILLWATER - It was going to take a lot more than the NCAA Women's Basketball Selection Committee sending Oklahoma State somewhere other than the Oklahoma City Regional to make Cowgirls head coach Kurt Budke unhappy on this Monday night. By the way, that is exactly what the committee did bestowing the Cowgirls a three seed but sending them into the New Orleans Regional.

After informing the large boisterous crowd that his team didn't care where they were going and that they would play anybody, Budke took the time and opportunity with some 300 OSU Cowgirls basketball fans on hand in the Club Level on the south side of Boone Pickens Stadium to inform them that he and the program still had a valuable member of his staff, associate head coach Jim Littell on the team. Neither Budke nor Littell would say which school (reported by multiple sources to be Wichita State) did offer the popular Littell a head coaching job.

"The biggest news that we've had today is something nobody in here knows about except for me and one other person," said Budke over the PA system to a hushed crowd. "Coach Littell has been offered another job and he has decided to stay."

The room went almost as nuts and the roar was almost as loud as when Oklahoma State's name appeared on the television screen showing they were a three seed opening against 14th-seeded East Tennessee State, winners of the Atlantic Sun Conference.

"Coach, they'd love to hear from you," said Budke when the noise died down enough. "They love hearing country boys talk."

"I'm proud to be at Oklahoma State and that is all I can say," opened Littell, who is recognized as a major contributor and great basketball mind in helping Budke turn the Cowgirls program around.

"When we came here three years ago I came because I believed in someone, a long time friend, someone I knew that knew basketball and could turn around any program in the country. He has done that in a hurry, a lot quicker than anybody thought," continued Littell about Budke. "This coaching staff he has assembled and the type of players that he's brought in is something we can be very proud of. My family loves it here and I'm glad to be here and, hopefully, it will be for a very long time."

Budke then told the crowd to thank athletic director Mike Holder for stepping up to the plate in helping to keep Littell at Oklahoma State, but he was a little ambiguous later in talking to the media.

"Littell is a head coach (some day) and he is the best associate head coach in America, and Mike Holder stepped up and got this thing done," said Budke kind of reinterating what he had said earlier.

"This says a lot for the future of Oklahoma State basketball," continued Budke, who was asked if Littell got a new contract. "I'll let you find that out later."

Okay, the Cowgirls did get the shaft on tournament site. They will play the Lady Bucs of East Tennessee State in Des Moines, Iowa, in the first round Saturday. They are the third seed in the New Orleans Regional with North Carolina the top seed and LSU the number two.

Yes, two wins and OSU gets the reward of playing LSU in New Orleans. To get to New Orleans the Cowgirls need to beat East Tennessee State and then the winner of the 6-11 matchup between the sixth-seed Ohio State the 11t- seed Florida State.

Yes, Oklahoma with its less than stellar finish to the regular season and its collapse losing to last place Missouri in the Big 12 Tournament, was given (emphasis on given) a fourth seed and a shot at returning to Oklahoma City. Budke worked hard to hide his distaste with that decision by the committee.

"We are a little disappointed, I have to be honest with you," said Budke, choosing his words carefully. "We're very happy with the seed and very happy with the respect we've gained around the nation. You know what, you just go play. There are probably a lot of people that are unhappy with where they are going and there are people unhappy they aren't in the tournament, so you know we're not going to complain. We are not going to whine. We are just going to go play basketball."

He is smart enough to know that if he spends too much time and energy on being upset with the committee's poor decision, a decision that on the surface really appears to cheapen the legitimacy of the women's tournament credibility, it will only end up hurting his team in the long run.

"We're excited to play and it would have been nice to go to Oklahoma City and I think you would have seen 18,000 orange shirts in there," said Budke. "That's okay, we'll just go play. We are playing as good a basketball as we can play right now and (the Cowgirl players) are excited about the next opportunity."

The players really weren't upset.

"We didn't care where we played," said point guard and All-Big 12 performer Andrea Riley. "We are excited to be playing and we feel we can play with anybody in the country. This may work out better for us because we feel if we play to the best of our ability and excute our offense we can beat anybody we have to. We aren't scared of playing any team."

"It doesn't bother me," said junior defensive specialist and three-point shooter Taylor Hardeman. "I'm not going to get involved in that. We are happy to be going to the tournament. This year I was glad I didn't have to be nervous about seeing our name come up and I knew we were in. Des Moines is close enough so our fans can come up there and watch us. I'm just ready to go play."

East Tennessee State is the first target for the Cowgirls. The Lady Bucs finished 21-11. They were 7-9 in nonconference games and lost to the likes of Western Kentucky, Samford, Tennessee-Chattanooga, Davidson, Xavier, Radford, and Georgetown. They did beat Alabama 75-62.

The Lady Bucs have someone for Hardeman to guard as 5-11 sophomore guard Si'arre Evans is their leading scorer averaging 13.4 points and 7.1 rebounds a game. Michelle DeVault averages 12.8 points per game and Latisha Belcher is the other player averaging in double figures with 10.5 points per game.

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