Fans — at least those who remember the 1980s — regard Tulsa and Wichita State as rivals, and not always the friendly type.
Now that the teams are set to play a four-game series, Tulsa coach Doug Wojcik sees them as allies.
Both programs face scheduling challenges. Starting Tuesday at Intrust Bank Arena, they can help each other provide a quality non-conference opponent. If both Wojcik and WSU coach Gregg Marshall meet their goals, a win in the series helps build an NCAA Tournament resume and a loss isn't a disaster.
"Gregg is trying to do the same thing there I'm trying to do here," Wojcik said. "Can you build your program to be in a position to be an at-large program?"
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Both teams are successful, although not quite NCAA-worthy yet. Tulsa went 23-12 last season. WSU went 25-10. Both lost in the first round of the NIT. Tulsa, also an NIT team in 2009, is rebuilding after losing NBA Draft pick Jerome Jordan and all-conference guard Ben Uzoh. WSU is the preseason favorite in the Missouri Valley Conference.
As Wojcik points out, NCAA spots are limited for those kind of schools. He mentions BYU, Gonzaga, Xavier and Memphis as schools outside the Bowl Championship Series conferences with the juice to consistently earn at-large spots.
"There are a few mid-major programs that are actually built that way, top to bottom," he said.
Playing Tulsa, as Shocker fans are well aware of, makes sense for other reasons. Tulsa departed the MVC — largely to find a home for football — after the 1995-96 season. Tulsa defeated WSU the next two seasons as a non-conference opponent. The series resumed with a five-game deal from 2001-2005, with the Hurricane winning the first three.
Wojcik took over in 2005-06 after serving as an assistant at Michigan State for two seasons. Now he is looking for opponents within driving distance. Tulsa defeated Missouri State 62-50 in November and plays Arkansas-Little Rock, TCU and city rival Oral Roberts. Oklahoma State defeated the Golden Hurricane 71-54 on Dec. 8 in the BOK Center in Tulsa.
Valley rivalries still mean something to many Hurricane fans. WSU tops that list.
"I've heard so much about it," Wojcik said. "For a lot of our fan base, there's an identity with the MVC."
Tulsa is 5-5 after snapping a two-game losing streak with an 81-79 overtime win against Weber State on Thursday. It lost in double-overtime to Princeton a week ago.
New way to play — Volleyball is different in the Republic of Maldives, a chain of islands in the Indian Ocean.
For former Shocker Emily Stockman, different works just fine. She is playing professionally for Police Club in the Maldives this month. Her season then moves to Paris for five months.
For now, she is enjoying the Maldives. She snorkels. She caught five fish with a net, cleaned and grilled them recently.
"The culture is way different here, so each day is a new adventure and I am loving it," she wrote in a Facebook correspondence.
Matches are played outside on a dirt court. Stockman, the 2008 MVC Player of the Year, said the level of competition is much weaker than NCAA volleyball.
"It's crazy, because I basically pass, dig and hit about 95 percent of the balls," she wrote. "The team basically brought me over here to help them get to the championship and win. They have won three years in a row and want to keep the tradition going."
Spring training — Collegiate Baseball named WSU pitcher Tim Kelley as a second-team preseason All-American.
Kelley, a senior from Tulsa, went 11-2 with a 3.94 ERA last season.
* Southern Illinois named Ken Henderson interim baseball coach. Henderson, an assistant at the school since 1990, takes over for Dan Callahan. Callahan died from skin cancer in November.
* WSU's softball team will hold hitting and pitching camps in the coming months. Hitting camps will be held on Jan. 8-9 with the pitching clinic on Feb. 6. A six week clinic on Monday evenings begins on Jan. 31. For information call 978-5407.