The Southeastern Conference, better known as the SEC, has been a mainstay in the women’s college basketball glossary since 1980. For 39 seasons, SEC women’s basketball has been known as the prolific and successful basketball conference in the country.
This can be said for the numerous occurrences in the NCAA Championship game. Of the 39 seasons this conference has been in existence, 19 teams represented the conference in the national championship game. We are now entering its 40th season and the teams are looking to continue that success.
Back in August, teams in the SEC released the non-conference slate while the SEC, itself, released the conference schedule. A good number of those non-conference games include the SEC/Big-12 Challenge from November 29 – December 2. The conference will have a chance to show why it is known as the most successful conference in women’s basketball. Some of the games includes
- Kansas at LSU
- Baylor at South Carolina
- Tennessee at Oklahoma State
- Mississippi State at Texas
Since its inaugural run in 2014, it is a tie at 12 – 12 in terms of victories for each conference. Look for the SEC to make a run this season.
The ESPN family of networks (ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, SEC Network) will televise the games this season for the conference. The SEC announced that ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPNU will host a combined 15 regular season games this season. Furthermore, ESPN and SEC Network will announce numerous non-conference games on a later date.
Last season, the SEC was able to collect several postseason awards
- South Carolina F A’Ja Wilson won numerous Player of the Year awards
- Wooden Award
- Naismith Women’s Player of the Year
- Wade Trophy
- USWBA Player of the Year
- Texas A&M G Chennedy Carter won the WBCA Freshman of the Year Award
- Mississippi State collected three awards
- Victoria Vivians was honored with the Ann Meyers Drysdale Award (Best SG)
- Teaira McCowan earned the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year Award
- Head coach Vic Schaefer collected a few Coach of the Year awards (WBCA, USWBA, Naismith)
There are an abundant of players this year who will look to bring home some more success to their programs this upcoming season. This just shows how the SEC has been able to exhibit their talented programs and reap the rewards.
This season, of course, should be another demonstration of how the SEC has been such a strong conference. All seven of the participants from the NCAA Tournament from last season are returning strong rosters with the same hopes of winning the SEC and moving on the tournament once again.
Be ready because the SEC is coming. Let’s take a dive at each team in the conference.
If you have not been paying attention to what’s going on down in Starkville, then you need to catch up because the Bulldogs are gearing up to capture the national championship. The trophy has been able to slip through their grasps for two seasons and they are looking to change their fortunes this season. Head coach Vic Schaefer is bringing back, arguably, the most talented roster this program has seen in years.
It starts in the front court. Teaira McCowan is coming back for her senior season and is looking to build on the spectacular season she was able to exhibit last year. She will not be the only threat for the Bulldogs in the post. Mississippi State snagged Anriel Howard after graduating from Texas A&M and transferring to Starkville. This will be the top rebounding duo this season.
Along with Howard and McCowan, Mississippi State will have Jazzmun Holmes take a larger role on the team this year. Look for Holmes to make big plays this season for the Bulldogs. By the same token, Schaefer was able to add a talented recruiting class this year. Adding three ESPN HoopGurlz Top 100 players Daphane White, Jessika Carter, and Xaria Wiggins, along with Brittany Davis should help solidify this roster as it marches towards capturing the National championship.
The Gamecocks will be coming into this season primed and ready to try and capture another SEC Championship. They will have to do it without A’Ja Wilson. The All-American is now writing a new chapter in her basketball life in the WNBA. That does not mean that this program will not have the talent necessary to bring home success.
Head coach Dawn Staley will depend heavily on guard play this season. Tyasha Harris is returning for her junior season and will the catalyst of the South Carolina offense. She led the SEC in assists last season. A big boost to the backcourt will come from Te’a Cooper. Cooper sat out last season due to transfer rules after coming over from Tennessee and she should have a significant impact. Doniyah Cliney and Bianca Jackson will have a bigger role this season for the Gamecocks.
One of the main players who must make a dynamic impact this season is Alexis Jennings. The 6-foot-3 transfer from Kentucky must have consistent play this year. Averaging 11.4 points and 6.6 rebounds per game, Jennings will need to produce more for the Gamecocks. She will be the primary post player this season for South Carolina. Expect Mikiah Herbert Herrigan to take a bigger role this season.
They will also look to their 16th ranked recruiting class (Destanni Henderson, Victaria Saxton, and Elysa Wesolek) to have an impact this season as well. With key games against Maryland, Baylor, and Duke, look for South Carolina to make some key strides in their quest to capture another NCAA Championship.
The Georgia Bulldogs were a team who consistently improves every season. Head coach Joni Taylor is becoming one of the up-and-coming coaches in the country. After going 12-4 in the conference last season, Georgia is looking to improve. By the same token, Taylor is coming back with another roster that is very talented.
The only real loss that maybe impactful is losing Mackenzie Engram to graduation. It’s going to be ok in Athens. The team is getting All-SEC performer Caliya Robinson back for this season. She will look to improve more from a season ago. Robinson is not the only key returner for Georgia this season.
The trio of Taja Cole, Que Morrison, and Gabby Connally are all returning for the 18-19 season. Beginning with Morrison, the All-SEC Freshman team member will be essential. Her development from a year ago will be perennial for Georgia this season. One thing the Bulldogs must do is improve on the offensive end. Georgia was tenth last season in scoring that must improve. One thing you will never worry about with this team is defense. Opponents were held to just 57.6 points per game last season and that will continue. Look for the Bulldogs to make big strides this season
Good ol’ Rocky Top!
The Tennessee Lady Volunteers are still one of the most prestigious programs in the country. Head Coach Holly Warlick is still a successful coach in this conference. They may not be as formidable as they were in the past. Do not take this team lightly because they are still a team to beat in the SEC.
Tennessee is still going to replace some talent. Jaime Nared and Mercedes Russell are playing in the WNBA. SEC Sixth Woman of the Year Anastasia Hayes has been dismissed from the team. Coach Warlick must continue to push this team and have some success. It can be done, and she has the roster to do just that. One thing they will have to do is protect the basketball. Tennessee committed 542 turnovers last season.
All-SEC Freshman members Rennia Davis and Evina Westbrook both are returning for Tennessee. They should come into this season look to build on the success they had. Also, pay attention to Meme Jackson taking a step into a more increased role. Equally important, take note of the incoming freshmen that are coming to Knoxville. The 4th ranked class in the nation (Zarielle Green, Jazmine Massengill, Rae Burrell and Amira Collins) gives Warlick a chance to play with some athletic lineups this season. This will be important due to the lack of size the Lady Vols will have.
Missouri has seen some great improvements since head coach Robin Pingeton has come to the program. After only making the NCAA Tournament three times, Pingeton has led the Tigers to three straight appearances. Mizzou has the chance to keep ascending in the SEC if they keep up their winning ways. Coupled with a favorable schedule, the Tigers have a legitimate chance of winning the conference this season. Although this may be true, they must beat the other top teams in the conference. Last season, the Tigers were 2-5 against the top teams in the conference. They must improve on that record if they want to win the SEC this season.
One point often overlooked with Missouri is the fact that Sophie Cunningham and Amber Smith are both returning. Beginning with Cunningham, the All-SEC performer must take an immense step forward this season. She is more than capable of doing so as her play the last two seasons proves that. It is going to be imperative that she does this season. It is equally important because Cierra Porter cannot play due to chronic knee injuries. Next with Smith, she should also have a successful season. Look for Amber Smith to be competing for an All-SEC spot this season.
This season, do not count out Gary Blair and the Texas A&M Aggies. Last season, this program won over 20 games for the 13th consecutive season. This team had some talented players and Blair was able to put it all together. This season may a bit different though.
Blair must deal with three critical departures from the program. Anriel Howard transferred to Mississippi State. Danni Williams transferred to Texas. All-SEC selection Khaalia Hillsman graduated. Coach Blair will have a brand new starting lineup to work with this season. It is important to realize that Blair has the capabilities to still lead this program at College Station.
All things considered, Texas A&M still has last season’s National Freshman of the Year Chennedy Carter. She is the only returner from the starting lineup last season and will relied upon heavily this season. Carter will not be the only key player. Although Anriel Howard transferrer, the hole she left behind can be filled by Ciera Johnson. Johnson, a transfer from Louisville, was the 13th ranked player in the 2016 class. She has the skills down low in the paint to make up for what Howard did for A&M. Aaliyah Wilson will also be called upon to help lead the charge for Blair. She is a transfer from Arkansas who will be ready to go for the Aggies.
Down in the Bayou, the Tigers of LSU will be looking to repeat their success from last year. The only difference they do not want to be eliminated in the first game of the NCAA Tournament. Head coach Nikki Fargas is entering her eighth season at LSU. She has been able to lead the program to the NCAA Tournament five of the seven seasons she’s been there. She has a solid overall record of 132-93 at LSU. It is time to improve her SEC record of 59-53. Fargas will be able to meet those expectations because her track record speaks she will. At this instant, she will have to do it without All-SEC selections Chloe Jackson and Raignye Louis.
Because of those departures, LSU will have to find a way to score points this season. Jackson averaged 18.1 points and Raigyne Louis averaged 16.1 points. That’s two key scorers who are no longer at the school.
Equally important, the Tigers must improve their shooting from beyond the arc. LSU shot an abysmal 26.3% from 3-point range last season. One player who will have to step up this season is Ayanna Mitchell. Mitchell was the leading rebounder from last season and she must take on the increased role. Along with Mitchell, Faustine Aifuwa will also have a much-improved role for LSU. LSU must production from the other returning players to repeat the success from last season.
The Crimson Tide has seen major improvements since Kristy Curry became the head coach back at the start of the 2013 season. She has been a solid coach wherever she has been. From Purdue, to Texas Tech, and now at Alabama, she has seen success. Every year since Curry’s second season, Alabama has increased in win totals and has made it to three straight Women’s NIT. To achieve that, they have to improve their scoring.
Alabama had an effective field goal percentage of 43.8%. That was good enough for 231st in the country. By the same token, the Crimson Tide had a true shooting percentage of 49.6%. They must score more efficiently this season.
Alabama lost two of their top scorers in Hannah Cook and Ashley Williams. Picking up JUCO Player of the Year Cierra Johnson will help fill that void. She will join Jordan Lewis and Shaquera Wade in helping to improve scoring for Alabama this season.
Kentucky is looking to bounce back this season in Matthew Mitchell’s 12th season as coach. The Wildcats finished under .500 for the first time under Mitchell. The 15-17 record is only Mitchell’s second sub-.500 record of his career. The 9th place finish in the SEC is Kentucky’s lowest finish since 2008-09 (finished 10th that season).
It has been a crazy time in Lexington and Kentucky has been through the proverbial ringer. Although this may be true, Kentucky is coming into this season with a solid roster.
Maci Morris and Taylor Murray are both back for the Wildcats. In Morris, the Wildcats have a player who was the leading scorer last season. Furthermore, she was an All-SEC selection last season and must increase her play this season. Murray, a SEC All-Defensive team selection, is also returning and will look to spearhead the defense this season.
Look for Rhyne Howard to be a key in the rotation for Kentucky this season. One thing Kentucky will have to deal with is Alyssa Rice graduating. She was the leading rebounder for the Wildcats last season. Watch for Dorie Harrison as she becomes a key cog in the Kentucky rotation.
Auburn is known for being an athletic team. Under coach Terri Williams-Flournoy, the Tigers have been one of the best teams in terms of causing turnovers (teams averaged 22.9 turnovers last season). Unfortunately, it has not resulted in many wins for Auburn.
Under Williams-Flournoy, the program has not produced a winning record in the SEC. One of the reasons for the struggles last season was porous shooting last season. Auburn was able to shoot 39.7% from the floor. The shooting from beyond the arc was not able to fare any better. Auburn must shoot better from 3-point range (26.9% 3-Point FG percentage). If Williams-Flournoy can get the offense to match the defense, Auburn will be a better team.
One thing Auburn has done is get top recruits coming into the program. The 13th-ranked recruiting class in the country should be beneficial to the program. Robyn Benton, Brook Moore, and Erin Howard should be able to produce right away for Auburn. Along with that, Janiah McKay, Daisa Alexander, and Unique Thompson are all returning for Auburn. The Tigers should be able to compete now and make some noise in the SEC this season.
This will be Mike Neighbors’ second season in Fayetteville and his offense should be much improved this season. The Razorbacks are one of those teams who are slowly improving under Neighbors. They are getting more possessions on offense. The only issue is that they were not shooting the ball efficiently.
Arkansas shot 36.4% from the floor last season and shot 28.7% from beyond the arc. This program must be more efficient shooting the ball this season. Majority of the roster is coming back this season. They will be led by Malicia Monk and Jailyn Mason.
If Arkansas can shoot the ball better this season, Arkansas can be a threat in the SEC. One of the other issues this team needs to improve on is rebounding. Teams were able to grab 44.6 rebounds last season and the Razorbacks were outrebounded by 6.8 rebounds. Look for Arkansas to try and improve on the glass and get their defense a better chance this season.
Coming from Belmont, head coach Cam Newbauer went through some growing pains that he was not familiar with. He had a great run at Belmont and last season was not his best. Taking over a struggling Florida program, the team lost almost as many games last season in the SEC as Newbauer did in Belmont.
One thing to note, the Gators were able to implement coach Newbauer’s system easily. Florida shot 249 3-pointers last season. That mark was second in the SEC last season. Not only did Florida get shots up, but also, they were able to compete in several games last season. Coupled with a solid recruiting class, Florida is looking to compete this season.
Delicia Washington must make a big leap this season. She was one of three players last season to start in every game last season. The former SEC Freshman of the Year is looking to be more of a leader this season. One question Florida will have to answer is scoring the basketball. The Gators averaged 65.6 points last season. They will also have to replace three of the top scorers from last season. Florida will look to improve on both ends of the floor to see their fortunes change this season.
You can look at Vanderbilt’s last two seasons under Stephanie White and deem those two seasons as failures. Finishing 7-25 the last two seasons combined in the SEC, the Commodores are looking to make big changes this season. Now it has not been all bad for Vandy.
White was able to bring in the 19th-ranked recruiting class this season. Mariella Fasoula, is coming in from Boston College to give the Commodores some size in the paint. Stephanie White is looking to build something special and Commodore fan base must be patient.
Now Vanderbilt must find a way to replace the loss of seniors graduating and four players transferring. Vanderbilt was the 5th-best team in the SEC in terms of made 3-pointers last season. Unfortunately, they are losing 127 3-pointers with Rachel Bell and Christa Reed graduating and Erin Whalen transferring to Dayton. Look for Fasoula and incoming freshman Jordyn Cambridge, when healthy, to be critical for Vanderbilt this season.
The Ole Miss Running Rebels have been through a tumultuous period over the years. Matt Insell was let go after five years. Enter Yolette McPhee-McCuin. She comes from Jacksonville University after having a successful run as head coach. McPhee-McCuin comes to Oxford looking to duplicate that success.
Coach Yo is already tapping into the transfer market. Of the eight new players coming into the program this year, four of them are transfers. It is great to have that because Ole Miss lost three players to transfers. One of those players transferring is Madinah Muhammad. Muhammad was the leading scorer for the Rebels and she will be playing for North Carolina this year.
One thing to note: Shandrick Sessom is returning this season after suffering an ACL tear last season. She was the second leading scorer and is looking to rebound this season. Also, keep an eye this season on Jhileiya Dunlap. She was the number one JUCO transfer and will look to make some noise for Ole Miss this season.
The SEC is one of the most storied conferences in the country. For 39 seasons, it has produced some of the most memorable moments in women’s college basketball. We should expect the same for the 40th season.
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