NOBODY SUSPECTS THE SPANI INQUISITION - USA TODAY Sports
The Lady Vols get their first tournament action against the Gators at noon.
So far, the Women's tournament has had mostly expected results, although the paths to those results haven't been the most stellar. Alabama did upend MSU on Wednesday but collapsed against South Carolina, giving the Gamecocks an easy victory and a game against Texas A&M at 2:30 today. Florida and Arkansas played a very close game, with Florida falling far behind but rallying back to edge out the Razorbacks and earn the right to play Tennessee today at noon. Vanderbilt overcame horrid shooting (17% at halftime) by outrebounding Missouri to keep the game close before figuring out how to score in a normal gym and pulling away in the second half.
(An interesting side note about Missouri: they played far, far better at home this year than on the road. A part of that may be because they had only one nonconference road game - a loss to Memphis just before SEC play started. That resulted in two teams away from home that are just not as good when traveling, and the ugly halftime score of 17-16 bore that out. Scheduling matters.)
GAME OF THE CENTURY OF THE DECADE OF THE YEAR OF THE DAY: Florida vs. Tennessee
This is obviously the game of interest around our humble site. The bad news: Tennessee will most likely be without Isabelle Harrison for the whole SEC tournament. Add that to not having Carter and not playing Moore or Phillips in games that matter, and Tennessee is effectively short four players. The good news: Ariel and Kamiko will both be available, even though Kamiko might be limited, minute-wise. That gives Tennessee a 7-player rotation with three guards (Simmons, Massengale, Williams), a wing (Spani), and three forwards (Graves, Burdick, Jones). That combo has played together before, and done very well.
Florida, meanwhile, will use an 8-player rotation. They eked out the win yesterday, but committed 21 turnovers in the process (many of which were unforced traveling violations). Perhaps some of that was tournament jitter, but if they have that kind of ball control trouble today this game will end quickly. They are a well balanced team, but they are also not special at any particular position. This is particularly good for Tennessee in the interior, where Graves won't have Harrison around to prevent double teams (though Burdick should help out here). Florida will also not want to get involved in a fast paced game (Arkansas opened up an 11 point lead almost entirely off fast breaks), so the more transition we see, the better Tennessee's odds are.
Prediction? Why not. Tennessee wins 82 - 66. They've had a few days to rest and they knew their available manpower all week long. They'll be fine.
Online Radio: MickeyPhonic
Online Video: ESPN3, but only if you don't live in an SEC state.
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South Carolina / Texas A&M, 2:30 PM
This is the game of second-highest interest, as the winner (hopefully) plays Tennessee in the semifinal round. Carolina had their way with Alabama and didn't have to exert themselves much, meaning this may be a game of blood between two teams who play very physically. A&M probably has more talent, but Carolina has made a habit of playing above their pay grade (credit Staley). A&M is rightly favored, but Carolina has a very real shot at it.
Vanderbilt / Kentucky, 6:00 PM
If Vanderbilt shoots as poorly against Kentucky as they did against Missouri, this will be over by about the first media timeout. There's really no way that Vandy's offense is that bad two days in a row, though, so they should have a more normal day. The question is Kentucky: will they show the same first-game jitters that have plagues the SEC tournament so far? If the Commodores are past their nerves and Kentucky plays tight, this could actually be an upset. Likely not, though.
LSU / Georgia, 8:30 PM
The too-close-to-call game of the night. Georgia gets to handle a very hot LSU team, and UGA doesn't tend to do well in intense heat. (Go ahead and wince; I'll wait.) More seriously, these are two very talented teams that had the potential to compete for the top of the conference. LSU took a while to gel, but they're running strong and they dispatched of Auburn easily until they built up a large lead and fell asleep at the wheel. (I bet Caldwell doesn't let that happen today.) Georgia tended to come and go throughout the season, but they're always a dangerous team if they get in groove. I am not making a prediction per se, but I do think LSU has the better chance in this one.