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SEC Women's Basketball Tournament: Tennessee / Alabama Preview

For the first time in a while, the Lady Vols must play on opening day in the SEC tournament.  The biggest reason for this is the up-and-down nature of this team; they've shown the poise necessary to beat Stanford in overtime, yet suffered rare losses to both Florida and Kentucky.  All in all, though, the opening matchup is really a good one for the Lady Vols in many ways.  As the #12 seed in the SEC, Alabama is not a team that should scare the Ladies.  The legion of freshmen can get a feel for a college tournament without having to be very nervous about the opponent.

Unfortunately, the Lady Vols game starts a half hour after the men's game in Columbia (7:00 PM EST).  Since it makes very little sense for us to run two game threads at once, we'll defer the Lady Vols conversation to the game thread for the men's team and I'll give you the game program info here (subject to change once lineups are announced):

Lady Vols Logo

March 5, 2009
7:30 EST
TV: SportSouth
Internet Radio: Lady Vol Network
Alternate: SEC Tourney Radio

Alabama Logo
20-9 (9-5)
  19(AP)
  24(USA Today)
 
13-16 (1-13)
  NR(AP)
  NR(USA Today)
Tennessee
Ht.
Wt.
Yr.
PPG
RPG
APG
G 5 Angie Bjorklund
6-0
-
So.
12.0
3.0
2.8
F/G 25 Glory Johnson
6-3
-
Fr.
10.6
7.1
0.7
F
40 Shekinna Stricklen
6-2
-
Fr.
13.1
6.0
3.0
F/C 2/44 Alex Fuller
6-3
-
Sr.
8.2
6.2
1.4
C
52  Kelley Cain
6-6
-
Fr.
8.2
5.2
0.6
Alabama
Ht.
Wt.
Yr.
PPG
RPG
APG
F/C
22 Courtney Strauthers
6-4
-
Jr.
5.5
4.2
0.3
G 23 Ericka Russell
5-7
-
Fr.
9.9
2.4
1.0
G
20 Varisia Raffington
5-11
-
So.
9.7
4.5
1.5
G 02 Dedrea Magee
5-7
-
Jr.
7.7
4.2
4.1
G/F
31 Katie Hancock
5-11
-
So.
4.3
3.7
0.8

 

The preview stats only begin to scratch the surface of this matchup:

  • Alabama is almost as novice of a team as Tennessee.  The Tide have one senior, three juniors, five sophomores and six freshmen. 
  • Alabama is undersized.  On top of the inexperience, 10 are guards while 5 are interior players (unless you count a 5-11 G/F as a forward). 
  • Their leading scorer (by per-game average) plays off the bench.  That would be Tierney Jenkins - a sophomore forward who might get the starting nod for some added height (at 6-foot flat); she has 11.3 ppg right now.
  • The key to the Tide offense is Dedrea Magee.  A quick glance back at the table shows that the junior guard gets most of the assists (and nearly a third of the team's total for the season).  Stopping her will stop the Tide offense.
  • Alabama has nothing to lose and everything to gain.  As a #12 seed with only one conference win (against Ole Miss), Alabama has no expectation of victory - even against a relatively weak Lady Vol team.  Because of that, they can play loose and just have fun.  The lack of nerves may be a factor if the Lady Vols are jittery; often a clear mind can overcome a talent deficit.

A Tennessee loss would be a serious shocker, but we need to know that the Baby Vols have grown up and won't let an underdog take advantage of them.  They can get a win, get a tournament game in, and get a feel for the action prior to the Florida rematch.

GO LADY VOLS!!!