TV: ESPNU / ESPN3
Radio: If Mickey didn't like Thunderdome, wait until he sees today's game.
Gametracker: Trust me: you don't want to click this link. (Seriously, if you want to track, grab a smart phone and use ESPN's tracker. It actually has game flow. Alternatively, see if ESPN has GameCast up.)
First, a reminder of the teams who are eliminated:
- Missouri, who lost to Mississippi State in rather lackluster fashion.
- Mississippi State, who then got rolled by Florida.
- Vanderbilt, who lost to Georgia in a game that should never be shown again.
- Arkansas, who completed their underwhelming season in the most underwhelming way possible, losing to Valencia McFarland and literally nothing else.
- Alabama, who got a full-blown beatemdown laid on them by one Nikki Caldwell.
- Mississippi, who played Auburn close for about 30 minutes thanks to Valencia McFarland and literally nothing else.
- Georgia, who beat Vanderbilt and then effectively failed to show against South Carolina.
- Florida, who very nearly pulled the trifecta against Kentucky but fell to fatigue in the end.
- LSU, who built a 15 point lead against Tennessee but also fatigued, allowing a 19-0 run to turn the game.
- Auburn, whose beatemdown from A&M made Alabama feel much better about themselves.
TENNESSEE - LSU GAME RECAP
(Swish Appeal writer M Robinson has a much more involved recap here. Worth the read.)
It's only fair to mention the game that allowed Tennessee to play today. In the early going (and through much of the game, really), it looked like LSU was primed to send Tennessee home early. Building a 15 point lead off 80% floor shooting (in contrast to Tennessee's 20% at the time), the Lady Tigers seemed had the early margin they needed. Oddly, Tennessee at one point had 11 rebounds and 7 points (may on the offensive glass), which just shouldn't happen.
Tennessee's upside was that - despite the poor shooting - they were beating LSU in virtually every other aspect of the game. Neither team had decent ball control, but the Lady Vols were absolutely dominant on the glass, especially on the offensive end(19 O-boards for Tennessee; 17 D-boards for LSU). The effort kept Tennessee alive, allowing them to crawl back to a six point deficit by halftime.
Eventually, Tennessee found their shot in the second half, and a 19 point run flipped a six point deficit into a 13 point lead just in time to salt the game away. It's a pattern that happens in confernce tournaments, where the team playing a second game is more comfortable on the floor but the team playing their first game has more energy in the second half. This was the last SEC tournament for Theresa Plaisance, Jeanne Kenney, and Shanece McKinney - three LSU starters that will be sorely missed by the team next year.
Isabelle Harrison led the team with 21 points and 12 rebounds. Burdick also posted a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds (nice to see you again, Burdick!), and Graves had a near miss with 14 points and 9 boards. All in all, UT outrebounded LSU 48-30, and without that edge would likely never have had a shot at that late comeback for the victory. Turnovers were entirely too high for their tastes (19, though LSU had 20), and many came from bad passes which, like the early shooting, were probably due to early tournament nerves.
TexasA&M/Auburn recap. Seriously, 86-54 doesn't need a recap. These things happen in conference tournaments from time to time. The important takeaway is that A&M didn't have to exert much in the second half, which will help mitigate the effect of the very short rest cycle they're on (8:30 PM game yesterday, 2:30 PM game today). Oh, and they had Metta Roberts, Carla Fountain, and Frank Steratore on the whistle, so we shouldn't see those three in today's game.
Tennessee will be a 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. With the win over LSU, they won't fall to a three. But they won't become a one either. It would take a first round exit by Louisville to even open up the possibility, and that's not likely to happen. All that's really at stake now (beside the SEC championship, obviously) is how preferential the seeding is for Tennessee. Winning the SEC likely puts Tennessee atop the heap and would place them in Louisville's region.
Don't expect Massengale. The added guard depth would be nice to have when playing three games in a row, but if Ariel couldn't show against LSU, it's highly unlikely she'll show today, or even tomorrow. Hopefully she'll be available for the NCAA opening weekend, where she can shake the rust off against a 15 seed.
How to win against A&M?
- Same as it ever was. The first game was played strength vs. strength, with both teams basically playing the style they wanted to. Tennessee doesn't have to change their style of play, just execute to their strengths well. Work the inside game (which is A&M's strength as well, but should be hotly contesetd at every turn), take smart perimeter opportunities, and push the pace.
- Man or zone? Both A&M and South Carolina are critically weak at three point shooting, but Tennessee handled Carolina last Sunday by playing man defense for 40 minutes. That gives Holly the luxury of deciding the defensive scheme based on the feel of the game rather than out of necessity. Man defense is likely to be tested early, as the Lady Vols rebound better when in man, and they can keep the pace of the game faster, which are both to their advantage.
- Calm Simmons down. She's so excited to be playing in her last SEC tournament that she shot 5-19 for 14 points against LSU (and much of the actual points coming from late turnovers and free throws). The 1-11 start was a big part of Tennessee's slow first half. If she and Carter can have normal days, they can keep A&M from packing in the defense the way LSU did, and paint points will be easier to find.
- Keep feeding Graves and Harrison whatever they had yesterday. Tennessee loses the LSU game if those two aren't on a mission.
- THUNDERDOME. We've been lucky to have it for two games in a row. Like last year's regular season game vs. A&M, this has the chance to be a fantastic game to watch if the refs let them play. Whatever the women's basketball version of playoff hockey is, it's one absent Lisa Mattingly from happening today. If the refs can keep Mulkey's precious sensibilities huddled in the corner, hugging its knees in fear, we'll have a very fun game to watch today.
Prediction: 75 - 62 Tennessee. Less streaky than yesterday, but more in control throughout.
One sentence on South Carolina / Kentucky. I just hope it's enough of a game to actually make South Carolina play a second half.
But what about Manball? The he-Vols play at4 PM today. If we're lucky, this game will be decided by then so you can skip the last few minutes and catch the replay. Most likely, you'll have to find a way to dual-wield viewing screens for the games. At either rate, the men will have their own discussion thread up, so don't forget to look for it when their game is about to start.
Mattingly Watch: Mattingly officiated the South Carolina game yesterday, so she won't have their game at noon today. Odds are actually in favor of her getting tabbed for the final tomorrow and having today off, but that's far from certain. Just know that it's basically an either/or proposition at this point: would you rather have her today against A&M, or (assumedly) tomorrow against South Carolina? YOU HAVE 30 SECONDS TO CHOOSE.