And so it begins! The SEC Women's Basketball Tournament, which is generally recognized as THE toughest is the nation, kicked off Wednesday at Verizon Arena in Little Rock, Arkansas. You can get a look at the updated bracket here for all the conference details, but let's take a few minutes to examine Kentucky's road to the Championship.
First up, Vanderbilt. I'm not sure if you remember our trip to Nashville on 2/8. The Cats won a tense battle that the final 76-64 score will not reveal. Up by only one at the half, the Cats returned determined to win and dominated the remaining 20 minutes. In addition to a terrific 43% performance from the field, the Cats were darned near perfection at the charity stripe at 91% thanks to Bria Goss and Jennifer O'Neill hitting a combined 11/11. Performances like that are what clinched Jenny O her second straight SEC 6th (Wo)Man of the Year Award, along with her spot on the All-SEC second team roster.
In addition, Linnae Harper tied her then career high of 22 points, while also delivering 5 rebounds, 3 assists and a steal...just the kind of performance you'd expect from a member of the 2015 All-SEC Defensive team. Her fellow sophomore sensation (AND All-SEC First Team member) Makayla Epps tossed an additional 18 points, 2 assists and a block on the stat sheet and well...that's how you win on the road.
I'm fully anticipating this as a winnable game for the Cats, Despite the fact Vandy shoots overall better percentages, the Cats fast pace lets them sink more points, thus proving my sophomore math teacher's theory that 90% of not very much is still not very much.
Assuming we get past day one, we get to face a rested and ready to go Mississippi State team on Friday night. This is the same Mississippi State team we beat by 2 points in a double overtime thrilled in Lex. On a neutral court, this game will be a tricky one to pull off. State is still led by SEC COY Vic Schaefer, and he'll likely still play Martha Alwal (All SEC Second Team, All SEC Defensive Team), Victoria Vivians (All SEC Second Team, All SEC Freshman Team), and
Morgan William (All SEC Freshman Team). We're a bit more banged up now than we were on 2/12 but hopefully the rest from Sunday to Thursday was put to good use because if we want to get past Friday? We need a BIG performance.
Assuming we get past all that Bulldog and Commodore fun, we're then rewarded by getting to play
Missouri, Georgia or Tennessee. (psst! It's totally going to be Tennessee.) And then there's still the Championship game, where the winner of all THAT fun is absolutely probably going to face South Carolina.
So much to contemplate, so little we can control. Whoever we play, our keys to victory:
- Do not overextend players minutes. Our gals will be playing an extra game vs. the higher seeded competition and that many games will take a toll. I'm not sure if we can toss players into those recovery ice baths everytime they hit the bench, but maybe at least at half-time? And maybe force IV coconut water while they guzzle whatever gross sugary sport drink they prefer?
- Control the game tempo: Need proof? Look at the tape from Sunday against South Carolina.
- Effective Ball movement. (We really are better north-south on this.)
- Hit the freebies and the bunnies. It's just illogical not to!
Two more points before I close:
- Congratulations to Alexis Jennings for earning well deserved spot on the All-SEC Freshman team.
- I feel like our tournament threads need a battle cry. Last year we did Operation: Git 'er Done! While we didn't win it all, we did get to the Championship Game where we lost by a single point. Sadly, nothing I've come up with works. PLEASE help us out with this by sharing your insight via the poll below.
You can catch all the action on the SEC Network. Until 8:30 tonight, Wildcat Fans!