Looking at the SEC as the conference season begins.
The skinny: About what was expected for a bad program in the first year under a new coach. I think Kristy Curry will eventually take Alabama to the NCAA tournament but it wont be this year and probably wont be in three years. The Crimson Tide do have some nice solid wins, though, beating Wisconsin and Cal State Fullerton. Theyve basically lost to who theyre supposed to lose to Duke, or on the road at Nebraska and Tennessee-Chattanooga. If they can get through the SEC with a .500 record, that would be amazing. Starting off against Kentucky and then at Texas A&M, though, is not good for that goal.
Ranking: Receiving votes (26)
The skinny: It was supposed to be a rebuilding year, and it very well may turn into one, but so far, the Razorbacks are perfect. No, they havent beaten a lot of teams of note, but they did beat a good Middle Tennessee State squad and beat Kansas at Kansas. If nothing else, coach Tom Collen should keep his string of consecutive 20-win seasons going, since Arkansas has given itself the best possible start. But like several SEC teams, the real season begins now.
The skinny: Perhaps the leagues biggest sleeper, Auburn has struggled through the non-conference season but will perhaps benefit from playing a much tougher slate than its conference brethren. The Tigers lost their four games on the road Temple, Tennessee-Chattanooga, Iowa State (in Las Vegas) and Minnesota. Theyve won at home and in a couple of neutral sites. Their wins havent been too notable, but with the way they finished the season last year, Auburn is in no way an automatic win for anybody.
The skinny: All good so far. Floridas winning some big games (Georgetown in overtime) and staying healthy. The Gators only have nine players, but thus far, all nine are still playing. Outside of Georgetown, Florida hasnt beaten anybody of note, and lost at Virginia Tech, to Illinois State in the Bahamas and to Florida State at home. Theyre probably doing a little bit better than expected.
The skinny: The usual -- Georgias good. The Lady Bulldogs beat Ohio State at home but lost at Rutgers. They havent beaten anybody else of note but theyll be a top-four finisher in the SEC.
The skinny: Like Georgia, Kentucky was expected to be very strong. This strong so soon is a bit surprising, especially with DeNesha Stallworth out for most of the non-conference season. The Wildcats only loss was to Duke, and they beat Middle Tennessee State, Louisville and Baylor, in a four-overtime game that was one of the best youll ever see. Theyre getting production from their bench (against Baylor, Jennifer ONeill elevated her career scoring high from 21 to 40 points) and showing that when Stallworth does return, theyll just be that much more formidable. Kentucky could very well win the SEC.
The skinny: Another team that could make a run at the title, LSU has only lost two games (Louisville and NC State, both on the road). Its probably nothing, but the Tigers just havent looked as dominant as expected. Now, theyve won, which is the only thing that matters, but theyve won some very close games. Is that a sign of not being as good as expected, or a sign that LSU knew exactly what it had to do to get the victory? As long as the wins keep accumulating, I guess it doesnt matter.
The skinny: Very strong foothold for the Bulldogs as they attempt to make the postseason perhaps its just what the doctor ordered considering how brutal the SEC may be. MSU won its opener at Houston, and only lost one game (to Middle Tennessee on a neutral court). But, MSU hasnt played anybody of note, and I mean nobody. Their biggest win in the non-conference schedule came over Southern Miss. Yet, the first three SEC games (Florida, Auburn and Arkansas) are all winnable. Get all of them, who knows how much confidence can be gained?
The skinny: Another team that may sneak up on everybody, although it hasnt beaten anybody of note in the non-conference season. The Tigers only losses were to Miami and Missouri State, and theyve mostly stayed at home all fall. Well find out how good they are rather quickly after Ole Miss and Arkansas, Missouri faces Georgia, Kentucky, LSU and Texas A&M in consecutive games.
The skinny: Hey, its actually not bad. After losing to Baylor on Dec. 18, Ole Miss had won seven straight, and the loss was only seven points. The Rebels are playing hard, even though they know that the hammer of NCAA verdict may drop at any moment. Ole Miss lost every game in its exempt tournament, but has won most of its home games. Nowhere to go but up, although it will take a while to get anywhere.
The skinny: The Gamecocks have only lost once, to the best team they played (North Carolina). That can be viewed two ways they lost to a really good team, or they lost to the only team they played. USC won some road games, but hasnt played a very strong opponent other than the Tar Heels. There is plenty of offensive talent, but the defense that was USCs hallmark over the past two years is still a work in progress.
The skinny: Hey, the Lady Volunteers are again one of the countrys elite teams. Hasnt changed in 30 years, why should it now? Only loss was to Stanford, by six points, and Tennessee beat Middle Tennessee, North Carolina and Texas. LSU and Georgia are a tough first two SEC games, but its Tennessee.
The skinny: They games theyve lost have been to good teams, and away from home. Still, it seems as if the Aggies are still adjusting to life post-Kelsey Bone. Theyre not carving opponents the way they did, but then again, that was expected. Got to find a way to win a road game as well.
The skinny: Two losses to Duke and Marquette arent anything to be ashamed about. Vanderbilt hasnt lost since, although it hasnt played a lot of great teams. Still, the Commodores know how good they are and how good they can be. Their first four SEC games are Georgia, South Carolina, Auburn and Tennessee, though, so if they have any hope of finishing in the top four, they vitally need to start strong.
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