Mississippi State favored as SEC Tournament Champs
Greenville, South Carolina is the host city of the 39th annual SEC tournament with fourteen teams in contention for the championship.
Four teams finished ranked in national polls with Mississippi State leading at number five in all polls. South Carolina came in at No. 12 in all of the polls, closely followed by Kentucky and Texas A&M in the top 20.
Mississippi State, the 2019 regular season SEC champions, headline the conference tournament this year. MSU head coach Vic Schaefer and the Bulldogs return to the top of the SEC for the second year in a row after losing four seniors and three-point weapon, forward Chloe Bibby to a mid-season ACL tear. Led by senior center Teaira McCowan and transfer graduate forward Anriel Howard, the Bulldogs look toward their powerful frontcourt to stabilize their efforts in the quest to be tournament champions.
The Bulldogs earned the number one seed after a season-finale 68-64 win over South Carolina Sunday March 3. As the top team, they will not play until deep into the tournament, earning the double-round bye along with No. 2-seed South Carolina, No. 3 Texas A&M and No. 4 Kentucky.
Mississippi State looks to finish the job thoroughly to earn their first-ever tournament championship win under Schaefer. For the past four seasons, the championship matchup featured Mississippi State and South Carolina. The Gamecocks have won the tournament for four straight years under Hall of Fame coach Dawn Staley, and though her teams changed, success has not.
Last year’s South Carolina team went into the tournament as the number two seed as well. They ended Mississippi State’s undefeated streak with a 62-51 win to claim the tournament title.
Texas A&M, led by sophomore guard Chennedy Carter, finished the season with a 23-6 overall record and 11-2 in the SEC. Head coach Gary Blair looks to find the success he’s had in former seasons, earning an SEC tournament title in 2013 after the university moved from the Big 12 conference. The Aggies enter the tournament on a four-game winning streak. They begin play in the third round of the tournament.
On Tuesday, Texas A&M announced that Carter will miss the tournament. She fractured her right little finger during the season finale game against Arkansas Razorbacks, which the Aggies took 66-53. Carter scored 24 points, grabbed six rebounds and earned four steals in the win. She led Texas A&M all season, averaging a conference high of 23.4 points per game.
Kentucky finished a fantastic season at 24-6, only dropping three conference contests. Behind senior guard Maci Morris and seven-time SEC Freshman of the Week Rhyne Howard, the Wildcats were able to find balance throughout the season. Howard found her groove early to give the Wildcats a scoring weapon, averaging 16 points per game.
The Missouri Tigers and head coach Robin Pingeton just missed the mark for a double-game bye. The tough Tigers sit at the five seed after a battle tested and successful season. Their season resume includes gritty, comeback wins and success of toughness challenges like a theatrical overtime win over Texas A&M Feb. 7 and Feb. 14 win over Mississippi State behind then-ill senior forward Sophie Cunningham.
Missouri showcased their depth but will be missing freshman guard Akira Levy who helped build the Tigers’ bench presence and longevity on the court. Levy hasn’t appeared in the lineup since the Feb. 24 loss against Auburn when she sustained a season-ending ACL injury.
Pingeton, who crossed the 500-win milestone, looks to lead the Tigers to a conference championship before the NCAA Tournament begins. Missouri’s postseason starts with a game against the winner of the Ole Miss-Florida game.
Tennessee head coach Holly Warlick and the Lady Vols enter the tournament as the eighth seed after a tumultuous regular season. Damaging losses to Mississippi State (the 91-63 defeat is their worst loss in SEC history), a 66-64 loss against Missouri, and a defeat against Vanderbilt (the Commodores’ first ever win in Rocky Top in 33 years), has Tennessee looking to turn a new leaf late in the season.
The Lady Vols’ overall conference record of 7-9 marke their first-ever SEC losing record. A six-game losing streak from January to February put the Lady Vols in a tight space before the next stage of the postseason. Perhaps a deep run into the SEC tournament could make or break Tennessee’s appearance in the NCAA tournament. They face the No. 9 LSU Tigers on the second day of the tournament.
The first day of the tournaments starts with Ole Miss’ Yolette McPhee-McCuin getting her first taste of the SEC postseason. She leads the No. 13 seed Rebels in a matchup against the No. 14 Florida. The tournament championship is set for March 10 at 12 p.m. C.T on ESPN2.
|FIRST ROUND: March 6||Game 1 – No. 13 seed Florida vs. No. 12 seed Ole Miss||11:00 a.m. ET, SEC Network|
|Game 2 – No. 14 seed Vanderbilt vs. No. 11 seed Alabama||SEC Network|
|SECOND ROUND: March 7||Game 3 – No. 9 seed LSU vs. No. 8 seed Tennessee||12:00 p.m. ET, SEC Network|
|Game 4 – No. 5 seed Missouri vs. Game 1 winner||SEC Network|
|Game 5 – No. 10 seed Arkansas vs. No. 7 seed Georgia||6:00 p.m. ET, SEC Network|
|Game 6 – No. 6 seed Auburn vs. Game 2 winner||SEC Network|
|QUARTERFINALS: March 8||Game 7 – No. 1 seed Mississippi State vs. Game 3 winner||12:00 p.m. ET, SEC Network|
|Game 8 – No. 4 seed Kentucky vs. Game 4 winner||SEC Network|
|Game 9 – No. 2 seed South Carolina vs. Game 5 winner||6:00 p.m. ET, SEC Network|
|Game 10 – No. 3 seed Texas A&M vs. Game 6 winner||SEC Network|
|SEMIFINALS: March 9||Game 11 – Semifinal 1||5:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU|
|Game 12 – Semifinal 2||ESPNU|
|FINALS: March 10||Championship||2:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2|