David Cloninger

SEC women set for another large tournament presence

South Carolina coach Dawn Staley
South Carolina coach Dawn Staley tglantz@thestate.com

The SEC season begins Sunday for 12 teams, with the remaining two playing Monday. The 16-game slate will determine if and how many teams advance to the NCAA tournament.

Checking in as the non-conference season concludes (RPI from the NCAA):

ALABAMA (12-1)

RPI: 134

Notable win: Georgia Tech

Notable loss: Georgetown

The skinny: As usual, the Crimson Tide loaded up on soft opponents to get some wins before the meat of the schedule. It’s a better team than last year’s, but not challenging it early may come back to haunt.

ARKANSAS (11-2)

RPI: 113

Notable win: Texas Tech

Notable loss: Missouri State

The skinny: Razorbacks took it much easier this year and have the wins to boost them into the SEC. We’ll see if it pays off.

AUBURN (10-4)

RPI: 31

Notable win: Indiana

Notable loss: Tulane

The skinny: Coach Flo’s bunch continues to impress, its pressure defense giving teams fits. The Tigers are never going to be an easy out.

FLORIDA (9-4)

RPI: 63

Notable win: Chattanooga

Notable loss: Northwestern

The skinny: Eleanna Christinaki quit rather than serve a one-half suspension. Without her, Florida went from sleeper to ordinary.

GEORGIA (8-5)

RPI: 108

Notable win: Cincinnati

Notable loss: Samford

The skinny: It was expected, after losing the inherited players. The Bulldogs have some talent with more on the way but this year they’re going to struggle.

NO. 17 KENTUCKY (9-4)

RPI: 8

Notable win: Miami

Notable loss: Colorado

The skinny: The mass defection hasn’t hurt because the Wildcats still have Makayla Epps. They haven’t lost to anybody who isn’t somebody.

LSU (11-2)

RPI: 16

Notable win: NC State

Notable loss: Kansas State

The skinny: The Tigers aren’t afraid to play anybody. As long as they can go close to .500 in the league, they’ll be dancing in March.

NO. 5 MISSISSIPPI STATE (14-0)

RPI: 5

Notable win: Texas

Notable loss: --

The skinny: Who else is keeping an eye on Jan. 23, when the Bulldogs come to South Carolina?

MISSOURI (10-4)

RPI: 49

Notable win: Creighton

Notable loss: IUPUI

The skinny: That was a head-scratching loss, but Mizzou will win a few this year. They’re playing with limited numbers, though.

OLE MISS (11-2)

RPI: 114

Notable win: Oregon

Notable loss: UNLV

The skinny: Big-time win over the Ducks but the Rebels need to do a lot more work to get onto the bubble. Former Pac-12 Freshman of the Year Chrishae Rowe is finally eligible.

NO. 6 SOUTH CAROLINA (10-1)

RPI: 3

Notable win: Louisville

Notable loss: Duke

The skinny: Gamecocks are talented as ever and have the best frontcourt in the country. But will their SEC streak end due to defense?

TENNESSEE (8-4)

RPI: 21

Notable win: Stanford

Notable loss: Penn State

The skinny: The struggles of last year have carried over, but a win over Stanford helped ease the stench of the worst home loss in school history (Baylor). Never count the Lady Vols out, although they’re frightfully thin.

TEXAS A&M (10-3)

RPI: 43

Notable win: Syracuse

Notable loss: SMU

The skinny: They’re learning as they go but hammering last year’s national runner-up proved Gary Blair’s women aren’t close to abdicating their position atop the standings.

VANDERBILT (10-3)

RPI: 66

Notable win: Duke

Notable loss: Indiana

The skinny: Strong first impression for Stephanie White and the top recruits Melanie Balcomb signed. The Commodores beat Duke, who beat South Carolina and Kentucky.

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