South Carolina, Tennessee headline Women’s SEC Tournament

Published 10:30 am Wednesday, March 4, 2015

NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – For all that South Carolina has achieved under coach Dawn Staley, there’s a glaring absence on the school’s resume.

It’s an omission the No. 3 Gamecocks, who have risen from near the bottom to become one of the Southeastern Conference’s elite programs in seven seasons under Staley, hope to rectify at this week’s league tournament.

The tournament begins Wednesday night, featuring five ranked teams and the usual host of other NCAA Tournament hopefuls from one of the nation’s deepest leagues.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

For South Carolina (27-2), which opens on Friday, this week is about more than just preparing to enter the NCAA Tournament on a high note after a setback at No. 12 Kentucky over the weekend. It’s about putting the exclamation point on the school’s back-to-back regular-season SEC championships by winning its first tournament title.

“We’ve played great basketball because we were challenged every single night,” Staley said. “And to rise to the challenge of this league, it puts you in position to have some success … It’s hard when it’s the best league in the country.”

The Gamecocks were ranked No. 1 this season before an 87-62 loss at top-ranked Connecticut on Feb. 9. And while they are widely projected as a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, even after the loss against the Wildcats, that could hinge on they play this week – particularly with defending tournament champion Tennessee once again in the mix.

Like South Carolina, the No. 5 Lady Vols (25-4) lost only once in conference play this season – a 71-66 setback against the Gamecocks two weeks ago that left Tennessee as he second seed in this week’s tournament.

The Lady Vols have won the tournament 17 times in 35 years, including seven of the last 10, and they would love nothing more than to make their case as an NCAA Tournament top seed than by adding to their postseason domination this week.

“It’s anybody’s championship,” Tennessee coach Holly Warlick said.

KURT VOIGT, AP Sports Writer