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January 3, 2013

WBB: Around the SEC



The SEC begins its season tonight. A look at how the league's teams have fared through their non-conference slates.

ALABAMA
Record: 10-3
Wins: Jacksonville State, Houston, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, North Texas, Southeastern Louisiana, Troy, Virginia, Cincinnati, Long Island, Hawaii
Losses: Wisconsin, Chattanooga, Wofford
Leading scorer: Daisha Simmons (11.8 ppg)
Leading rebounder: Alicia Mitcham (5.6 rpg)
The skinny: Seems about the same as usual for Wendell Hudson's troops - get on a roll, then suffer a couple of mystifying losses. The Crimson Tide somehow lost to Chattanooga and Wofford but managed to beat a good Virginia team, and won a small tournament in Hawaii. Alabama is a team filled with quick and speedy guards, but has almost no height to depend on. That will be problematic in the league.

NO. 23 ARKANSAS
Record: 12-1
Wins: Jackson State, Tulsa, Oral Roberts, Hawaii, Oregon, Texas Southern, Pepperdine, Kansas, Furman, Mississippi Valley State, Northwestern State, Coppin State
Losses: Oklahoma
Leading scorer: Sarah Watkins (13.5 ppg)
Leading rebounder: Keira Peak (6.8 rpg)
The skinny: The Razorbacks haven't beaten a lot of noteworthy teams, but that's to be expected. Arkansas knew very well that it was going to have a chore in the league, so it didn't challenge itself too much in the preseason. This team is a tough out.

AUBURN
Record: 11-2
Wins: Maine, Alabama State, Alabama A&M, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Tulane, Hofstra, George Washington, Temple, UT-Chattanooga, Jacksonville, Samford
Losses: NC State, San Diego State
Leading scorer: Hasina Muhammad (16.3 ppg)
Leading rebounder: Blanche Alverson (5.9 rpg)
The skinny: Is the new coaching staff already injecting a shot of confidence into the program? The record surely looks nice. The Tigers have only lost to a couple of strong teams and while they haven't beaten anybody noteworthy, perhaps a massive winning record at this point can inspire confidence.

FLORIDA
Record: 11-3
Wins: Fairfield, Georgia State, North Florida, NC State, Northern Iowa, Troy, Pacific, La Salle, Savannah State, Central Michigan, Holy Cross
Losses: Florida State, Arizona State, Michigan
Leading scorer: Jennifer George (14.6 ppg)
Leading rebounder: George (9.1 rpg)
The skinny: Much of the talent was gone, which is why Amanda Butler lined up the schedule she did. The Gators have beaten who they were supposed to beat and lost to the teams that were supposed to beat them. George has stepped up her game, as expected, but the newcomers are still working their way into the plan. Opening at Kentucky is not a great thing.

NO. 10 GEORGIA
Record: 12-1
Wins: Rutgers, Presbyterian, S.C. State, Belmont, Savannah State, St. Bonaventure, New Mexico, Furman, Georgia Tech, Mercer, Lipscomb, Texas Christian
Losses: Illinois
Leading scorer: Jasmine Hassell (12.5 ppg)
Leading rebounder: Hassell (5.5 rpg)
The skinny: Not the best non-conference schedule, but Andy Landers knows how good his team is. This year is about taking four returning starters and making a run at the national championship that has eluded him. The Lady Bulldogs did go on the road for a couple of games (the loss to Illinois was one of them) but overall just got its team ready for the rigors of SEC play. They're at Tennessee second game in.

NO. 6 KENTUCKY
Record: 12-1
Wins: Delaware State, High Point, Morehead State, USC Upstate, Miami, Louisville, DePaul, Middle Tennessee, Pepperdine, UC Santa Barbara, Alcorn State, Marist
Losses: Baylor
Leading scorer: A'dia Mathies (13.3)
Leading rebounder: DeNesha Stallworth (5.5 rpg)
The skinny: Taking on Baylor was quite a challenge for Kentucky, and despite the 34-point loss, the Wildcats learned from it. Baylor's just on another level, but Kentucky could soon be at the same level. The Wildcats beat a Top-10 Louisville team in a great game, and breezed through the rest of their non-conference schedule, even putting 100 on Upstate. They'll be difficult to stop as they aim for their second straight SEC regular-season title.

LSU
Record: 9-4
Wins: Wichita State, West Virginia, Florida International, NC State, East Tennessee State, Louisiana Tech, Grambling, McNeese State, New Orleans
Losses: Hampton, Georgetown, Tulane, Florida Gulf Coast
Leading scorer: Theresa Plaisance (18.6 ppg)
Leading rebounder: Plaisance (8.6 rpg)
The skinny: Don't let the number of losses fool you. The Tigers have lost to good teams, and three of them on the road. Nikki Caldwell challenged her squad early and it's paid off with a couple of solid wins, including a whipping of Louisiana Tech. They'll be around in March.

MISSISSIPPI STATE
Record: 8-5
Wins: Houston, Louisiana Tech, Savannah State, Florida Atlantic, Florida A&M, Jacksonville State, Northwestern State, Troy
Losses: Hampton, Winthrop, UC Santa Barbara, UCF, Southern Miss
Leading scorer: Kendra Grant (13.2 ppg)
Leading rebounder: Martha Alwal (9.7 rpg)
The skinny: It has been a struggle, but MSU enters SEC play on a five-game winning streak. The Bulldogs' problem seems to be the road - 8-1 at home, 0-1 on the road, 0-3 on a neutral court. Considering they open at Vanderbilt, and their first home game is USC, the winning streak could be snapped in a hurry.

MISSOURI
Record: 11-3
Wins: St. Louis, Chicago State, Western Illinois, Wichita State, Southeast Missouri State, Tennessee-Martin, Missouri State, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Southern Illinois, Morgan State, Murray State
Losses: Green Bay, Minnesota, Memphis
Leading scorer: Bri Kulas (14.6 ppg)
Leading rebounder: Kulas (6.4 rpg)
The skinny: Nice record, but like Mississippi State, all but one of the wins came at home and all of the losses were either on the road or on a neutral court. With two of its first three SEC games on the road, and against Tennessee and Georgia, the Tigers are going to receive a rude welcome to the SEC.

OLE MISS
Record: 7-6
Wins: Southeastern Louisiana, Northwestern State, Mississippi Valley State, Lipscomb, Massachusetts, Belmont, Eastern Michigan
Losses: Lamar, Louisiana Tech, Cleveland State, Hofstra, Northwestern, McNeese State
Leading scorer: Valencia McFarland (11.4 ppg)
Leading rebounder: Kenyotta Jenkins (6.0 rpg)
The skinny: Ooof. To be expected, when the coach gets canned just before the season starts and the knowledge that no matter what happens this year, it may be for naught due to the NCAA's presence on campus. The season only gets longer from here.

NO. 18 SOUTH CAROLINA
Record: 12-1
Wins: Elon, Louisiana Tech, Savannah State, Clemson, Hampton, Florida Gulf Coast, DePaul, Drexel, Seton Hall, Furman, S.C. State, Western Carolina
Losses: Stanford
Leading scorer: F Aleighsa Welch (12.7 ppg)
Leading rebounder: Welch (9.5 rpg)
The skinny: Somehow, with a scant nine-woman roster, USC is playing even better than it did last year. The Gamecocks didn't have a very challenging non-conference schedule, but won a couple of road games and won three games in three days in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Their only loss was to the No. 1 Cardinal, by a mere four points, and USC held Stanford to 25 points off its average. It's a team that is very together and hates to lose, and is looking ahead to great things. The problem is that the first five conference games include tilts against Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Georgia and LSU, but at least all but the Georgia game are at home.

NO. 12 TENNESSEE
Record: 9-3
Wins: Georgia Tech, Rice, Miami, Alcorn State, Middle Tennessee, North Carolina, Texas, Davidson, Rutgers
Losses: Chattanooga, Stanford, Baylor
Leading scorer: Meighan Simmons (16.3 ppg)
Leading rebounder: Bashaara Graves (8.8 rpg)
The skinny: Three losses, but two of them to country heavyweights, and some very strong wins in the non-conference schedule. It's Tennessee. The Lady Vols may be expected to look different and be different with Pat Summitt no longer around, but it's still basketball and the Vols are still an outstanding squad. To overlook them would be foolish.

NO. 24 TEXAS A&M
Record: 10-4
Wins: Liberty, Southern, Marquette, Louisiana Tech, Texas Christian, Southern Cal, Kansas State, Old Dominion, Prairie View A&M, Rice
Losses: Louisville, Penn State, Connecticut, Notre Dame
Leading scorer: Kelsey Bone (18.1 ppg)
Leading rebounder: Bone (9.4 rpg)
The skinny: The Aggies started 0-3, but all against great teams. It was a challenge to set the team up for SEC play, and Texas A&M took it. The Aggies are poised to knock some heads together in their first SEC season, and are eyeing one of those precious top four tournament spots.

VANDERBILT
Record: 10-3
Wins: McNeese State, Lipscomb, UAB, Austin Peay, Tennessee Tech, Western Kentucky, Hartford, Oklahoma, College of Charleston, Southern Cal
Losses: Dayton, Virginia, Florida State
Leading scorer: Tiffany Clarke (15.8 ppg)
Leading rebounder: Clarke (8.1 rpg)
The skinny: The Commodores have taken a few lumps, losing all three of their games in a row, but have responded to win their next seven. They present the look of a team lying in the weeds, waiting for conference play to start.



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