KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The 2020 Southeastern Conference women’s basketball schedule was released Wednesday by the league office in Birmingham, Ala., finalizing dates for Tennessee’s SEC games.
Conference play will begin on Thursday, Jan. 2, and run through Sunday, March 1. The schedule consists of a single round robin (10 games) and home and away with one permanent opponent (2 games) and two rotating opponents (4 games).
The league’s permanent opponents for women’s basketball are Alabama-Auburn, Arkansas-Missouri, Florida-Georgia, Kentucky-South Carolina, LSU-Texas A&M, Ole Miss-Mississippi State and Tennessee-Vanderbilt. UT’s two rotating foes this season are LSU and Ole Miss.
This marks the 11th year of the 16-game schedule for women’s basketball and the eighth with 14 teams. Each team will play eight home games and eight away games.
The regular season will be followed by the 2020 SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament, which will be held for the fourth time overall and second consecutive season at Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, S.C. The tournament will include all 14 teams and begins on Wednesday, March 4, and concludes with the championship game on Sunday, March 8.
The women’s basketball television schedule will be announced at a later date, as will tip times for all games.
The Lady Vols open SEC action at home vs. Missouri on Jan. 2 before hitting the road for back-to-back games at No. 13 Kentucky and Ole Miss on Jan. 5 and 9, respectively.
In addition to its battle vs. UK, Tennessee will face ranked SEC foes in home games vs. No. 9 Mississippi State (Feb. 6) and No. 10 Texas A&M (Feb. 16) as well as road contests vs. No. 7 South Carolina (Feb. 2) and No. 19 Arkansas (Feb. 10).
The remaining home schedule includes Georgia (Jan. 12), Alabama (Jan. 20), LSU (Jan. 26), Vanderbilt (Feb. 23) and Ole Miss (Feb. 27).
Other SEC road trips include stops at Florida (Jan. 16), Vanderbilt (Jan. 30), LSU (Feb. 13) and Auburn (March 1).
Tennessee released its non-conference slate on June 5. The Lady Vols host Carson-Newman in an exhibition game on Oct. 29. After opening the regular season on the road at East Tennessee State on Nov. 5, UT plays eight of its next 11 on Rocky Top. In addition to a Dec. 8 showdown with perennial rival #14 Texas, the Big Orange women play host to Central Arkansas (Nov. 7), Tennessee State (Nov. 14), Stetson (Nov. 19), Arkansas-Pine Bluff (Nov. 26), Air Force (Dec. 1), Colorado State (Dec. 11) and Howard (Dec. 29).
The rest of the non-conference road slate isn’t for the faint of heart. UT travels to defending NCAA runner-up and No. 20 preseason Notre Dame (Nov. 11) in the earliest-ever match-up between the schools. The Lady Vols also play at No. 4 Stanford (Dec. 18) and Portland State (Dec. 21) and renew a storied rivalry with No. 3 UConn (Jan. 23) at Hartford in a contest that will benefit the Pat Summitt Foundation and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
The Lady Vols return six letterwinners, including two starters from last season’s squad that finished 19-13 overall and made its 38th-straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament. Rennia Davis, a 6-foot-2 junior forward, averaged 14.9 ppg. and 7.7 rpg. en route to All-SEC Second Team and WBCA Honorable Mention All-America accolades, while 6-0 sophomore guard Zaay Green put up 9.4 ppg. and 4.0 rpg. on her way to SEC All-Freshman status.
Returning reserves include 6-4 junior center Kasiyahna Kushkituah (4.8 ppg., 3.5 rpg.), sophomore wing Rae Burrell (3.6 ppg., 2.8 rpg.), sophomore point guard Jazmine Massengill (3.4 ppg., 3.4 rpg., 1.3 apg.) and 6-3 senior forward Kamera Harris.
UT’s No. 9-ranked freshman class is led by 6-2 guard Jordan Horston, ranked as the No. 2 player overall and No. 1 at her position in the nation. She was the MVP of the 2019 McDonald’s All-America Game. Also included in that top-10 rookie group are 6-5 posts Tamari Key and Emily Saunders, ranked as a five-star by espnW HoopGurlz and a four-star by ProspectsNation.com, respectively.
UT also added 5-foot-6 three-point ace Jessie Rennie from Bendigo, Australia, and 6-3 forward Jaiden McCoy, a Knoxville native (Farragut H.S.) who played at Northwest Florida State College and earned All-Panhandle Conference honors last season.
Graduate transfer Lou Brown from Washington State also is back after suffering a knee injury during 2018-19 preseason practice and sitting out the entire year. She was ranked No. 2 by prospectsnation.com in its International Elite Top 25 for 2014. She averaged 6.4 ppg. and 6.0 rpg. in 2017-18 while hitting 29 threes in a return to action following an injury-shortened 2016-17 campaign in Pullman.
Former Lady Vol Kellie Harper takes the reins after leading Missouri State to a Sweet 16 appearance in last season’s NCAA Tournament. She is joined by assistants Jon Harper, Lacey Goldwire and Jennifer Sullivan.
In 15 seasons as a head coach, Harper is 285-208 and is one of only 11 coaches to lead three different women’s programs to NCAA Tournament appearances (Western Carolina/NC State/Missouri State). She has rebuilt and directed teams to 12 postseason appearances (5 NCAA/7 WNIT).
Harper was 118-79 at MSU in six seasons, earning 2019 Kay Yow Coach of the Year and 2019 MVC Coach of the Year accolades.
LADY VOL SCHEDULE NOTES
- Tennessee is slated to play nine regular-season games vs. teams ranked in Charlie Crème’s espnW Way-Too-Early Preseason Top 25, including three at home and five against squads ranked in Crème’s top 10.
- Those games are vs. No. 3 UConn, No. 4 Stanford, No. 7 South Carolina, No. 9 Mississippi State, No. 10 Texas A&M, No. 13 Kentucky, No. 14 Texas, No. 19 Arkansas and No. 20 Notre Dame.
- Tennessee has won three straight over UConn, two in a row over Texas and two of the past three from Stanford.
- The Lady Vols will play 13 regular-season games vs. teams that saw postseason action in 2018-19.
- UT plays two teams that made it to the 2019 NCAA Final Four, including NCAA runner-up Notre Dame and semifinalist UConn.
- In addition to Notre Dame and UConn making the NCAA Final Four, Mississippi State and Stanford were 2019 Elite Eight teams, while South Carolina and Texas A&M advanced to the Sweet 16 round.
- Other opponents making the NCAA field in 2019 were Missouri (Second Round), Kentucky (Second Round), Texas (First Round), Portland State (First Round) and Auburn (First Round).
- Arkansas (Third Round) and Stetson (First Round) played in the postseason WNIT last year.
- Tennessee will play eight of its first 12 games at home, including a stretch of six straight from Nov. 14 to Dec. 11.
- UT is meeting Air Force, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Colorado State, Howard and Portland State for the first time ever.
- The Lady Vols will host a lone exhibition game for the sixth straight year and will face Carson-Newman in an exhibition contest for the 16th-consecutive season.