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Posted: Monday October 30, 2000 3:48 PM
Updated: Wednesday November 01, 2000 10:24 AM
After a very short retirement, Leon Barmore is back as head coach of the Lady Techsters. Jamie Sabau/Allsport
By Dan Fleser, Special to CNNSI.com
For the first time since 1992, another conference -- the Big 12 -- matched the SEC for number of NCAA tournament entrants with six. Does that mean the SEC is slipping? Not really. Other conferences are gaining in power and stature.
The ACC is one of those conferences. For four consecutive seasons, the
conference has sent at least five teams to the NCAA tournament. Furthermore,
Duke is emerging as a perennial national championship contender
|Teams That Will Make the NCAA Tournament|
||Georgia Tech (ACC)
||Louisiana Tech (Sun Belt
||Western Kentucky (Sun Belt)
|North Carolina State (ACC)
||Mississippi State (SEC)
The top of the SEC shouldn't change much with Tennessee, Georgia and LSU maintaining a penthouse view. But there could be considerable movement in the middle of the pack. Vanderbilt should have more scoring depth. Arkansas has recruited an inside game. South Carolina adds center Teresa Geter, a transfer from Tennessee who played for the 1998 national championship team.
Duke is undergoing a significant makeover with the arrival of a high-powered freshman class. This will be an interesting mix, considering four starters are returning from an ACC championship team.
Perennial power Louisiana Tech avoided a major transition when coach Leon Barmore postponed his retirement. Still, the high-octane backcourt of Betty Lennox and Tamicha Jackson must be replaced. Forward Catrina Frierson has been lost for the season with a knee injury.
On the Rise
A recruiting class featuring Jenni Benningfield ought to enhance the Commodores' inside-outside balance and help them build on last season's 21-13 record.
The Yellow Jackets return four starters from last season's 17-14 team. Niesha Butler, the1999 ACC rookie of the year, is expected back after going down with a knee injury four games into last season.
The arrival of LaToya Thomas propelled the Lady Bulldogs to 24 victories and the second round of NCAA tournament. Backcourt must be replaced to sustain the success this season.
Just four seasons ago, the Crimson Tide was a legitimate national championship contender. The talent drain began thereafter with the most notable loss being dynamic guard Dominique Canty.
The Lady Gators played for the WNIT championship last season. They would prefer the NCAA tournament but will attempt a postseason upgrade without Tonya Washington and Tiffany Travis, their top two scorers last season.
After reaching the second round of the 1999 NCAA tournament, the Wildcats took a step back last season with a 15-14 record. The transfer of forward Laura Meadows, the team's second-leading scorer, to Purdue doesn't indicate an about-face.
New Faces to Watch
Ashley Robinson, Tennessee, C |
Despite being 6-foot-5, she can play all over floor. She has upgraded her toughness since start of fall workouts.
Alana Beard, Duke, F/G
A smooth operator. Ought to be a sensational scorer.
Jenni Benningfield, Vanderbilt, F
Her scoring potential should be a nice compliment to center Chantelle Anderson.
Adeola Olanrewaju, North Carolina State, C
Has the quickness to mesh with speedy teammates and there's work available in the post.
Iciss Tillis, Duke, Forward
The 6-4 Parade All-America is daughter of boxer James "Quick" Tillis.
Five Familiar Faces to Watch
Tamika Catchings, Tennessee, F |
Reigning national player of the year is back home at small forward position.
Kelly Miller, Georgia, G
SEC player of the year award over Catchings last season is ultimate compliment.
Georgia Schweitzer, Duke, F
The returning ACC player of the year finished among the conference leaders in six statistical categories last season.
Marie Ferdinand, LSU, G
Her star has risen steadily through SEC toward national recognition.
LaToya Thomas, Mississippi State, F
As a freshman, she made the most stunning debut in the SEC since Chamique Holdsclaw.
ShaRae Mansfield, Western Kentucky, F
Led the Sun Belt Conference in scoring (18.6 ppg) and rebounding (10.6) last season.
Coach to Watch
Not only are her Duke Blue Devils scoring big victories on the court, Goestenkors and her staff are winning big in living rooms across the country. Beard headlines a monster freshman class. The Blue Devils are in the process of recruiting another stellar class.
As long as the Lady Vols are playing Connecticut twice during the regular season, the Lady Vols should cling tightly to this distinction. Depending on the preseason Top 25 of your choice, UT has anywhere from 10 to 13 ranked teams on their regular-season schedule. Georgia deserves strong mention. In addition to SEC games, Connecticut, Rutgers and Illinois are on the nonconference schedule.
Toughest Place to Play
Thompson-Boling Arena, Knoxville, Tenn.
Home losses to Connecticut and Louisiana Tech last season dealt a blow to this distinction. Then again, those two teams win just about everywhere. The combination of crowd size, arena size and Lady Vols' stature is tough to beat.
Things You Didn't Know
The ACC has a nice balance of youth and experience. Seven of the league's nine teams return four starters. Yet just over 57 percent of the league's players will be either freshmen or sophomores.
Mark Your Calendar
Tennessee at Louisiana Tech, Dec. 10 |
Although the Lady Vols dominated the 1990s, Tech has held its ground and still has a 17-15 edge in this storied series.
Rutgers vs. Georgia, Dec. 3 in Orlando, Fla.
Half of a Honda Elite 4 Classic that also includes Notre Dame-North Carolina matchup.
Georgia at Tennessee, Jan. 18
Lady Bulldogs thrashed Tennessee 78-51 in Athens, Ga., last season The game will have SEC and national significance. The teams' long history ensures passion and fury.
Duke at Virginia, Jan. 22
The Cavaliers, traditionally a strong defensive team, face the Blue Devils and their wealth of firepower.
Clemson vs. Auburn and North Carolina vs. South Carolina, Dec. 21
The Myrtle Beach Classic provides some decent ACC-SEC viewing and a nice locale from which to view.
Dan Fleser is a reporter for the Knoxville News Sentinel.
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