partlycloudy
Monday August 3rd, 2015 12:44AM

SEC set to flex women's hoops muscle this weekend

By The Associated Press
KNOXVILLE, TENNESSEE -- The Southeastern Conference is making a convincing case that it's even stronger and deeper than usual this season.

It has a chance to make an even bigger statement this weekend.

The SEC has five teams in the Top 25, three ranked in the top 10: No. 3 Tennessee, No. 5 Kentucky and No. 10 South Carolina. No. 12 LSU and No. 16 Georgia are the other SEC teams in the Top 25. Arkansas is unranked but unbeaten.

"All of our coaches have talked about being the best conference in the country, and I think it's moving in that direction," South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said. "We just have to continue."

This weekend represents a showcase opportunity for the SEC.

Tennessee (10-0), off to its fastest start since its 2008 national title, visits No. 6 Stanford on Saturday. Kentucky (11-0), which has matched its best start in school history, hosts No. 2 Duke on Sunday.

"I think it will be huge step with us and Kentucky to really launch the SEC onto the national level," Tennessee forward Cierra Burdick said.

Tennessee and Kentucky are two prime contenders to end the SEC's recent absence from the Final Four.

The SEC hasn't produced a Final Four team since Tennessee's 2008 championship season. Before this current drought, the SEC had at least one Final Four representative in 25 of the first 27 NCAA tournaments.

Several teams have come close.

Tennessee has lost in a regional final three straight years. Kentucky has played in three regional finals over the last four seasons. Georgia lost in overtime to California in a regional final and LSU reached a regional semifinal last season.

But they haven't gotten over the top.

"I think our inability to win a national championship in the last few years maybe gives people this perception that we're not as strong a league," Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell said. "But I thought it was a tough league last year, a deep league last year. We ended up with four teams in the Sweet Sixteen and three in the Elite Eight. I would be a person who'd say it's just sort of business as usual in the SEC. It's a really deep, strong conference."

Georgia coach Andy Landers doesn't believe Final Four appearances accurately measure a conference's strength. He prefers to look at a conference's overall depth. The SEC received seven NCAA tournament bids last season and eight in 2012.

Landers said the league might be even deeper this year.

"I think by the end of this year, there could be three or four you could kind of group together" at the top, Landers said. "Then you go to the middle and there are probably going to be more in the middle than there were last year - a greater number of teams you'd group as somewhat even. And I think the gap between those and the No. 1, 2 or 3 team in the league is going to be smaller."

Landers has seen many of the highs and lows in SEC women's basketball history because he's coached Georgia since 1979. He was there when the SEC sent multiple teams to the Final Four. His Georgia program also was one of only four SEC teams to reach the NCAA tournament in 2011.

He believes the SEC is back on the upswing.

"I think our league over a three-year period has started to come back," Landers said. "It isn't quite back to where it was in the late `80s and the `90s, but it's on its way back. It's going to get back. It's much better this year than it was three years ago. It may be too early to say, but it's probably better this year than it was a year ago. I think there are better players in the league, and they're spread out. They're not all on one or two teams."
© Copyright 2015 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Bartus, Icemen shuts out Gwinnett
Garrett Bartus pitched a 42 save shutout, as the Evansville IceMen topped the Gwinnett Gladiators on a New year
10:23PM ( 1 year ago )
Gator Bowl Preview Capsule
A rematch of last year's Capital One Bowl, which Georgia won 45-31 in Orlando.
8:52PM ( 1 year ago )
Millsap's 34 leads Hawks past Celtics
Paul Millsap had season highs with 34 points and 15 rebounds as the Hawks rallied from an 18-point deficit for a 92-91 win over the Boston Celtics on Tuesday afternoon.
7:44PM ( 1 year ago )
Sports
No. 19 Georgia blows past Illinois
Shacobia Barbee had 17 points, eight rebounds and six assists to lead No. 19 Georgia over Illinois 82-60 on Saturday.
10:42PM ( 1 year ago )
Dogs will face Nebraska without standout DE Moss
Nebraska defensive end Avery Moss returned to his home in Arizona to attend to a personal issue and won't play in the Gator Bowl against No. 23 Georgia next week.
10:16PM ( 1 year ago )
Georgia Southern coach Monken headed for Army
Desperate to snap its long losing streak against its archrival, Army has hired former Navy assistant Jeff Monken as its 37th football coach.
1:04PM ( 1 year ago )
College Sports
Matt Kenseth wins at Pocono
Matt Kenseth, the unexpected winner of Sunday’s Windows 10 400 at Pocono Raceway, had to do a double take.
By Reid Spencer-NASCAR Wire Service
8:26PM ( 4 hours ago )
Wisler struggles in Phillies rout of Braves
It was a night to forget for rookie Matt Wisler and the Atlanta Braves.
By The Associated Press
8:06AM ( 16 hours ago )
Kauffman presser raises more questions
A brief statement by Michael Waltrip Racing co-owner Rob Kauffman raised more questions than it provided answers about the future of MWR.
By Reid Spencer-NASCAR Wire Service
8:00AM ( 16 hours ago )
Ryan Blaney holds on for overtime Xfinity win at Iowa
As the cautions — and wreckage — piled up, Ryan Blaney didn’t blink.
By Rob Gray - NASCAR Wire Service
12:17AM ( 1 day ago )
VIDEO: Prep football's version of 'Midnight Madness' signals that season is almost here
Today, the state's teams took one more giant step closer to real games, as they were allowed to don pands in practice for the first time, as "fall" practice got underway...
11:58PM ( 1 day ago )