It’s been a long time coming, but the Tennessee Lady Vols are finally back. Historic program, high expectations welcomes your return. There’s a new powerhouse team on the block to compete with in the league now: The South Carolina Gamecocks.
A pair of preseason projections came out Tuesday that show just how much of a collision course Kellie Harper’s and Dawn Staley’s teams are. For starters, UT is No. 5 in the AP Poll, its first top five preseason ranking since 2015. South Carolina, meanwhile, is the defending national champion and comes in at No. 1.
However, the preseason SEC projections shows just how much of a clash these two teams are expected to have. South Carolina is obviously the favorite, but the Tennessee Lady Vols are expected to finish second in the league.
Then there are the All-SEC teams. Every member of the first team is either in Columbia, S.C., or on Rocky Top. Although South Carolina is picked first, the Lady Vols have three first-team All-SEC players to their two. Tamari Key, Jordan Horston and Mississippi State Bulldogs transfer Rickea Jackson are on there.
On the other hand, South Carolina does have the projected SEC Player of the Year in Aliyah Boston, who is on the first team along with Zia Cooke. Neither team has a player who was named to second team All-SEC, but former Lady Vol Anastasia Hayes, now with MSU, is on there.
Expectations behind South Carolina are obvious since they won the national title last year. Key to the expectations behind the Tennessee Lady Vols, though, is what they picked up in the transfer portal to give themselves a full roster for the first time in years.
Last year’s Sweet 16 team lost Rae Burrell, Keyen Green and Alexus Dye, but Green missed almost the entire second half of the season. Meanwhile, they added Jackson, Georgia Bulldogs transfer Jillian Hollingshead, Missouri State Lady Bears transfer Jasmine Franklin, Minnesota Golden Gophers transfer Jasmine Powell and five-star recruit Justine Pissott.
As far as the schedule goes, these two teams are set to meet only once, but it’s the next to last regular season game in late February in Thompson-Boling Arena. Depending on how everything shakes out, that could be a top five or even a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup, and it could also decide the SEC Regular Season Championship.
Of course, both teams have a brutal schedule leading up to that moment, so a lot of things could happen before then. However, this type of collision course is what the Tennessee Lady Vols used to have, and now it’s back. Embrace all of it.