John Adams: NCAA tournament another step up for Lady Vols

John Adams
Tennessee forward Glory Johnson, left, and Shekinna Stricklen, right, celebrate after defeating LSU 70-58 to win the NCAA college basketball championship game at the women's Southeastern Conference tournament on Sunday, March 4, 2012, in Nashville, Tenn. Johnson led Tennessee with 20 points and Stricklen contributed 16 points. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Tennessee forward Glory Johnson, left, and Shekinna Stricklen, right, celebrate after defeating LSU 70-58 to win the NCAA college basketball championship game at the women's Southeastern Conference tournament on Sunday, March 4, 2012, in Nashville, Tenn. Johnson led Tennessee with 20 points and Stricklen contributed 16 points. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Holly Warlick twice expressed surprise at how Glory Johnson continued to raise her level of play during the SEC women's basketball tournament.

Tennessee's associate head coach can only hope the rest of her team follows the senior forward's lead in the NCAA tournament to come.

In winning a third consecutive SEC tournament, the Lady Vols played their best defense of the season and boosted their overall play when the game demanded it. But that won't be enough to carry them to the Final Four.

While their three-game body of work in the tournament was an upgrade over any regular-season stretch, they have yet to prove they can beat a team with comparable talent. The SEC couldn't provide that.

UT defeated three good SEC teams — Vanderbilt, South Carolina and LSU — in the tournament. It didn't beat a team as good as the one likely to be standing between it and the Final Four.

An SEC tournament championship coupled with Tennessee's strong schedule should be enough to earn it a No. 2 seed in the upcoming NCAA tournament. That means it's apt to face a No. 1 seed in the Elite Eight — if it advances that far.

At least, the Lady Vols won't be surprised by the challenge. In the regular season, they lost to Baylor, Stanford and Notre Dame — all of whom are virtually assured of a No. 1 seed. Connecticut should get the other No. 1 seed, and the Lady Vols know it by reputation.

UT played No. 1 Baylor a nine-point game at Thompson-Boling arena but was embarrassed in road losses to Stanford and Notre Dame.

UT's elevated play last weekend suggests it would be more competitive in a rematch against either of those teams. But beating one of them or even a team with the kind of talent it might draw in the Sweet 16 will require a more complete game than what it has delivered so far.

Johnson, Tennessee's best player, is playing the best basketball of her career. That's a good starting point for UT's tournament venture.

Its next best player, Shekinna Stricklen, wasn't as consistent in the tournament. But she was sensational in the second halves of each game, totaling 48 of her 50 points. Regardless of when Stricklen scores, those totals would be welcome in the NCAA tournament.

Other players also made significant contributions to the SEC tournament cause:

Vicki Baugh averaged eight points and eight rebounds in three games.

Backup freshman forward Cierra Burdick made five of seven field-goal attempts, which was in line with her shooting in the last few games of the regular season. In her last seven games, Burdick has made 18 of 22 shots (82 percent).

Alicia Manning had 17 rebounds, her most productive three-game stretch since early January.

Guard Kamiko Williams had two crucial blocked shots in the final minutes of Tennessee's 70-58 victory over LSU in the championship game on Sunday.

Ariel Massengale made nine of 10 free-throw attempts and had six assists against LSU.

But she is a good place to start in assessing UT's chances for further improvement. In each of the first two tournament games, she had as many turnovers as assists. And in five of the last nine games, she has failed to make a field goal.

Tennessee will need more from her in the NCAA tournament. It also will need more from guard Meighan Simmons, who played only 23 minutes and scored just five points in the last two tournament games.

Simmons looked shaky against LSU. She looked as good as anyone else on the floor late in the first half against Vanderbilt.

She has struggled with her shooting for much of the season. But in the last five games, she has made nearly half of her field-goal tries.

Tennessee is at its best in an up-tempo game. And Simmons is a great catalyst for that when she's also hitting her shots and protecting the basketball.

Simmons has had her moments this season. So has almost everyone else on the team,

Warlick addressed that after the victory over LSU, saying: "That's what is so unique about this team — anybody can step up and contribute."

But to make the Final Four, they will need everyone to step up at the same time.

John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/johnadamskns.

Game highlights from the LSU-Tennessee SEC Championship game



2012 Women's Basketball Tournament - Tennessee Championship Press Conference



2012 Women's Basketball Championship - Music City Madness



SEC in the Paint on the Lady Vols and the SEC Tournament

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Comments » 30

SummittsCourt writes:

Bring on the Stanfords, Baylors and Notre Dames of the tourney. I'll take Pat Summitt over them anyday when it comes to tourney time!

Go Lady Vols!

JA still sucks!

bigfan865 writes:

John Adams is an interesting guy. I bet he could win the lottery and be ticked that he had to pay tax on the free money. He always has a negative twist to a situation. Don't get me wrong, I'm not wearing orange glasses, and I realize our Lady Vols have been less than outstanding in some games, but...what happened to building up and supporting the team (or any UT team) when they clearly deserve it? I said this in an earlier post, "When I figure out the goal of KNS with regard to their hometown team, I doubt the word "support" will be in that goal." The hometown paper should be lifting these girls up and filling them with confidence after this weekend's performances.

underthehill writes:

In her last 7 games Burdick made 18 of 22 shots and has probably played fewer minutes than Spani..if UT is going anywhere in the big show..this has to change...

underthehill writes:

John is just telling it like it is..to make the final four the Lady Vols will have to have a consistent total team effort..it is possible..and if they get there..who knows..

orangecountyvols writes:

Vols,

Adams is missing a few facts. He refers to the losses at Stanford and Notre Dame. AT........as away from home.

When, and if we run into one of his # 1 seeds, it will probably be on a neutral court, then it's anyone's game.

feathersax writes:

Enjoyed Sunday's championship game...but John Adams walks like an old hen with an egg broke inside in those "mom jeans".

johnlg00 writes:

As great as Shekinna has been in the second half lately, if she doesn't step up her production in the FIRST half, the LVs could be too far down for her heroics to save them. The competition will only get tougher at each stage from now on. The LVs can't count on reeling them back in if they get too big a lead out of the gate; that only works against teams that are not as good as they are. At some point, and likely more than one point, they will have beat some GOOD teams. I think they have it in them, but they need to prove it, if only to themselves.

underthehill writes:

in response to johnlg00:

As great as Shekinna has been in the second half lately, if she doesn't step up her production in the FIRST half, the LVs could be too far down for her heroics to save them. The competition will only get tougher at each stage from now on. The LVs can't count on reeling them back in if they get too big a lead out of the gate; that only works against teams that are not as good as they are. At some point, and likely more than one point, they will have beat some GOOD teams. I think they have it in them, but they need to prove it, if only to themselves.

True..and the same thing Adams is saying...

MrBamSeydu writes:

Final Four for this team absolutely will not happen. No way, no how. Sweet 16 or Elite 8 is best case scenario.

Baylor, Stanford or ND will win it all. Mark it down.

MrBamSeydu writes:

in response to orangecountyvols:

Vols,

Adams is missing a few facts. He refers to the losses at Stanford and Notre Dame. AT........as away from home.

When, and if we run into one of his # 1 seeds, it will probably be on a neutral court, then it's anyone's game.

Arkansas and South Carolina beat UT in Knoxville.

I repeat.... Arkansas... and South Carolina.

Don't get your hopes up.

xvolx writes:

It's not the players that will cost lady vols final four. It will be Warlicks coaching. Summitt was strictly man to man defense for 30 years. She maybe run a zone 10% of the time. Now, we run zone 90% of the time. You'll never convince me that this is not Warlick's idea. She hasn't gotten a headcoaching job in 20+ years for nothing and the only headcoaching job that she was considered, she was rejected.

Theo writes:

in response to MrBamSeydu:

Arkansas and South Carolina beat UT in Knoxville.

I repeat.... Arkansas... and South Carolina.

Don't get your hopes up.

Begone troll. Your prediction is merely a representation of your hopes.
The Lady Vols are as talented as any team in the country and are finally starting to use their prodigious talent. If they keep their focus they can go very far indeed.

hcjournals#206623 writes:

We have the most talented team in the country physically. the team that will win the national championship will be the team that has the most talented team mentally AND physically for the next run of games.

OldVols68 writes:

in response to MrBamSeydu:

Final Four for this team absolutely will not happen. No way, no how. Sweet 16 or Elite 8 is best case scenario.

Baylor, Stanford or ND will win it all. Mark it down.

Funny -- I said that last year, and look what happened.....Texas A&M won it??????!!!!!!!

kaida71 writes:

I think that if they end up in the same bracket as Stanford I truly believe they have a chance to make to the final 4.In the game Tenn. played with Stanford this year at one point we were leading by 9.. This team is very capable. Stanford really hasn't played anybody!!!

springtx_vol writes:

in response to bigfan865:

John Adams is an interesting guy. I bet he could win the lottery and be ticked that he had to pay tax on the free money. He always has a negative twist to a situation. Don't get me wrong, I'm not wearing orange glasses, and I realize our Lady Vols have been less than outstanding in some games, but...what happened to building up and supporting the team (or any UT team) when they clearly deserve it? I said this in an earlier post, "When I figure out the goal of KNS with regard to their hometown team, I doubt the word "support" will be in that goal." The hometown paper should be lifting these girls up and filling them with confidence after this weekend's performances.

Sorry, but it is not Mr. Adams role to build up anyone. It is not KNS's role to lift the Lady Vols up and fill them with confidence. If they need that from a writer and a newspaper, we have the wrong ladies in orange.

It is primarily the coaches job to motivate the players, to build them up when they need building, to tear them down when they are not functioning as a team. It is the fans job to cheer on the team, to elevate emotions in an arena or ball park. It is the newspaper's job to report on the good and the bad, to get behind the scenes to report on what is happening, to keep the coaches, administration, and players honest in their endeavoers.

If only the main street media would do their jobs as well with the Democrats as John does with the University.

richvol writes:

UT turned the corner this season when Simmons and Spani were finally put on the bench. Simmons is OK coming off of the bench in small spurts but when left in she gets reckless and crazy with her shot selection.

Spani playing time is hard to justify. She is too slow to defend and disappears completely on the offensive end during games. She hit one three point shot against LSU and then just disappeared. Why she played the entire season as a starter confounds me and others. She could be a lot more productive next year if she loses weight,gains some quickness and learns to come off of screens to get her shot. As suggested earlier Burdick should get her playing time as she is much more productive.

movinonup writes:

What a fickle fan base we are-----guys, has anyone noticed that we have won the LAST 3 SEC CHAMPIONSHIPS in a row ??? I guess that Pat has just set the bar so high that anything less than National Championship team is less than acceptable. I like winning as much as anyone but think we need to stop and put it all just a little bit in perspective. All this talk about how under performing this senior class is (did I say LAST 3 SEC CHAMPIONSHIPS). Any other team in the SEC would gladly take these underachievers.

For these girls (and yes, 18-21 year olds are still girls) to accomplish all they have over this year with all the added extra pressure of the spotlight on Pat, expectations being through the roof, and really having to listen to at least 2 and sometimes 4 different coaches is really amazing. I for one, am really really proud of these girls and their accomplishments.

3 time defending SEC Champions - (I may have already said that)

kazoo writes:

in response to bigfan865:

John Adams is an interesting guy. I bet he could win the lottery and be ticked that he had to pay tax on the free money. He always has a negative twist to a situation. Don't get me wrong, I'm not wearing orange glasses, and I realize our Lady Vols have been less than outstanding in some games, but...what happened to building up and supporting the team (or any UT team) when they clearly deserve it? I said this in an earlier post, "When I figure out the goal of KNS with regard to their hometown team, I doubt the word "support" will be in that goal." The hometown paper should be lifting these girls up and filling them with confidence after this weekend's performances.

Unfortunately, a lot of people are clueless about the role of the press in our society. It's not John Adams' job to support UT sports teams. He works for a newspaper, and it is his job to be objective and analyze teams and their coaches--not lead cheers for them as fans do. And the points he makes are all entirely valid. To wit:

Massengale is actually a pretty good shooter--and she DOES need to shoot the ball when open, and definitely keep driving to the basket. She's didn't make a basket against lsu but she did take the rock to the hole and draw fouls, and her 9 points on foul shots were needed. But she passed up shots she could have taken--and needs to take them.

Baugh's play will be a big factor in the tourney. She has to play a lot--and well--if the Vols are going to advance. We are very thin inside--and to say that Johnson has not gotten enough help inside this year would be an understatement.

The team is playing tougher, better--but I still don't think it is fundamentally sound enough or consistent enough, on either end of the floor, to beat ND or Stanford, who are two VERY well coached and talented teams. I'll be happy to be proved wrong.

wigmeister writes:

Load up the shotguns ladies! Time to alleviate some opponents!

jmaples54 writes:

in response to springtx_vol:

Sorry, but it is not Mr. Adams role to build up anyone. It is not KNS's role to lift the Lady Vols up and fill them with confidence. If they need that from a writer and a newspaper, we have the wrong ladies in orange.

It is primarily the coaches job to motivate the players, to build them up when they need building, to tear them down when they are not functioning as a team. It is the fans job to cheer on the team, to elevate emotions in an arena or ball park. It is the newspaper's job to report on the good and the bad, to get behind the scenes to report on what is happening, to keep the coaches, administration, and players honest in their endeavoers.

If only the main street media would do their jobs as well with the Democrats as John does with the University.

amen. adams wouldn't look good in one of those skimpy skirts anyway. (would the adamshaters?)

jt45 writes:

in response to movinonup:

What a fickle fan base we are-----guys, has anyone noticed that we have won the LAST 3 SEC CHAMPIONSHIPS in a row ??? I guess that Pat has just set the bar so high that anything less than National Championship team is less than acceptable. I like winning as much as anyone but think we need to stop and put it all just a little bit in perspective. All this talk about how under performing this senior class is (did I say LAST 3 SEC CHAMPIONSHIPS). Any other team in the SEC would gladly take these underachievers.

For these girls (and yes, 18-21 year olds are still girls) to accomplish all they have over this year with all the added extra pressure of the spotlight on Pat, expectations being through the roof, and really having to listen to at least 2 and sometimes 4 different coaches is really amazing. I for one, am really really proud of these girls and their accomplishments.

3 time defending SEC Champions - (I may have already said that)

Good post, Ive wondered all year why so many (fans) have continued to post negatively about this team. They have had their moments both good and bad yet here they are competing for a trip to the final 4 once again and despite what some might think they have just as much talent as any other team. Surprises aren't uncommon in the NCAA tournament . Some folks are never happy !

givehim6 writes:

in response to underthehill:

John is just telling it like it is..to make the final four the Lady Vols will have to have a consistent total team effort..it is possible..and if they get there..who knows..

Does JA tell it like it is, or how he thinks it is, how it looks at the time, or just says what will sell papers? I choose the latter. The Lady Vols will be there, never underestimate Pat!

givehim6 writes:

in response to MrBamSeydu:

Arkansas and South Carolina beat UT in Knoxville.

I repeat.... Arkansas... and South Carolina.

Don't get your hopes up.

Who is the SEC tournament champions, AGAIN?!!

bigfan865 writes:

For those who took exception with my idea that KNS "support" our team allow me to clarify. I know it's the coaches job to build up a team, not KNS. However, after a great football game with two interceptions and a tight perfect pass for a winning TD in overtime, what is the headline? The perfect pass! That's what I mean! The losses are behind them and were correctly reported at the time. Now with 3 good wins at the SEC that should be the story. Then go on to wish them well at staying in the present mode and playing at the top of their games. Don't go back to reminding them of the poorly played games. As with the football analogy, that pass is behind you. Focus on the completions since then.

bigfan865 writes:

in response to xvolx:

It's not the players that will cost lady vols final four. It will be Warlicks coaching. Summitt was strictly man to man defense for 30 years. She maybe run a zone 10% of the time. Now, we run zone 90% of the time. You'll never convince me that this is not Warlick's idea. She hasn't gotten a headcoaching job in 20+ years for nothing and the only headcoaching job that she was considered, she was rejected.

First, there is no way Pat, Micki and Dean sit there wanting to play man and saying nothing while Holly plays zone! Ridiculous to think that!
Second, have you been watching our man to man. It is far from consistent. Airel is a great offensive point gaurd but is VERY weak playing man to man. Go back and find a previous game to watch and you will see players drive by her with ease. We are playing zone because it is the best D we have. We can go back to man for short periods of time or just to throw off the opponent when they have started shooting over the zone. Still can't figure out why some of you who think Pat is BRILLIANT also think she is so STUPID that she would keep such a sorry coach as Holly around for all these years. Obviously our BRILLIANT coach knows Holly is a good coach too.

gerryblack writes:

in response to bigfan865:

First, there is no way Pat, Micki and Dean sit there wanting to play man and saying nothing while Holly plays zone! Ridiculous to think that!
Second, have you been watching our man to man. It is far from consistent. Airel is a great offensive point gaurd but is VERY weak playing man to man. Go back and find a previous game to watch and you will see players drive by her with ease. We are playing zone because it is the best D we have. We can go back to man for short periods of time or just to throw off the opponent when they have started shooting over the zone. Still can't figure out why some of you who think Pat is BRILLIANT also think she is so STUPID that she would keep such a sorry coach as Holly around for all these years. Obviously our BRILLIANT coach knows Holly is a good coach too.

"Airel is a great offense point guard". What planet are you currently residing on. She played very good starting the season but not great. I do think that she can possibly become a great point guard but she has a long way to go. I also think that one can be a great assistant but a terrible head coach. Hope i'm wrong again.

creekroad writes:

in response to bigfan865:

John Adams is an interesting guy. I bet he could win the lottery and be ticked that he had to pay tax on the free money. He always has a negative twist to a situation. Don't get me wrong, I'm not wearing orange glasses, and I realize our Lady Vols have been less than outstanding in some games, but...what happened to building up and supporting the team (or any UT team) when they clearly deserve it? I said this in an earlier post, "When I figure out the goal of KNS with regard to their hometown team, I doubt the word "support" will be in that goal." The hometown paper should be lifting these girls up and filling them with confidence after this weekend's performances.

Great post, but what goes unsaid in so many posts is that John is a very poor writer and even worse reporter.....hard to take his constant criticism of these young people when is so mediocre in his own profession...let's face it, he is as high as he will ever rise in his own profession.

pomp_and_circumstance writes:

Really guys, John Adams is irrevelavent to the the world and certainly to any thing having to to with sports. His only goal in life is to be as close to David Climer as he can get. Even so, I think that fantasizing these Lady Vols getting to the elite eight is extravagant fantasy. Twenty turn overs every game is not fortifying to the most potent Orange Coolade.

ps11824 writes:

First of all, John Adams is not a reporter; he is a columnist. His job description gives him the freedom to express his opinion any way he wishes (excluding malicious slander). Whatever sells best is what he writes. Stirring controversial interest is the purpose of a columnist. If the editor/publisher/advertisers like what JA writes, if he can fire up his readers, he has done what is expected of him.

John Adams is not unlike our worst trolls here on the Lady Vols site. Old Mike, or whatever name it uses now, can get us tik'd off enough to respond, they have won us over, achieved their goal, gotten their reward, by riling us into a response.

Sometimes I just can't help myself. I just have to poke a stick into that snake pit. I HAVE NOTICED this season less slivering by one particular troll. I 'spose losing a few games humbles even a trol.

A pomp&circ stated, JA is irrelevant. I also agree that the chances of our Lady Vols getting out of regionals is slim. Being a #2 or 3 seed will likely pit the Big Orange squad against a very good team IF they win their 1st matchup.

The Lady Vols played the SEC Tourney with more heart than we've seen all season. Heart goes a long way toward advancing in the NCAAs, BUT double-digit turnovers & missed shots, ARE missed opportunities that will send them packing early.

I want so much to be wrong. I want to be able to say, "Finally the Lady Vols are firing on all cylinders." I can't imagine any fan of the LVs wanting to believe that more than I do. In the same breath I can state that I've had LESS tolerance for this veteran team than I have had for any team in my decades of wearing Orange & White.

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