Tennessee isn't the only SEC women's basketball team preaching defense and rebounding.The importance of these traditional virtues echo throughout the league with conference play beginning today.
The SEC weekly release shows nine teams holding the opposition to less than 60 points per game on average. Ironically, UT is ranked 10th, allowing 61.2 points per game.
Ole Miss is the only team who's not holding the opposition's field goal shooting percentage to 38.5 percent or less.
Regarding rebounding, Alabama is the only team that doesn't have a plus margin. Seven teams are plus-5.4 or better.
Tennessee coach Holly Warlick thinks that these statistics foreshadow physical league games that will be hard-fought. She thought Tennessee's gritty 66-47 victory over Rutgers last Sunday was ideal preparation.
"I give them credit, they never let up," Warlick said of the Scarlet Knights. "They made us grind it out and answer some runs that they made. In order to win in the SEC, you're going to have to grind it out, going to have to answer some runs and you're going to have to defend somebody."
The SEC is ranked fifth in conference RPI by RealTimeRPI.com, one spot lower than its ranking at this point last season. The league was fourth before being passed during the weekend by the Big East.
The SEC is one of just three conferences in which all teams are at .500 or better. But league teams are 8-9 against Top 25 teams.
The league's overall strength of schedule is 10th, the lowest of the top eight ranked conferences. Six teams — Missouri, Auburn, Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi State and Ole Miss — have non-conference schedules that rank 200 or lower.
Arkansas, though, is one of six conference teams appearing in this week's Associated Press Top 25. The Razorbacks are ranked No. 23. Kentucky leads at No. 6, following by Georgia (10th), Tennessee (12th), South Carolina (18th) and Texas A&M (24th).
Add the RPIs of such teams as Vanderbilt (16th) and Florida (28th) and the league has a good chance of at least duplicating last season's eight NCAA tournament bids.
Texas A&M and Missouri, the two new teams in the league, were a combined 21-7 in non-conference play.
All four of A&M's losses have come against teams ranked in the top 10 at the time — Louisville, Penn State, Connecticut and Notre Dame. Junior post Kelsey Bone is blossoming into one of the league's star players, averaging 23.8 points and 9.5 rebounds the past three weeks.
LSU's Theresa Plaisance, a 6-foot-5 junior forward, leads the SEC in scoring (18.6 points per game) and blocks (3.2 per game) and is ranked in the top 10 in three other statistical categories. ... Kentucky has helped force at least 21 opposition turnovers in all 12 of its games. ... Vanderbilt guard Christina Foggie tied her career high for 3-pointers (seven) in scoring 28 points against Southern Cal last Saturday.