Welcome to the wide-open 2012 Southeastern Conference women’s tournament.
Sure, No. 10 Kentucky won its first SEC title since 1982, and 13th-ranked Tennessee treats winning this tournament like an annual rite of March – adding its 15th championship a year ago.
But SEC teams see plenty of opportunity in the tournament starting today in Nashville, Tenn., in a season where Kentucky lost three times away from home in league play, and the Lady Vols are playing through a season like no other.
This tournament has no lack of drama.
Kentucky’s lone SEC title came 30 years ago in 1982 when the tournament winner was named the league champ, and the Wildcats (24-5) have lost in the finals the past two years to Tennessee. Nell Fortner is leaving Auburn and Sharon Fanning-Otis is retiring from Mississippi State at season’s end.
Pat Summitt announced in August that she had been diagnosed with early onset dementia which led to questions whether this will be her last season coaching Tennessee. Now her Lady Vols (21-8) will try to focus on gearing up for a possible run at a ninth national title.
ACC TOURNAMENT: Rarely has the Atlantic Coast Conference women’s tournament been this top-heavy.
Each of the top three seeds is ranked in the top 10. It’s the first time that’s happened since 2007, and just the third time in the event’s history.
No. 5 Duke (24-4) holds the top seed. No. 7 Miami (25-4) is second and No. 6 Maryland (25-4) third for the tournament that begins today in Greensboro, N.C.
Miami coach Katie Meier says there’s no way anyone can predict who’s going to win.