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SEC Tournament Preview: South Carolina looks to continue dominant season

The No. 1 South Carolina Gamecocks are the overwhelming favorites to win both the SEC Tournament and NCAA Tournament titles. However, teams such as the No. 6 LSU Tigers and No. 18 Tennessee Lady Volunteers will look to play spoiler.

NCAA Womens Basketball: Auburn at South Carolina
South Carolina’s Aliyah Boston
Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

The SEC Tournament will begin Wednesday at 2 p.m. ET. The first three rounds will air on the SEC Network with the semifinals being on ESPNU and the championship game on ESPN.

The No. 1 South Carolina Gamecocks are the overwhelming favorite to win their third consecutive SEC Tournament title as well as the national title.

The top four teams

Standing alone on top of women’s basketball is 27-1 South Carolina. Dawn Staley’s squad has been the No. 1 team in the nation all year long. An SEC Tournament title would further solidify its status as the best team in the country.

The Gamecocks are led by National Player of the Year frontrunner and walking double-double Aliyah Boston, who has again served as the anchor for her team on both sides of the ball. Two other top players in Zia Cooke and Destanni Henderson round out the big three for South Carolina.

The No. 2 seed LSU Tigers come into this tournament on a eight-game winning streak, having not lost in over a month. The Tigers are a veteran squad led by graduate students Faustine Aifuwa, Jailin Cherry, Khayla Pointer and Autumn Newby.

The Tennessee Lady Volunteers enter as the No. 3 seed, finding themselves limping into this tournament after losing star guard Jordan Horston to a fractured dislocation in her left elbow. They have lost six out of their last 10 games, sapping any potential momentum.

Without Horston, the Lady Vols still have talent to rely on in Rae Burrell, Alexus Dye and Tamari Key. These women are more than capable of taking the team very far into the postseason.

The fourth-seeded Ole Miss Rebels come in with a 5-3 record in the month of February. Their an offense averages slightly less than 70 points a game, but their defense allows 55 points per game. Center Shakira Austin is the heartbeat of the Rebels and as she goes, the rest of her team will go. Other key players for Ole Miss are Angel Baker, Madison Scott and Lashonda Monk.

First and second round matchups

The first matchup of the tournament will be between No. 12 seed Texas A&M and No. 13 seed Vanderbilt in the first round. Both teams finished with non-winning records and are coming off of losses, with the Aggies currently on a five-game losing streak.

The next game will be the Iron Bowl, as No. 11 seed Alabama takes on No. 14 seed Auburn. The Crimson Tide are coming off of a win over Vanderbilt while the Tigers are coming off of a loss to Kentucky.

The second round will begin with No. 8 seed Arkansas playing No. 9 seed Missouri. Both teams are 7-9 in the SEC and are coming off of wins to end the regular season. Arkansas swept the season series between these two teams, winning both games by double digits.

No. 5 seed Florida will play either Texas A&M or Vanderbilt in the second round. The Gators defeated the Aggies 87-79 and lost to the Commodores 63-59. They enter the tournament on a three-game losing streak.

Next, No. 7 seed Kentucky will play No. 10 seed Mississippi State, with the Wildcats entering on a six-game winning streak and the Bulldogs on a five-game losing streak. The former defeated the latter 81-74 on Feb. 15. The nation will get another look at potential No. 1 WNBA pick Rhyne Howard.

The final game of the second round will feature No. 6 seed Georgia playing either Alabama or Auburn. The Bulldogs come in on a two-game winning streak. They defeated the Crimson Tide 72-68, but lost to the Tigers, 65-60.

SEC Tournament Schedule

All games at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn.

First Round - Wednesday, March 2

Game 1: No. 12 Texas A&M vs. No. 13 Vanderbilt, 12 p.m. ET

Game 2: No. 11 Alabama vs. No. 14 Auburn, 2:25 p.m. ET

Second Round - Thursday, March 3

Game 3: No. 8 Arkansas vs. No. 9 Missouri, 1 p.m. ET

Game 4: No. 5 Florida vs. Game 1 winner, 3:25 p.m. ET

Game 5: No. 7 Kentucky vs. No. 10 Mississippi State, 7 p.m. ET

Game 6: No. 6 Georgia vs. Game 2 winner, 9:25 p.m. ET

Quarterfinals - Friday, March 4

Game 7: No. 1 South Carolina vs. Game 3 winner, 1 p.m. ET

Game 8: No. 4 Ole Miss vs. Game 4 winner, 3:25 p.m. ET

Game 9: No. 2 LSU vs. Game 5 winner, 7 p.m. ET

Game 10: No. 3 Tennessee vs. Game 6 winner, 9:25 p.m. ET

Semifinals - Saturday, March 5

Game 11: Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner, 5 p.m. ET

Game 12: Game 9 winner vs. Game 10 winner, 7:25 p.m. ET

Championship - Sunday, March 6

Game 13: Game 11 winner vs. Game 12 winner, 2 p.m. ET