South Carolina, Tennessee headline deep SEC field

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 4, 2014 at 1:09 pm •  Published: March 4, 2014
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DULUTH, Ga. (AP) — South Carolina coach Dawn Staley says the depth of the SEC gives her extra pride in the Gamecocks' first conference title.

The Gamecocks (26-3, 14-2 SEC) are the team to beat in the Southeastern Conference tournament, which begins on Wednesday night.

The league's depth shows as five of the top 12 teams in the NCAA's RPI are from the SEC.

How deep is the league? LSU , only the No. 10 seed in the SEC tournament, is No. 12 in RPI.

Sixth-ranked Tennessee (24-5, 13-3 SEC) beat No. 5 South Carolina on Sunday to clinch the second seed in the SEC tournament.

South Carolina, Tennessee and the tournament's other top seeds — No. 15 Texas A&M and No. 12 Kentucky — are off until Friday. Missouri plays Mississippi State and Arkansas faces Mississippi in the first round on Wednesday night.

There will be four games on Thursday: Vanderbilt vs. Georgia; Florida vs. Missouri/Mississippi State winner; LSU vs. Alabama and Auburn vs. Arkansas/Ole Miss winner.

There are only four top 25 teams in the SEC, but Staley and other coaches say that's because some teams like Georgia fell out of the poll once the conference schedule began.

"Probably one of the things I'm most proud of as regular-season champions is because of the competition ... from top to bottom," Staley said. "There aren't any gimmes in our league and that's why we feel like we play in the top conference in America."

Here are five things to know as Duluth, near Atlanta, hosts its second-straight tournament and fourth overall:

NCAA NO. 1 SEEDS ON THE LINE: South Carolina and possibly Tennessee could be playing for No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament. The Lady Vols moved up four spots in the final regular-season poll by beating LSU and South Carolina and takes a four-game winning streak into the tournament.

Tennessee coach Holly Warlick said beating South Carolina to close the regular season "was a pride thing for us."

"Obviously we weren't going to win the championship but it was to prepare us for going into the tournament," Warlick said.