The Official Website of the Southeastern Conference
The Official Website of the Southeastern Conference

SEC Women's Basketball 2020-21 Season Preview

171 days ago
SEC Staff
Photo: Kentucky Athletics

March 8, 2020 was the last time an SEC women's basketball team played a game. After 38 weeks, teams will tipoff again on Wednesday, November 25. The 2020-21 SEC women's basketball conference schedule remains at 18 play dates that will fit a 16-game league schedule. It includes two league-wide bye dates of January 21 and February 7.

Here's a look at each team as we preview the upcoming season:

Alabama - Alabama returns four of its five starters from its 2019-20 squad including Jordan Lewis, Jasmine Walker, Megan Abrams and Ariyah Copeland. The Tide also boasts several reserves that played valuable minutes last season including Hannah Barber, De'Sha Benjamin, Allie Craig Cruce, Brittany Davis, Ahriahna Grizzle and Destiny Rice. Joining the returnees are five newcomers in Alana Busby-Dunphy, Myra Gordon, Keyara Jones, Ruth Koang and Taylor Sutton. The team is coming off its best season under head coach Kristy Curry as the Tide collected eight wins in Southeastern Conference play, the most since 1998, and defeated top-15 opponents in back-to-back games for the first time in program history with wins over No. 9 Mississippi State in Starkville, 66-64, and No. 12 Texas A&M, 76-63, in College Station. Alabama also swept the series against in-state rival Auburn for the first time since 2002 and posted the largest margin of victory for Alabama in Auburn with a 75-48 victory. The Tide opens its 2020-21 season on Wednesday, November 25 in Tuscaloosa against Samford.

Arkansas - Arkansas Women's Basketball is coming off of arguably the greatest season in program history, as the 2019-20 Hogs became the only squad to ever win 12 games in the SEC between the regular season and the conference tournament. The 2019-20 team was also one of just two teams to ever win 10 games in the league, while this most recent squad was one of just three Razorback teams in the SEC era to finish above .500 in conference play. With their 10-6 record in 2020, the Hogs finished tied for third place in the conference, the best-ever conference finish for Arkansas Women's Basketball. Arkansas will return four of its five starters from last season: Preseason First-Teamer Chelsea Dungee, senior forward Taylah Thomas, redshirt senior guard Amber Ramirez and sophomore guard Makayla Daniels. The Hogs will also be bolstered by the addition of Preseason Second-Teamer Destiny Slocum, the highly touted grad transfer from Oregon State, and redshirt senior guard Jailyn Mason, who missed all of last season with an injury. Neighbors also returns other quality depth, including sophomores Erynn Barnum and Marquesha Davis. The Razorbacks will face stiff competition in 2020-21, though, as they will play seven games against teams ranked higher than them in the AP's Preseason Poll, while playing five games against schools that have won National Championships.

Auburn - It will be a new look for the Auburn women's basketball team this season as coach Terri Williams-Flournoy, in her ninth season, welcomes 10 newcomers to The Plains. With just one starter and five total letterwinners returning, Auburn has just two players with more than one season of Division I basketball experience. Senior Unique Thompson, an honorable mention All-American and All-SEC First Team selection a year ago, is Auburn's leading returner in nearly every statistical category; she averaged 16.2 points and 11.4 rebounds while racking up an SEC-leading 22 double-doubles as a junior in 2019-20. Redshirt junior Kiyae' White and sophomore Annie Hughes are the Tigers' two other returners that logged starts last year; sophomores Sania Wells and Morgan Robinson-Nwagwu also return. Three sophomore newcomers bring Division I experience to the Tigers: 2018 McDonald's All-American Honesty Scott-Grayson (Baylor), 2020 MEAC Rookie of the Year Alaina Rice (Florida A&M) and Jala Jordan (West Virginia) are all eligible to compete this season. A pair of junior college All-Americans will give Auburn a strong backcourt presence as juniors Keya Patton (Wabash Valley CC) and Kira Lowery (Dyersburg State CC) look to log significant minutes.

Florida - Florida, which netted a seven-win improvement last season and finished with its best record in four years, returns four starters and seven players overall while welcoming six newcomers. After leading the team with a 15.0 points per game average, Lavender Briggs returns in 2020-21. She was named to the SEC All-Freshman Team following her debut campaign and earned a Preseason Second Team All-SEC nod this season. Briggs, who finished in double figures in 26 of her 29 games played, helped spearhead Florida's bounce-back campaign as she tallied the highest points per game average by a Florida rookie since the 1991-92 season. UF returns its top two scorers as redshirt senior Kiki Smith, who increased her scoring by nearly 70 percent and started all 30 games at the point guard position in 2019-20, returns to the Gainesville. Sophomore Nina Rickards, who emerged as a consistent contributor by season's end and junior Kristina Moore, who has started all 50 of her games played in a Gator uniform, are also back. The Gators are one of just four SEC squads to return four or more starters this year. In addition to Florida's core of returning talent, it also features a bevy of incoming prospects. Freshman forward Jordyn Merritt, the highest-ranked recruit to sign with Florida since 2013, headlines the group and figures to factor in heavily to the Gators' plans. Back for Florida also is redshirt-senior guard Danielle Rainey who was the team's leading returning scorer in 2019-20 before a preseason knee injury sidelined her for the entire season.

Georgia - The Bulldogs returns four senior starters and welcomes back nearly 90 percent of its scoring and rebounding this season. Each of Georgia's four seniors - Gabby Connally, Jenna Staiti, Que Morrison and Maya Caldwell - graduated from UGA this past spring. All are in graduate school now in Athens. The Lady Bulldogs' eligible newcomers include freshmen Sarah Ashlee Barker (Birmingham, Ala.), Zoesha Smith (Brunswick, Ga.) and UConn transfer Mikayla Coombs (Buford, Ga.). Georgia enters this season just three wins away from 1,000 victories in program history. The Lady Bulldogs are looking to join Tennessee as the lone SEC schools to reach that feat. Redshirt-senior Jenna Staiti was one of the most improved players in the SEC last season. She ended the year averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds per game over her last nine contests. 2020 SEC All-Defensive Team selection Que Morrison returns from her shoulder injury that sidelined her in the final five games last season. Last season's leading scorer Gabby Connally is also back. She averaged a team-best 12.6 points per game and ended the year with five-straight double-figure scoring efforts.

Kentucky - The University of Kentucky women's basketball team will start the 2020-21 season ranked 11th in the Associated Press Preseason Top 25. The Wildcats will be led this season by interim head coach Kyra Elzy after 13-year head coach Matthew Mitchell announced he was retiring from coaching on Nov. 12. Elzy will have an experienced team hitting the floor on Nov. 25 led by Preseason Southeastern Conference Player of the Year Rhyne Howard, who was a first-team All-America honoree by the AP, USBWA and Wooden Award last season. On top of bringing back its top-two scorers, Kentucky will also add Maryland transfer Olivia Owens, Auburn transfer Robyn Benton, 2019 Pac-12 Freshman of the Year Dre'una Edwards and a top-15 recruiting class in true freshmen Treasure Hunt, Nyah Leveretter and Erin Toller. Also returning will be the 2020 SEC 6th Woman of the Year in Chasity Patterson, who averaged 11.5 points in 19 games last season. In the post, UK returns KeKe McKinney, who averaged 6.5 points and 4.7 rebounds, and Tatyana Wyatt, who averaged 5.5 points and 3.7 rebounds. Kentucky natives Blair Green and Emma King will also be back for the Wildcats and hope to build on promising 2019-20 seasons.

LSU - LSU kicks off the tenth season of the Nikki Fargas tenure on Friday, Nov. 27 against BYU in the first round of the South Point Thanksgiving Shootout. The Tigers are coming on their fifth 20-win season under Fargas' leadership. Expected back in the starting lineup in 2020-21 is a core group of four seniors - Khayla Pointer, Faustine Aifuwa, Jailin Cherry and Awa Trasi. Pointer, a 2020 All-SEC Second Team honoree, is on track to become LSU's 34th 1,000-point career scorer as she enters her fourth season as the Tigers' point guard with 934 points. Pointer is the top returning player for LSU in scoring, assists, steals and assist/turnover ratio. Aifuwa, a member of the 2020 All-SEC Defensive Team, is expected to continue her dominance in the paint as one of LSU's top career blockers and the team's top returning rebounder. Trasi brought a long-range shooting option to LSU's offense, while Cherry added to the defense as the second in steals last season.

Ole Miss - Ole Miss enters 2020-21 amid high expectations under third-year head coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin, as the Rebels welcome in the SEC's No. 1 ranked recruiting class in addition to ESPN's No. 1 rated transfer, Shakira Austin of Maryland. Austin was a significant part of two Big Ten title teams at Maryland and was recently named to the Lisa Leslie Award Watch list and was also picked second-team Preseason All-SEC after being ruled immediately eligible to play by the NCAA on Oct. 29. The Rebels welcome seven total newcomers, which include the four freshmen of that No. 1 ranked recruiting class: five-star signees Madison Scott (No. 13 overall) and Jacorriah Bracey (No. 48 overall), and three-star additions Snudda Collins and Caitlin McGee. Ole Miss also added junior college sharpshooter Tiya Douglas, as well as early enrollee Aleah Sorrentino from the 2021 class. Scott stands as the first McDonald's All-American in Ole Miss women's basketball history and just the second ever at Ole Miss. The Rebels also welcome Georgia transfer Donnetta Johnson to the floor for the first time in 2020-21 after sitting out the 2019-20 campaign. Junior Mimi Reid returns with the most experience on the Rebel roster with 54 games started in her first two seasons, each of which she ranked top-10 in the SEC in assists. Ole Miss opens the season at home on Nov. 25 vs. Northwestern State, and will begin SEC play at No. 1 South Carolina on Dec. 31.

Mississippi State - A new era begins at Mississippi State this season, as Nikki McCray-Penson takes the helm of a program that returns three starters, including preseason All-Americans Jessika Carter and Rickea Jackson along with Nancy Lieberman Award nominee Myah Taylor. Jackson led the Bulldogs in scoring (15.1 ppg) last season behind eight games with 20-plus points and was the only freshman in the SEC that eclipsed the 30-point margin. Carter led State in rebounding (8.7 rpg), blocks (1.8 bpg), field goal percentage (.585) and double-doubles (11) and was second on the team in scoring (13.0 ppg) as a sophomore. Taylor ranked eighth in the country and led the SEC in assist/turnover ratio at 2.80 last year while pacing MSU in assists (151) and ranking second in steals (63). The Bulldogs also bring back several key contributors in Aliyah Matharu, JaMya Mingo-Young, Yemiyah Morris and Xaria Wiggins. Former McDonald's All-American Sidney Cooks is eligible this season after sitting out last year. The Bulldogs also added a trio of newcomers in McDonald's All-American Madison Hayes, skilled post Charlotte Kohl and graduate transfer Caterrion Thompson.

Missouri - Heading into the 2020-21 season, Mizzou Women's Basketball is looking to build off the success of the Aijha Blackwell and Hayley Frank, freshmen standouts from a year ago who were both named to the All-SEC Freshman Team in 2019-20. Blackwell ranked second among all SEC freshmen in scoring (17.9 ppg) and rebounding (7.3 rpg) in conference play, while Frank led the SEC and ranked 14th nationally in free throw percentage at 87.8 percent. The duo will be joined by a trio of talented transfers who will get to suit up this season for the Black & Gold. Seniors Shannon Dufficy and Shug Dickson both earned All-Conference honors at their previous institutions, while junior LaDazhia Williams was ranked as a five-star prospect coming out of high school. Entering her 11th season, head coach Robin Pingeton is 1 of 16 Power 5 active coaches to win 500 or more career games, and will look to move into second-place on Mizzou's all-time win list, needing just six wins to pass Cindy Stein.

South Carolina - South Carolina enters the 2020-21 season as the AP Preseason No. 1 for the first time in program history, extending a stretch of 11 weeks in the top spot of that poll as the Gamecocks closed the 2019-20 campaign in the same position. Head coach Dawn Staley's three returning starters all earned spots on the watch list for the national award for their position - Brea Beal, Cheryl Miller Award; Aliyah Boston, Lisa Leslie Award; and Zia Cooke, Ann Meyers Drysdale Award. The team's chemistry continues to be its greatest strength as the depth goes well beyond those three starters. Senior LeLe Grissett is back as a veteran guard after she transitioned to that position full-time last season, and juniors Destanni Henderson and Victaria Saxton are eager to show their skills in added minutes after coming off the bench behind a pair of top-10 WNBA draft picks last season. Junior transfer Destiny Littleton and sophomore Laeticia Amihere are ready to make their mark as both have bounced back from injuries that slowed their development in the system last season. Staley will have to replace the intangibles of 2020 seniors Tyasha Harris and Mikiah Herbert Harrigan, but the returning Gamecock accounted for nearly 70 percent of last season's scoring and more than 65 percent of its rebounding.

Tennessee - Tennessee embarks on the second season of the Kellie Harper era with a quiet confidence and the promise of building off a foundational first season in which the Lady Vols finished 21-10 overall and 10-6 in the SEC to tie for third place in the league standings. UT, which welcomes back four players with extensive starting experience, returns five of its top six scorers and rebounders from 2019-20, including the top four in each category. That group is headed by 6-2 senior guard/forward Rennia Davis, who is a two-time All-SEC and All-America honorable mention performer and once again finds herself on numerous watch lists entering her final season on Rocky Top. The second-leading returning scorer in the SEC, she averaged 18.0 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game in 2019-20 while shooting 46.9 percent from the field and 80.2 percent from the free throw line. UT's other players with significant starting experience include 6-1 junior guard/forward Rae Burrell (10.5 ppg., 5.5 rpg., 21 3FGs), 6-2 sophomore guard Jordan Horston (10.1 ppg., 5.5 rpg., 4.6 apg., SEC All-Freshman) and 6-5 sophomore center Tamari Key (7.3 ppg., 4.7 rpg., 2.8 bpg., SEC-leading 86 blocks, 56% FG).

Texas A&M - The Aggies enter the 2020-21 season boasting four returning starters, including 2020 All-SEC first teamer N'dea Jones. Jones is one of the most dominant rebounders in the country, and led the league in total rebounds (351) and rebounds per game (11.7). Ciera Johnson, Aaliyah Wilson and Kayla Wells round out the familiar starters. A&M will get help from Minnesota transfer Destiny Pitts, who was ranked as the No. 5 player in espnW's Newcomer Impact Rankings and earned a spot on the Ann Meyers Drysdale Award watch list last week. Jordan Nixon, a former McDonald's All-American and five-star recruit, returns to the court after sitting out last season after her transfer from Notre Dame. The Maroon & White not only bring back a plethora of talent, but they also have the longest tenured coaching staff in the SEC. Head coach Gary Blair along with associate head coach Kelly Bond-White and assistants Bob Starkey and Amy Wright entire their ninth season together. A&M is approaching the 10-year anniversary of its 2011 National Championship and are looking to its depth and proven veterans to help it repeat history.

Vanderbilt - Vanderbilt, which doubled its win total last season, returns three starters from the end of the 2019-20 campaign, including senior guard Chelsie Hall, who led the Commodores with 117 assists last season, leading scorer Koi Love, who was named to the All-SEC Freshman team, and junior Brinae Alexander, who led the team in scoring prior to missing the conference season due to injury. Senior guard Jordyn Cambridge, who was the first Commodore to lead the SEC in steals since 1990, was injured in the 2020 SEC Tournament and will miss the start of the season, but the Commodores added South Florida transfer Enna Pehadzic, who led the Bulls in scoring in 2018-19, and two freshmen-Bella LaChance and 6-foot-6 center Emily Bowman. This will mark the fifth season for head coach Stephanie White, who is one of just two NCAA head coaches with both playing and coaching experience in the WNBA.