July 31, 2014
KNOXVILLE -- Tennessee released its non-conference women's basketball schedule Thursday, and nine of 13 opponents are coming off postseason action a year ago, headlined by NCAA Final Four teams Notre Dame and Stanford, and WNIT champion Rutgers.
UT, which returns four starters and nine of 10 letterwinners from last season's 29-6 SEC Tournament Championship team, was ranked No. 3 in Charle Crème's April 21 espnW Pre-Preseason Top 25. Holly Warlick's most-experienced unit yet, which will be bolstered by the nation's No. 6 recruiting class, will welcome five 2013-14 NCAA tourney participants to Thompson-Boling Arena.
Stanford, which fell to UConn in the 2014 Final Four semifinals, will bring a three-game series win streak to Rocky Top on Dec. 20, offering a Saturday showdown for Big Orange fans. The Cardinal held off the Lady Vols on the West Coast last season, 76-70, to hand UT its first loss of the campaign.
Four other NCAA tourney teams will make inaugural trips to Knoxville this winter, including Wichita State, Oregon State, Penn and Winthrop.
WSU is led by head coach Jody Adams and assistant Bridgette Gordon, both winners of NCAA titles as Lady Vol players. The Shockers, 26-7 a year ago and winners of Missouri Valley Conference regular-season and tourney titles, will come to town on Dec. 16 for the first meeting between the schools. Adams is a product of Cleveland, Tenn., and Bradley County High School.
OSU and UT were both in the Junkanoo Jam in the Bahamas last season but were in different brackets and never met. The Beavers, who were 24-11 in 2013-14, saw their campaign end at the hands of South Carolina (78-69) in the NCAA Second Round. UT is 2-0 vs. Oregon State, with the last meeting coming in 1987. The teams are set for a Dec. 28 matchup in Knoxville this season.
Penn (22-7) and Winthrop (24-9) were champions of the Ivy League regular season and Big South Conference Tournament, respectively, a year ago and are slotted as Tennessee's season-opening and third-game opponents on Nov. 14 and 21. The Quakers return 10 letterwinners from last year's NCAA Tournament team, while Winthrop featured only two seniors on last year's squad. UT is 2-1 vs. WU and will be clashing with Penn for the first time.
Rounding out the home non-conference schedule are Oral Roberts of the Southland Conference on Nov. 17, Tennessee State of the Ohio Valley Conference on Nov. 24 and St. Francis (Pa.) of the Northeast Conference on Dec. 3. ORU did not see postseason action a year ago but is a six-time NCAA participant and one the Lady Vols met in the 2008 and 2013 tournaments.
A challenging road slate features games vs. four 2013-14 postseason squads, including Chattanooga on Nov. 26, Texas on Nov. 30, Rutgers on Dec. 14 and Notre Dame on Jan. 19. There's also a trip to Lipscomb on Dec. 7.
After hosting Notre Dame the past two seasons, Tennessee will make the trip to Indiana on Jan. 19 to take on the 2014 NCAA runners-up. The Irish overcame a five-point halftime deficit in Knoxville last season to triumph, 86-70. UT will be looking to end a four-game losing skid to UND, which is slotted at No. 5 in Crème's rankings.
Longtime rival Texas checks in at No. 9 on Crème's preseason list, and the Longhorns will hope to halt a five-game streak by the Lady Vols. The Burnt Orange UT finished 2013-14 with a 22-12 record and fell to Maryland in the NCAA Second Round, with Chassidy Fussell as the only key senior lost from that squad.
The Lady Vols and Scarlet Knights last met in 2012-13, when UT took a 66-47 victory in Knoxville. Though Tennessee has won the past nine games in the series, Rutgers has been victorious three times vs. UT on its own court over the years and is on the rise after claiming last year's WNIT title and forging a 28-9 record with no seniors on the roster.
With six seniors leading the way a year ago, Chattanooga was an NCAA Tournament and Southern Conference championship team in Jim Foster's first season at the helm. While Tennessee rolled 80-56 in last season's meeting in Knoxville, the Lady Vols will certainly remember their last trip to McKenzie Arena, which ended with an 80-71 triumph by the Lady Mocs in 2012 in Warlick's first game as head coach.
After defeating Lipscomb, 110-42, at Thompson-Boling Arena a year ago in the schools' first meeting, the Lady Vols will make their first-ever visit to the LU campus this winter. Former UT graduate assistant and assistant coach Greg Brown is head coach of the Bison.
As was the case a year ago, Tennessee will play Carson-Newman in a lone exhibition game. That contest is set for Nov. 9, marking the 11th-straight season the two squads have faced off in a preseason tilt.
Tipoff times and TV designations for all games as well as the composite SEC schedule have not been finalized. That information usually is released in late August. Tennessee, however, is expected to face five SEC foes ranked in the top 25 and 10 games against teams that played in the 2013-14 NCAA Tournament.