Roadmap To A Repeat

By Jeff Lippman - August 27, 2007

No matter where you may stem from across the nation, it seems the directions to the women's basketball national championship always seems to be via Knoxville, Tenn.

From Knoxville, MapQuest says it's pretty much a straight shot down Interstate-75 South for close to 620 miles to get to Tampa, Fla., but the Lady Vols know it will take a lot more than that to get back to the Final Four.

And even though this year's schedule got more hype for who the Lady Vols omitted - UConn and Tennessee will not meet in their annual rivalry game this season - the slate is not one the Vols can take very lightly.

Tennessee's road to winning their seventh national title does begin in Knoxville, however, as the Lady Vols take on Chattanooga on Nov. 11 in their home opener.

No disrespect to the Mocs, but Chattanooga represents one of the only pushovers that Tennessee has on its early season schedule.

Right after the Mocs, the Lady Vols go to Tampa to play in the ESPNU Women's Basketball Invitational. They will take on Courtney Paris and Oklahoma in the Sunshine State. The Sooners will once again be one of the best teams in the country.

On Nov. 18, the Vols return home to face new coach Gail Goestenkors and Texas, but don't stay home for long, trekking to Charleston, W.Va., on Nov. 21 to face the Big East's Mountaineers - no cake walk whatsoever there.

Next, the Vols start a home stretch of five games, four against teams that have been historically excellent women's basketball programs and one against a current powerhouse. The Vols meet Louisiana Tech (Nov. 26), Old Dominion (Dec. 5), Middle Tennessee State (Dec. 13) and Gonzaga (Dec. 16) sandwiched around a home date with ACC elite North Carolina on the 2nd.

If their early home slate wasn't tough enough, the Vols then take to the road before opening SEC conference play. On Dec. 19, Tennessee will make the cross-country trip to Los Angeles to meet UCLA, and will follow that with a game against Stanford on Dec. 22.

After taking a break for exams/holidays/break, UT returns to action in Chicago against DePaul on Jan. 2 and then goes to South Bend for a meeting against Notre Dame.

SEC play begins on Jan. 10 against Auburn in Knoxville, and sees the Lady Vols' schedule get easier - yes, easier in conference play.

Aside from matchups against LSU on Valentine's Day at home and Georgia on March 2 in Athens, Ga., the SEC slate should not pose much of a problem for the Vols.

But don't think once SEC play starts the season gets too easy, as Tennessee still has dates remaining at Duke on Jan. 28 and at home against last year's national runner-up Rutgers.

Connecticut or no, Tennessee's schedule is one of the toughest in the nation, with 11 of their first 13 games coming against 2007 NCAA Tournament teams - the other two are against Texas with coach G and Louisiana Tech who finished first in the WAC regular season - the Lady Vols will have their hands full.

That said, Candace Parker, Pat Summitt and company should conduct business as usual on their way to a top ranking and another No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament come March.

Posted by Jeff Lippman at 03:33 PM on August 27, 2007

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