KNOXVILLE — Tennessee’s SEC women’s basketball opponents are set for the 2017-18 season, and the Lady Vols will welcome NCAA Final Four teams South Carolina and Mississippi State to Thompson-Boling Arena.
Along with match-ups against its permanent opponent, Vanderbilt, in Knoxville and Nashville, Tennessee also will face South Carolina and Texas A&M in home-and-home series. USC won the 2017 NCAA National Championship, but the Lady Vols defeated the Gamecocks last season at Columbia in a nationally-televised thriller in front of 13,690 fans, 76-74.
The Lady Vols’ home schedule also features games against Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Ole Miss and Mississippi State. MSU, a team that UT split with a year ago, finished as runner-up to USC at the Final Four. Holly Warlick’s squad toppled the Bulldogs in front of a sellout record crowd of 10,500 in Starkville a year ago, 82-64.
In addition to the match-ups at USC, A&M and Vandy, Tennessee hits the road for contests at Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, LSU and Missouri.
Tennessee went 20-12 (10-6 SEC/5th) last season, its fifth under head coach Holly Warlick. The Lady Vols faced the nation’s fifth-toughest schedule, picking up victories over top-10 foes South Carolina, Mississippi State, Notre Dame and Stanford along the way.
UT will welcome back a pair of all-star performers in seniors Mercedes Russell and Jaime Nared. Russell, a 6-foot-6 center, averaged 16.1 points and 9.7 rebounds per game a year ago, posting a Lady Vol junior record with 19 double-doubles. She was named an honorable mention All-American by AP and the WBCA and was a second-team All-SEC pick by AP and the coaches.
Nared, meanwhile, tallied 15.6 points and 6.9 rebounds per contest, carding eight double-doubles of her own. The team’s second-leading three-point shooter with 37 treys in 2016-17, Nared was named to the Coaches All-SEC Second Team as a junior.
Returnees joining Russell and Nared are 5-11 junior wing Meme Jackson, 6-2 senior forward Kortney Dunbar and 6-3 sophomore center Kamera Harris. Jackson played in all 32 games last season, starting 19 of them.
Five newcomers are set to hit the court this season, including 6-3 junior college All-America forward Cheridene Green (redshirted last season due to a knee injury) and the nation’s No. 1 ranked signing class. That group includes 6-0 guard Evina Westbrook (No. 2 in the HoopGurlz/espnW 100), 5-7 guard Anastasia Hayes (ranked No. 7), 6-2 wing Rennia Davis (ranked No. 12) and 6-4 center Kasiyahna Kushkituah (ranked No. 57).
Times, dates and television information for the SEC schedule will be released at a later date.