The SEC is one of the most influential conferences in women’s college basketball, and teams from this league always figure prominently in the NCAA Tournament. The 2021-22 season promises to be a thrilling one with at least four teams in the conference capable of triumphing; the ultimate winner will be the most tenacious, tactical, and determined side.
With Kentucky lift the title, or will it be the powerful Gamecocks? Will an SEC team win the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2017?
Let’s break down the upcoming season and answer some of those questions!
SEC WOMEN’S BASKETBALL PREVIEW 2021-22
Favorites: South carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, Texas A&M, georgia
Head coach: Dawn Staley (14th season)
2020-2021 record: 26-5 (14-2 in SEC)
Conference finish: 2nd
South Carolina is not only one of the top teams in SEC women’s basketball but in all of women’s college basketball, earning the No. 1 spot in the country by some pundits. After missing the national championship game by the skin of its teeth last season, South Carolina has gotten even better through the addition of some of the best talent in the country.
The Gamecocks are welcoming in former Syracuse All-ACC center Kamilla Cardoso, as well as a serious crop of freshmen, including Raven Johnson, sharpshooter Saniya Rivers, the superbly-talented Bree Hall, and Sania Geagin. South Carolna has also retained all of its top players from last season, including veteran guard LeLe Grissett, who has taken advantage of the extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA.
The Gamecocks have one of the deepest and most talented rosters in the country and will not only be at the top of SEC women’s basketball but have a great chance of winning the national championship.
Head coach: Kyra Elzy (2nd season)
2020-2021 record: 18-9 (9-6 in SEC)
Conference finish: 5th
The Wildcats are probably the biggest threat to the Gamecocks for the SEC crown. They have retained the services of superstar Rhyne Howard, who averaged an astounding 20.7 points and 7.5 rebounds per night last season. Head coach Kyra Elzy will be in her second season with the team and will definitely develop greater chemistry with her players, which will result in more consistent play. The talented core of Dre’una Edwards, Robyn Benton, Jazmine Massengill, and Olivia Owens will offer her support.
Kentucky is undoubtedly one of the top teams in the SEC and will be figuring prominently in the fight for conference honors.
Head coach: Kellie Harper (3rd season)
2020-2021 record: 17-18 (9-4 in SEC)
Conference finish: 3rd
Despite losing Rennia Davis, the Lady Vols still have a formidable team capable of competing with the best teams in the SEC. They still have All-SEC Rae Burrell, along with Tamari Key, Marta Suarez, and Jordan Horston. Tennessee also added the talented duo of Brooklynn Miles and Sara Puckett to its roster from the 2021 recruiting class.
The team has the right mixture of experience and talent, and with the guidance of the experienced Kellie Harper, the Lady Vols will be a force to be reckoned with this upcoming season.
Head coach: Gary Blair (19th season)
2020-2021 record: 25-3 (13-1 in SEC)
Conference finish: 1st
The Aggies have eight players back from their SEC-winning team from last year, including starters Jordan Nixon and Kayla Wells. Reigning Sixth Woman of the Year Destiny Pitts is also back for another go.
The Aggies, under the guidance of their veteran head coach Gary Blair, will use their resources effectively. I expect them to be one of the most consistent teams in the SEC in 2021-22, which will keep them close to the top of the league. Will it be enough to repeat as champions? That remains to be seen, but they should be in the mix.
Head coach: Joni Taylor (7th season)
2020-2021 record: 21-7 (10-5 in SEC)
Conference finish: 4th
The Lady Bulldogs are on the rise, and under the leadership of reigning SEC Coach of the Year Joni Taylor, this upward momentum is expected to continue into the upcoming season. Georgia has retained its experienced core in Jenna Staiti, Que Morrison, Mikayla Coombs, and Malury Bates, plus 2021 SEC All-Freshman Sarah Ashlee Barker returns and will be joined by top recruits Reigan Richardson and Jillian Hollingshead.
This is one of the most well-rounded Lady Bulldogs teams in a while, with a good mixture of experience and youth and incredible talent in the frontcourt and backcourt. With this team, Georgia should be one of the best teams in the SEC in 2021-22 and also see a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.
Contenders: lsu, Arkansas, ALabama
Head coach: Kim Mulkey (1st season)
2020-2021 record: 9-13 (6-8 in SEC)
Conference finish: 7th
The Lady Tigers will hope that veteran coach Kim Mulkey can have an immediate impact, and with the roster that she has managed to assemble, this should be a good year for the Tigers. All-SEC guard Khayla Pointer will return to lead the team, along with eight players from last season’s squad.
LSU also added six first-year players, including four-star prospect Amani Bartlett. Hannah Gusters followed Mulkey from Baylor after a commendable freshman campaign where she scored in double figures in six games and will be a more experienced player this season.
The Lady Tigers will be extremely competitive in 2021-22 and a team to watch in the SEC.
Head coach: Mike Neighbors (5th season)
2020-2021 record: 19-9 (9-6 in SEC)
Conference finish: 5th
The Razorbacks have a talented young team that will be eager to make a statement in the SEC. They have signed talented freshmen in Maryam Dauda, Jersey Wofenbarger, Elauna Eaton, Emrie Ellis, Ashlyn Sage, and Samara Spencer, plus they;ll welcome Sasha Goforth from Oregon, who was a 5-star recruit a couple of years ago.
Head coach Mike Neighbors believes that this team has some dynamic players who are hungry to grow together and achieve success. He’ll have his Razorbacks playing an exciting and attacking brand of basketball. Arkansas isn’t one of the favorites to win this league, but it’s a team to keep your eye on that could make some noise in the SEC.
Head coach: Kristy Curry (9th season)
2020-2021 record: 17-10 (8-8 in SEC)
Conference finish: 6th
The Crimson Tide reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time in more than two decades last season and are expected to perform at a similar level in 2021-22. They will be led by Megan Abrams, Myra Gordon, Allie Craig Cruce, and JaMya Mingo-Young, who transferred in from Mississippi. But after losing top players Jasmine Walker, Ariyah Copeland, and Jordan Lewis, Alabama will be in a bit of a rebuilding mode.
Alabama will be hungry to perform and has good pieces on both sides of the ball. Monitor the Crimson Tide as one of the lowkey contenders in the conference.
Purgatory: Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Missouri
Head coach: Yolett McPhee-McCuin (4th season)
2020-2021 record: 15-12 (4-10 in SEC)
Conference finish: 9th
The Lady Rebels retained the core of their team from last season. The team will be led by SEC Freshman of the Year Madison Scott and the talented Shakira Austin. The Lady Rebels also kept Caitlin McGee, Iyanla Kitchens, Andeija Puckett, Snudda Collins, Donnetta Johnson, and Mimi Reid. Transfers Lashonda Monk and Destiny Salary will add depth to the Rebels squad.
But Ole Miss will need to get better at closing out and winning close games to mount any form of challenge in the competitive environment of SEC women’s basketball. But it does have a team that’s capable of beating the best teams in the league on the right day and could find itself in the top half of the standings come the campaign’s close.
Head coach: Nikki McCray-Penson (2nd season)
2020-2021 record: 10-9 (5-9 in SEC)
Conference finish: 8th
Mississippi State has lost some of its top players via the transfer portal and hasn’t added enough quality to replace what’s been lost. It will have to depend on Anastasia Hayes, Raven Farley, and Rickea Jackson to provide leadership for the group. Other experienced players on the roster, like Myah Taylor, will need to provide significant support.
The Bulldogs might struggle in the fiercely-competitive SEC with the roster they have for the 2021-22 season.
Head coach: Robin Pingeton (12th season)
2020-2021 record: 9-13 (5-9 in SEC)
Conference finish: 10th
The Tigers will be hard-pressed to be competitive in the SEC in the upcoming season. They have some decent players, such as Hayley Frank, Lauren Hansen, Aijha Blackwell, and Sara-Rose Smith leading the charge; however, their supporting cast is not as good as they’d want it to be.
It was a tough season for Missouri in 2020-21, and I don’t think it’s done enough to bolster its roster in the offseason to expect a much better finish in the league this time around. While a lot of the SEC improved, I’m not sure if Mizzou did, at least not enough.
Basement: Florida, Auburn, Vanderbilt
Head coach: Kelly Rae Finley (1st season)
2020-2021 record: 12-14 (3-11 in SEC)
Conference finish: 12th
Florida will hope for much better than last season under new interim head coach Kelly Rae Finley. Experienced guard Kiara Smith is staying in Gainesville for 2021-22 and will lead the team’s offense, along with Second Team All-SEC forward Lavender Briggs, who averaged more than 19 points and 6.5 rebounds per game in 2020-21.
But apart from those two players, the rest of the team will be trying to make names for themselves and help the Gators be the best they can be with their limited resources.
Head coach: Johnnie Harris (1st season)
2020-2021 record: 5-19 (0-15 in SEC)
Conference finish: 13th
Head coach Johnnie Harris has managed to retain a good chunk of the team that was at Auburn before her entrance into the program in April; Honesty Scott-Grayson, Annie Hughes, Romi Levy, and Aicha Coulibaly form the mainstay of Auburn’s squad.
The Tigers have, however, not added any elite-level talent. They will again struggle to win games in the well-stacked SEC.
Head coach: Shea Ralph (1st season)
2020-2021 record: 4-4 (0-3 in SEC)
Conference finish: 14th
Vanderbilt had a truncated season in 2020-21 for several reasons, including COVID-19, opt outs, and injuries. The program hit rock bottom with the termination of head coach Stephanie White after three of its best players – Koi Love (Arizona), Autumn Newby (LSU), and Chelsie Hall (Louisville) – all left the team.
New head coach Shea Ralph will have her work cut out for in 2021-22. She doesn’t have a quality roster and will have to work hard to keep the tea motivated. Hopefully, the Commodores be able to put some performances together, but I think they’ll be much closer to the bottom of the conference than the top this year.
2021-22 SEC Women’s Basketball Players to Watch
Rhyne Howard – Guard – Senior – Kentucky
Rhyne Howard is probably the biggest superstar in the SEC. She was the league’s Player of the Year in 2020 and 2021 and is a favorite to take the honor again in 2022.
Howard will lead Kentucky’s offense with her exciting play and should decimate all defenders in her wake. She is the only player in the country who averaged more than 19 points and 7.5 rebounds per game in 2020-21, and it’s frightening what she might achieve with another year of maturity and work behind her.
Raven Johson – Guard – Freshman – South Carolina
Raven Johnson is one of the most exciting prospects to enter SEC women’s basketball in 2021-22. She’s highly regarded as probably the best all-around player to come out of Georgia in decades. She won four championships in her high school career and should be a starter in a power-packed Gamecocks squad.
Johnson should have an immediate impact in the SEC and play a leading role in South Carolina’s push for a national championship. I know I’ll be watching her progress!
Madison Scott – Forward – Sophomore – Ole Miss
Madison Scott is the reigning Freshman of the Year and young leader of an Ole Miss team that hopes to use her talent as a springboard for better results in the upcoming season. Scott is exceptional, both in the frontcourt and backcourt, and can do everything on the basketball court. It will be a joy to watch her exciting, fast-paced play in 2021-22, and she should make the All-SEC Team if she remains healthy and plays to her full potential.
2021-22 MEN’S & WOMEN’S COLLEGE BASKETBALL CONFERENCE PREVIEWS
Learn more about the upcoming 2021-22 men’s and women’s college basketball seasons with Nothing But Nylon’s extensive conference previews, with a new conference covered every week before the campaign tips off in November.