The ’23-’24 regular season is here! The #11 Lady Vols will host Florida A&M tonight then travel to #18 Florida State to start what will be a tough non-conference schedule. Kellie Harper’s squad won’t quite face the gauntlet that was last season, but this schedule should provide plenty before heading into SEC play.
Tennessee will face six teams that saw NCAA tournament action a year ago, four of which are entering the season ranked in the top 25. What the Lady Vols have going into this year that they didn’t have last year is experience, and, more specifically, experience playing at a program with the Lady Vols history. Kelli Harper’s team is veteran heavy with five senior and fifth year players and a slew of juniors behind them. The only starters lost from last year’s team being stat-stuffer Jordan Horston and Jordan Walker. Replacing Horston will be the bigger task, but there are plenty of players who can step up.
#18 Florida State will be a great early test to see exactly where this team is, particularly on defense. If they can handle business there, it should be straight forward until Thanksgiving.
The last two weeks of November see this team facing #9 Indiana and Oklahoma in the Elevance Health Women’s Forty Myers Tip-Off and then #10 Notre Dame and #7 Ohio State both in Knoxville. The Indiana and Ohio State match ups will be rematches from a year ago both of which were very early in the season, and fans should expect a much tighter, if not a different result, in both.
Now, with all of that out of the way, what are the realistic best, and worst, case scenarios for the pre-season this year?
Best case, if everyone stays healthy and outside shooting picks up, Tennessee should be competitive in every game it plays this season. Realistically, best case scenario is to go into the SEC with only one loss, most likely to the full court press from Ohio State. There is a decent chance that the Lady Vols could go undefeated in pre-season if transfers Destiny Wells, Jewel Spear, and Avery Strickland find their previous shooting form and Tamari Key returns to her pre-diagnosis level of play.
Worst case scenario is Tennessee can’t find their grove offensively and turnovers continue to plague the back court. In that case they enter the SEC with a 7-5 record and no ranked wins putting a lot of pressure on the team to win a top-heavy SEC.