Since its introduction into the women’s basketball game in 1982, the NCAAW Tournament has always featured the Lady Vols. Tennessee’s women’s basketball program has never once missed the tournament over the last 37 seasons.
But that could change this season unless things turn around over the next month.
The Lady Vols (15-8, 4-6 SEC) suffered another historic loss on Sunday when they fell to No. 6 Mississippi State (22-1, 10-0 SEC) by a score of 91-63. That loss was not only the largest margin of defeat the Lady Vols have suffered at the hands of the Lady Bulldogs, but it also marked the worst defeat the Lady Vols have had in any SEC game period.
After that loss, the Lady Vols are in real danger of missing out on the NCAAW Tournament for the first time in school history.
Charlie Creme does the bracketology for women’s basketball for ESPN, and heading into Sunday’s game he had the Lady Vols as one of the last four teams making it into the tournament. But after that blowout loss, he’s now moved Tennessee to one of the “first four out” of the tournament, and they’re no longer in his projected field of 68 teams for the women’s tournament.
For a program that’s made it to the tournament for 37-straight years and owns eight NCAAW titles, missing the tournament would not only be unprecedented, but it would be a major black eye for the entire program.
Not only have the Lady Vols never missed a NCAAW Tournament, but they’ve never even earned a double-digit seed in the tournament. Their worst seeding came three years ago when they were given a No. 7 seed in the 2016 tournament. But even that team caught fire in the postseason, and Tennessee made it to the Elite Eight that season.
The last two years, the Lady Vols have failed to make it past the second round of the tournament. Those two years marked only the second and third instances that the Lady Vols have failed to make it to at least the Round of 16 in any version of the NCAAW Tournament.
This season, the Lady Vols are in danger of several bad historic firsts, which has been a troubling trend in the Holly Warlick era. Tennessee has never been worse than .500 in conference play since joining the SEC in 1982. They went 4-4 in the 1984-85 season and 8-8 in the 2015-16 season, but they’ve never finished with a losing record in SEC play.
Right now, the Lady Vols are three losses away from earning that notorious distinction.
Tennessee has also never lost more than 14 games in a single season. Their eight losses in 23 games this year matches their total number of losses in 33 games last season.
Of the Lady Vols’ eight losses so far this season, four have come by double digits. And three of those four losses have come by 15 points or more.
The Lady Vols will be back in action on Thursday night in Knoxville as they host Auburn (18-6, 6-5 SEC) for a 7:00 PM Eastern tip-off. Tennessee defeated the Lady Tigers 78-69 earlier this season.