An NCAA statistical breakdown of women’s basketball schedules ranks Tennessee’s schedule tougher than many might think.
Based on the collective records of their opponents, the Lady Vols schedule was ranked third overall through games of Jan. 26. Tennessee’s opposition through last Sunday’s game at Texas A&M had a combined record of 252-118 and a winning percentage of .681. By this formula, Ohio State (.716) and LSU (.698) were the only schools whose schedules were ranked tougher than Tennessee’s.
Tennessee’s future opponents might enhance the ranking. Their combined records were 123-55 (.691).
For those who prefer RPI, the Lady Vols were ranked seventh by RealTimeRPI.com before Thursday night’s game against Arkansas with a score of .6756.
Hard for any Tennessee Lady Vol to wrest Sunday’s storyline away from guards Meighan Simmons and Andraya Carter.
Mercedes Russell tried anyway.
UT’s 6-foot-6 freshman center arguably had the best game of her young career in a 76-55 SEC women’s basketball victory at Texas A&M.
The case wasn’t made solely with statistics. Her only significant achievement was a season-high 11 rebounds. She’s had better scoring games than the eight points she had. And her 3-for-8 shooting from the floor was a far cry from her usual 59 percent accuracy.
What distinguished Russell’s play was her competitiveness, particularly considering her competition. She was up against A&M’s Karla Gilbert, a 6-5 senior who scored 14 points and grabbed 11 rebounds against Tennessee, eight of which were offensive boards.
Russell went right at Gilbert and achieved the best play of her rookie season early in the second half, when she grabbed an offensive rebound against Gilbert, drew her fourth foul and scored a conventional 3-point play.
Seven of Russell’s rebounds were offensive boards.
Kentucky women’s basketball coach Matthew Mitchell is doing his part to back Pat Summitt.
The former Tennessee graduate assistant and his wife, Jenna — in conjunction with their Mitchell Family Foundation — will donate $2 to Summitt’s foundation for every fan who attends the Wildcats’ next two games. Kentucky played Alabama Thursday night and will host Arkansas on Sunday.
The gesture is part of “We Back Pat” week, the week-long initiative designed to bring awareness to Summitt’s foundation and the fight against Alzheimer’s disease. Summitt now serves as the Lady Vols head coach emeritus.
Kentucky’s players will wear “We Back Pat” shooting shirts, and Mitchell and his coaching staff will wear purple to represent the fight against Alzheimer’s.
The NCAA has released some midseason statistics that indicate stricter officiating is boosting women’s basketball scoring.
Teams are averaging 68.14 points per game through the games of Jan. 16, which is a six-point increase over the end of last season. Field goal shooting has improved by 1.4 percent to 40.3
While fouls are are up, a plus-2.94 increase doesn’t constitute a huge jump.
The statistics suggest that curbing physical play is paying off in better offense.