Last week, in Thursday's 70-66 win over in-state rival Vanderbilt, Tennessee clinched its fourth consecutive SEC regular season championship.
In doing so, the Lady Vols became the first team ever to win four in a row. Both Tennessee, in 1993-1995, and Auburn, in 1987-1989, held the previous record of three consecutive titles.
The numbers for the Lady Vols don't end there.
With Sunday's 64-49 victory at Auburn, the Lady Vols secured a perfect 14-0 record for the 2000-2001 SEC regular season. Tennessee has gone undefeated in SEC play five times since league play began. Only once, though, since the inception of the 14-game rotation, have the Lady Vols gone through the season with no losses.
That team was the 1998 squad which went undefeated for the entire season a miraculous 39-0 en route to the Lady Vols' sixth national title.
What's even more amazing, at least to me, is how this year's squad compares, thus far, with that 1998 dominator.
Through the 14 regular season SEC matchups, the Lady Vols outscored their opponents by a cumulative total of 372 points. That works out to an average of a 26.6 point margin of victory for the Lady Vols against their SEC counterparts, many of whom have been ranked in the top 25 this season.
The 1998 team, in comparison, defeated the SEC by a total margin of 444 points. That amount tabulates to a 31.7-point average.
Keeping in mind that the 1998 team boasted the likes of Chamique Holdsclaw, Tamika Catchings and Semeka Randall. The 2001 team lost its star player midway through the season and still came away with only one loss. The five-point difference in margin of SEC victory of the two years seems rather small.
When Catchings' tore her ACL on Jan. 15, many in the basketball world said that now would be the time for Pat Summitt to show if she's really the supreme coach she's made out to be.
After watching the Lady Vols battle their way through a tough schedule this season, which included seven matchups against top-25 squads just in SEC play, I think it's safe to say Summitt knows exactly what she's doing.
Not only that, but her team also knows what it needs to do and accomplish as a whole day-in and day-out to come away at the end of the season with an unprecedented seventh national title.
Sunday's matchup against Auburn provided the perfect tune-up for the Lady Vols as they head into postseason play. No starter played more than Michelle Snow's 25 minutes. The reserves, therefore, were able to pick up valuable playing time something which will, in crunch time, become important for the depth of the Lady Vols.
The margin of lead in the second half of the Auburn game at one point stretched to 29 points. Then Summitt inserted a lineup of bench players, at times playing all four freshmen. The lead then fluctuated, but was still out of the Lady Tigers' reach.
In all the years that I've been watching basketball, I'd never heard the regular season referred to as a tune-up.
Well, with Summitt's program, the regular season is indeed a tune-up. Summitt and her squads seem to work best when March Madness hits.
March is now here, and tomorrow, the Lady Vols begin their march towards another national title. They know exactly what needs to be done in order to win and how many games are left until that national championship matchup.
After last Thursday's win over Vandy, senior forward Semeka Randall announced that she wasn't going to cry on senior night.
I was going to try not to cry, because it's not the end, Randall said. The end will be April 1. That's exactly 38 days from today. I'm not sure how many hours. On April 1, it will be happy tears.
The first step toward those happy tears starts tomorrow when the Lady Vols take on the winner of the Auburn-Alabama game in the SEC Tournament at 1 p.m. (Fox Sports Net). They will be trying to set another record and win their fourth consecutive SEC Tournament title.
This time, Tennessee is looking forward to the fulfillment at the finish of the postseason primetime for the Lady Vols.
Success no stranger to Lady Vols with fourth SEC title
Published: Thu Mar 01, 2001 | Modified: Sat Aug 06, 2005 03:31 p.m.