March 2, 2021 

Three things to see at the 2021 SEC Tournament

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Unique's moment, Nikki McCray debuts as postseason SEC coach and a title game for the ages

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Women’s Basketball fans, get your popcorn ready! The 2021 SEC Women’s Tournament is set.

In women’s basketball, the SEC is truly in a league of its own. There’s never a dull moment in this conference full of legendary coaches, high-impact players, and historic rivalries that are fun to watch. It’s always an exciting rollercoaster ride right to the very end.

The Lady Aggies of Texas A&M earned the No. 1 seed and the bye. South Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia also earned a bye into the quarterfinals.

As the tournament prepares to begin, with all games taking place at Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, South Carolina, here’s a look at both the schedule and three things I’m most looking forward to.

Unique Thompson and the Auburn University Tigers – Can they finally get an SEC win?

It’s been a tough season for the Auburn University Tigers and their star player Unique Thompson. The team was knocked into a tailspin after seven players transferred following the 2019-20 season. The team began an immediate rebuild, with Thompson remaining loyal and staying at Auburn to close out her collegiate career.

The process of rebuilding was evident in this year’s record – Auburn finished SEC play without a single win at 0-15. They finished their season overall at 5-18. The bright spot has been Thompson.

Just last week the senior forward broke the school’s rebound record of 1,118 set by Becky Jackson (1980-84) when she grabbed her 10th rebound of the game in a matchup with the Mississippi State Bulldogs. She finished the game with 14 rebounds, 22 points, and two assists. She also finished with her 56th career double-double. She also holds the record for this in Auburn program history as well.

Auburn head coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said after last week’s recording-breaking game by Thompson: “You look at when the record was set, and now it’s 2021 that it’s being broke, that speaks kudos to Unique Thompson for what she’s done in her four years at Auburn. It’s been tough for her, being the only senior and having to put us on her back and carry us with so many newcomers, but she’s done a great job.”

Thompson – ever a rebounding and post-up threat – is a finalist for the Katrina McClain Award which is given to the nation’s top power forward. It’s been a tough season but I’m looking forward to seeing Thompson play and maybe, just maybe, power Auburn to its first SEC win.

Mississippi State’s Nikki McCray in her first SEC conference tournament as a head coach     

McCray-Penson is no stranger to the SEC. She spent nine years next to Dawn Staley as an assistant with the South Carolina Gamecocks. She then spent three years as head coach at Conference USA’s Old Dominion – eventually winning Coach of the Year – but, as I mentioned earlier, there’s no conference like the SEC.

The first-year coach at Mississippi State is already a winner of four SEC championships and a national title as an assistant at South Carolina. The Hall-of-Famer is a two-time SEC Player of the Year and a three-time SEC Champion with Tennessee.

She and the Bulldogs had a top recruiting class this year but finished 5-7 in SEC play and 10-8 overall and landed at the 8th seed. The team, like their coach, is tough. They will face No. 9 seed LSU and head coach Nikki Fargas – who just happens to be McCray-Penson’s former Lady Vols teammate and close friend.

This LSU/Mississippi State game will be a fun matchup; friends, former teammates, colleagues, rivals. I’m looking forward to seeing who prevails.

The Championship Game

There’s nothing like a championship game; in any sport, with any matchup, at any time. But especially in the SEC.

COVID-19 ended everyone’s season last year and continued to wreak havoc this season with canceled games, players and coaches missing games, and one team – Vanderbilt – shutting down its season altogether.

All the teams in the SEC battled through so much to make it to the end. No matter what two teams are left standing, they ALL are champions. I can’t wait to see the championship game and see who claims it all.

2021 SEC women’s basketball tournament schedule. All times Central.

First-round

Wednesday, March 3

Game 1: No. 12 seed Florida vs. No. 13 seed Auburn, 3 p.m. on SEC Network

Second round

Thursday, March 4

Game 2:  No. 8 seed LSU vs. No. 9 seed Mississippi State, 10 a.m. on SEC Network

Game 3:  No. 5 seed Kentucky vs. Game 1 winner, 25 min. after Game 2 on SEC Network

Game 4:  No. 7 seed Alabama vs. No. 10 seed Missouri, 5 p.m. on SEC Network

Game 5:  No. 6 seed Arkansas vs. No. 11 seed Ole Miss, 25 min. after Game 4 on SEC Network

Friday, March 5

Game 6:  No. 1 seed Texas A&M vs. Game 2 winner, 10 a.m. on SEC Network

Game 7:  No. 4 seed Georgia vs. Game 3 winner, 25 min. after Game 6 on SEC Network

Game 8:  No. 2 seed South Carolina vs. Game 4 winner, 5 p.m. on SEC Network

Game 9:  No. 3 seed Tennessee vs. Game 5 winner, 25 min. after Game 8 on SEC Network

Semifinals

Saturday, March 6

Game 10: Game 6 winner vs. Game 7 winner, 3 p.m. on ESPNU

Game 11:  Game 8 winner vs. Game 9 winner, 25 min. after Game 10 on ESPNU

Finals

Sunday, March 7

Championship Game: Game 10 winner vs. Game 11 winner, 1 p.m. on ESPN2

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