Strength of schedule reaches Summitt at Tennessee
Updated: January 27, 2004, 11:48 PM ETBy Charlie Creme | Special to ESPN.com
Editor's note: Charlie Creme will project the 2004 NCAA Tournament bracket each month throughout the season. Click here for a glance at this month's field of 64, and be sure to check out Creme's take on each team.When it comes to practice, game strategy, academics and recruiting, discipline is the juice coursing through Pat Summitt's veins.
But when it comes to scheduling, the Tennessee coach seems to throw it out the window, instead playing the role of a high-stakes blackjack professional: Put it all on the table, let ride, let's play anyone, anywhere. Summitt's killer nonconference schedule is nothing new, but this season seemed even more extreme than usual. Every single pre-SEC opponent is tournament worthy (then there is Connecticut later on). At least last season had Army, St. Louis, and USC mixed in. Coming off the graduations of standout leaders Kara Lawson and Gwen Jackson, it hardly seemed an appropriate year for blockbuster after blockbuster. Yet the Lady Vols have more than survived. They've thrived. Against all comers, home, away, and neutral, Tennessee is still unbeaten and back in the familiar position of a No. 1 seed. Even at a time of year when, in trying to project an NCAA field, evaluating what is and what isn't a quality win for most remains difficult, Tennessee's schedule eliminates all mystery. We all know, even now, winning at Stanford, DePaul and Oklahoma in a seven-day stretch is the most impressive run any club has enjoyed this season. More amazing is that fact that Tennessee doesn't need to go this far. With the SEC competition ahead, the marathon is grueling enough with perhaps just Connecticut and Louisiana Tech sprinkled in. Not to mention that simply by performing well in the conference the Lady Vols are a virtual cinch to make it to March.
Pat Summitt's nonconference schedule is tough, and she wouldn't have it any other way.
|Did your favorite team get left out? Don't like that seed? Can't believe Vanderbilt didn't make the cut? Tell us about it. Click here to send your comment to Charlie Creme. We'll publish the best responses and Creme's answers later this week.|
|1. Connecticut||1. Tennessee||1. Texas||1. Duke|
|2. Texas Tech||2. Minnesota||2. Penn State||2. Stanford|
|3. Purdue||3. Kansas State||3. North Carolina||3. Georgia|
|4. Louisiana Tech||4. Virginia Tech||4. Oklahoma||4. LSU|
|5. Vanderbilt||5. Michigan State||5. Ohio State||5. Colorado|
|6. Oregon||6. Boston College||6. Villanova||6. Utah|
|7. Baylor||7. Old Dominion||7. Washington||7. UC Santa Barbara|
|8. TCU||8. Clemson||8. Arizona||8. Auburn|
|9. George Washington||9. Miami||9. South Carolina||9. DePaul|
|10. Notre Dame||10. Richmond||10. Arkansas||10. Rutgers|
|11. N.C. State||11. New Mexico||11. California||11. Georgia Tech|
|12. Chattanooga||12. Southwest Missouri State||12. Xavier||12. UW-Green Bay|
|13. Loyola Marymount||13. Liberty||13. Eastern Michigan||13. South Alabama|
|14. Harvard||14. Valparaiso||14. Marist||14. Montana|
|15. Hartford||15. Army||15. St. Francis (Pa.)||15. SE Missouri State|
|16. Coppin State||16. Georgia State||16. Northwestern State||16. Jackson State|
Last four out: Alabama, Florida, Maryland, Nebraska Charlie Creme can be reached at email@example.com.