#17 Tennessee Women's Basketball 2012-13 Preview

Tennessee Lady Volunteers

Overall Rank: #17
Conference Rank: #4 SEC
Tennessee Women's Basketball 2012-2013 Team Preview
Tennessee Team Page


The biggest news at Tennessee is, of course, on the sidelines. Coach Holly Warlick takes over the head coaching job for the Lady Volunteers after a long career dedicated to the program. Coach Warlick played at Tennessee from 1976 to 1980. Over the next four years she was an assistant at Virginia Tech and Nebraska. In 1985 she returned to Knoxville and has been on the Tennessee sideline ever since. As far as getting a coach who knows the program, Tennessee could not have found a more qualified person. Replacing an icon is usually tough, but for Coach Warlick it is not that much different than the last 25 years.

2011-12 Record: 27-9, 12-4
2011-12 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Holly Warlick
Coach Record: First season at Tennessee, 0-0 overall

Tennessee always has talent and this year will be no different. Much of the returning talent is on the perimeter where Ariel Massengale, Meighan Simmons and Taber Spani return to lead the Lady Vols back to the NCAA Tournament. Massengale started 24 games as a freshman and led the squad with 4.9 assists and 1.4 steals per game. She is not a major scoring threat at this point in her career, but Massengale is a capable outside shooter. More importantly, she will always play tough defense and take care of the ball. Simmons figures to take on a bigger scoring role during her junior campaign. She was a part-time starter during the 2011-2012 campaign as well, but is the team’s top returning scorer with 11.1 points per game. Spani is a big, 6-1 guard who does most of her scoring from beyond the arc. She can shoot over most opposing guards or small forwards and that makes her a dangerous scorer at times. The frontcourt has much less experience returning, but still has plenty of potential. Cierra Burdick showed flashes as a freshman. She only averaged 13.5 minutes per game due to the talent in front of her, but she will be asked to do a lot more on both ends of the floor now. The same is true for fellow sophomore Isabelle Harrison. The 6-3 center was very productive in her limited playing time a year ago and just needs to stay out of foul trouble in order to see a major boost in minutes.

The Lady Volunteers have been slumping, at least by their standards, over the last couple of years. Much of that has been due to a slight let up on the defensive end. Coach Warlick plans on changing that. Tennessee will continue to bring in great talent, but that great talent will have to play defense too. The other issue this season is the lack of experience. Replacing the production of departed players like Shekinna Stricklen, Glory Johnson and Vicki Baugh is one thing, but replacing their leadership is another. This team has just two seniors on the roster and one junior. There are five players suiting up for the Lady Vols for the first time, including four freshmen. Inexperience will be a theme for Tennessee all season long and how well the upperclassmen take on the leadership role and how quickly the freshmen and sophomores adjust will go a long way in determining how well this season goes for Coach Warlick.  

Final Projection:
Freshmen will go through some growing pains, but there are not many coaches who would turn down this group of newcomers. Transfer Jasmine Phillips brings a bit more experience to the backcourt after dominating at the junior college level last season. Andraya Carter is the point guard of the future and possibly an off guard of the present. With Massengale running the point, Carter will at least back her up and has the potential to see more minutes at the shooting guard position. The most highly regarded freshman is forward Bashaara Graves. Jasmine Jones and Nia Moore are not too shabby either. Those three will need to at least provide quality depth off of the bench right away, but all three can do so much more. And they probably will sooner rather than later. And that leaves Tennessee as a team that will be very tough to beat by the time conference play begins. Anybody who takes it easy against Tennessee is making a big mistake and many teams may find that out the hard way.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA

Projected Starting Five:
Ariel Massengale, Sophomore, Guard, 7.4 points per game
Meighan Simmons, Junior, Guard, 11.1 points per game
Taber Spani, Senior, Guard, 6.6 points per game
Cierra Burdick, Sophomore, Forward, 4.6 points per game
Bashaara Graves, Freshman, Forward, DNP last season

Madness 2013 WNBA Draft Rankings:
#24 Taber Spani
#27 Kamiko Williams

Madness 2012 Women’s Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#7 Bashaara Graves
#15 Andraya Carter
#29 Jasmine Jones