Louisiana Tech beat Cheyney 76-62 in the inaugural NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament to become the first ever NCAA Women’s Basketball Champions in 1982. Prior to that game, in the Final Four, Louisiana Tech downed the Tennessee women’s basketball team 69-46 to earn its spot in the championship.
Since that first tournament, the Lady Vols have made an appearance in every single tournament since — a 36-year long streak that no other team in women’s basketball can claim. In that span, they have appeared in 18 final fours and won eight National Championships, second most in NCAA women’s basketball history.
They won their first early in the game, in 1987, the first for legendary head coach Pat Summitt. She holds all eight national title wins for Tennessee.
The team’s dominant streak may come to an end this year. The Lady Vols are in the midst of one of the worst seasons in the team’s history. A six-game losing streak earlier in the season tied for the longest in team history, and they lost more than three conference games in a row for the first time.
They just came off of one of the worst losses in recent memory, a 91-63 decision against the No. 6 Mississippi State Bulldogs. With a 15-8 overall record and a 4-6 record in conference play, Tennessee’s tournament odds are beginning to trend downward.
Charlie Creme, a women’s basketball bracketologist for ESPN, has the Lady Vols listed as one of the first four teams out of the NCAA Tournament. In addition, he listed them as one of five teams moving out of the tournament.
The tournament has not been kind to Tennessee in the past couple of years, as it has failed to advance past the second round since 2016. Not making the tournament would be a first ... And not in a positive way.
Though their stock is trending downward, it does not mean all hope is lost for the Lady Vols. They still have a chance to close out the season strong, with the SEC Tournament still looming.
Six games remain on their schedule, all of them being in-conference. On Thursday night, they play Auburn, a team that they beat on the road earlier in the season. Outside of that matchup, two ranked teams remain on the schedule.
On February 21, they hit the road to face the 21st ranked Texas A&M Aggies. Three days later, they welcome the No. 11 South Carolina Gamecocks to the Summitt. If Tennessee can win three to four more games in the regular season, than the NCAA Tournament certainly is not out of the question.
The SEC Tournament also provides Tennessee an opportunity to further build its resume. The team that wins its conference tournament gets an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament. Even if the Lady Vols could make it to the final, that would do a lot for their hopes.
It seems as if Tennessee may be facing an uphill battle, though, if it wants to avoid missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time in team history. Only time will tell.