Lady Vols Basketball vs Texas A&M
Rennia Davis, No. 0, and Rae Burrell, No. 12, make an attempt at rebounding a shot at Thompson-Boling Arena on Sunday, Feb. 16, 2020.

In previous seasons, the Lady Vols have never shied away from playing the top programs in college basketball. This year is nothing different.

On top of the already daunting SEC schedule, the Lady Vols will be playing one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the country for the 2021-2022 season.

Tennessee is slated to take on five teams ranked in the preseason top-25 in the non-conference slate, including two of the top-3 teams in the country, Stanford and Connecticut.

"Regardless of where I have coached, my philosophy has always been to challenge our team in the non-conference schedule,” head coach Kellie Harper said. “We understand what the SEC is going to be. We understand it's going to be a huge challenge. You're talking about the best conference in the country.”

“Our non-conference schedule needs to help push us to be the best team that we can be but also prepare us for our SEC schedule as well. You come to Tennessee to play the best. You come here to compete at an elite level. When we put our schedule together, that is what we are planning on doing."

The Lady Vols have tough assignments right out of the gate. After the home opener against Southern Illinois, they hit the road and head to Orlando for the first major road test of the season versus the University of Central Florida on Nov. 12.

Tennessee returns home the following week, but it doesn’t get any easier as the first slate of ranked opponents head to Thompson-Bowling Arena. They open the week on Nov. 15 against another team from the state of Florida in No. 21 South Florida, and conclude the week on Nov. 21 versus No. 25 Texas.

After the Lady Vols wrap up that slate of home games, they will head to Las Vegas for the South Point Thanksgiving Shootout. One Lady Vol in particular is pumped to return home and play in front of family and friends.

“I’m so excited, because I’m all the way in Tennessee and it’s not easy for them to come down here,” Las Vegas native, Rae Burrell said. “Especially for long distance friends and family, I am very excited for them to just see me play in person.”

Over the course of the Shootout, Tennessee will battle against Kansas on Nov. 26, before ending the tournament against Oklahoma State on Nov. 27.

The Lady Vols return home on Dec. 1 to take on in-state opponent Tennessee Tech before hitting the road again for another road test in Blacksburg against No. 24 Virginia Tech.

On Dec. 12, Tennessee is back home and taking on a lesser opponent in Georgia State, but the next program they face off is an entirely different story.

On Dec. 18, the reigning National Champions and the third-ranked team in the country, the Stanford Cardinal, comes to Knoxville in the biggest game of the season thus far. Historically, Tennessee has owned the Cardinal, as it has 25 wins and only 12 losses to Stanford. However, the last time the programs faced off in 2019, Stanford walloped Tennessee by 27 points, 78-51.

Following the massive game against Stanford, Tennessee has some tune-up games before getting conference play underway, in ETSU on Dec. 20 and Chattanooga on Dec. 27.

The final non-conference game slated for the Big Orange comes in the middle of the SEC season when the Lady Vols head to Hartford, Connecticut, to duel against No. 2 ranked UConn.

The two schools faced off every single season from 1995-2007 before taking a 13 year hiatus until they resumed the rivalry in 2020. UConn leads the series 15-9 and has won the last two, including a come-from-behind victory lead by the Naismith Player of the Year, Paige Bueckers, in Knoxville, 67-61.

These games will not be easy by any means for the Lady Vols, but each player and coach on the staff is looking forward to going against this quality of competition when the season starts on Nov. 10.

"I'm excited. I'm excited just to go against the competition and compete,” guard Jordan Walker said. “I know that our team is going to go out and compete every single night. Just to be able to play against teams like that is amazing.”

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