KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Kellie Harper’s first year as coach of the Tennessee women’s basketball team will mirror the ones she faced as a player.
The Lady Vols will face four Elite Eight teams from a year ago, including two Final Four teams, during its 2019-20 campaign. Harper will take the program reins after leading Missouri State to a Sweet 16 appearance in last season’s NCAA Tournament.
The schedule was finalized Wednesday with the release of the 2020 Southeastern Conference women’s basketball schedule by the league office in Birmingham, Alabama.
The women’s basketball television schedule will be announced at a later date, as will tip times for all games.
Tennessee will play eight of its first 12 games at home, including a stretch of six straight from Nov. 14 to Dec. 11. The Lady Vols will meet Air Force, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Colorado State, Howard and Portland State for the first time ever.
UT’s first Final Four opponent will be Notre Dame on Nov. 11. The Lady Vols will travel to South Bend, Indiana. Tennessee will renew its rivalry with UConn on Jan. 23 in the middle of conference play. That game is already set for a 7 p.m. tipoff in Hartford, Connecticut.
After a six-game home stand running from Nov. 14 to Dec. 11, the Lady Vols will travel to the West Coast for games against Stanford (Dec. 18) and Portland State (Dec. 21).
Conference play will begin on Thursday, Jan. 2, and run through Sunday, March 1. The schedule consists of a single round robin (10 games) and home and away with one permanent opponent (two games) and two rotating opponents (four games).
This marks the 11th year of the 16-game schedule for women’s basketball and the eighth with 14 teams. Each team will play eight home games and eight away games.
The Lady Vols open SEC action at home vs. Missouri on Jan. 2 before hitting the road for back-to-back games at No. 13 Kentucky and Ole Miss on Jan. 5 and 9, respectively.
In addition to its battle vs. Kentucky, Tennessee will face ranked SEC foes in home games vs. No. 9 Mississippi State (Feb. 6) and No. 10 Texas A&M (Feb. 16), as well as road contests vs. No. 7 South Carolina (Feb. 2) and No. 19 Arkansas (Feb. 10).
The remaining home schedule includes Georgia (Jan. 12), Alabama (Jan. 20), LSU (Jan. 26), Vanderbilt (Feb. 23) and Ole Miss (Feb. 27).
Other SEC road trips include stops at Florida (Jan. 16), Vanderbilt (Jan. 30), LSU (Feb. 13) and Auburn (March 1).
Tennessee released its non-conference slate on June 5. The Lady Vols host Carson-Newman in an exhibition game on Oct. 29. After opening the regular season on the road at East Tennessee State on Nov. 5, UT plays eight of its next 11 in Thompson-Boling Arena.
The league’s permanent opponents for women’s basketball are Alabama-Auburn, Arkansas-Missouri, Florida-Georgia, Kentucky-South Carolina, LSU-Texas A&M, Ole Miss-Mississippi State and Tennessee-Vanderbilt. UT’s two rotating foes this season are LSU and Ole Miss.
CLICK HERE: Full SEC women’s basketball schedule
The regular season will be followed by the 2020 SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament, which will be held for the fourth time at Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, South Carolina. The tournament includes all 14 teams beginning Wednesday, March 4, and concludes with the championship game Sunday, March 8.
The Lady Vols return six letterwinners, including two starters from last season’s squad that finished 19-13 overall and made its 38th-straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
In 15 seasons as a head coach, Harper is 285-208 and is one of only 11 coaches to lead three different women’s programs to NCAA Tournament appearances (Western Carolina/NC State/Missouri State). She has directed teams to 12 postseason appearances (5 NCAA/7 WNIT).
Harper was 118-79 at MSU in six seasons, earning 2019 Kay Yow Coach of the Year and 2019 MVC Coach of the Year accolades.