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Vols headline SEC women's tourney visit to Duluth

DULUTH - The University of Tennessee women dominated the Southeastern Conference regular season, posting their eighth perfect league season.

There is hope, however, for Georgia and the other teams going up against the No. 2 nationally ranked Volunteers in the SEC Women's Basketball Tournament being held for the first time at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.

Only twice in the other seven times that Tennessee went unbeaten in the SEC regular season did coach Pat Summitt's team also win the tourney title.

Does that bit of history have any meaning this year? Georgia coach Andy Landers is just glad that he isn't in the same side of the bracket as the powerful Vols or LSU.

"I am tickled to death," Landers, addressing reporters after Georgia's final regular-season game, said of the pairings. "They deserve each other. They can put them in a different tournament if they want to."

Georgia won three of the first seven SEC women's tournaments, but the only one in the 20 seasons since came in 2001. The culprit has usually been Tennessee - winners of six NCAA championships - or LSU.

By winning its last five games and 10 of 11, Georgia got a No. 2 seed this year and can't play either top-seeded Tennessee or No. 4 seed LSU until the title game Sunday night.

Tennessee, which has won 12 SEC tournaments, has likely locked up a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament even if the Vols (27-2) don't win the SEC title. Georgia (24-5), third-seeded Vanderbilt (24-6) and LSU (24-6) are trying to improve their NCAA standing, while other teams are just trying to make a case for getting in.

The SEC placed six teams in the NCAA Tournament last year but may have to settle for five this time, with Ole Miss (20-9) joining the top four teams. The league has four teams ranked in the best 13 teams, but none in the remainder of the Top 25. Georgia is 10th, LSU 11th and Vanderbilt 13th.

Tennessee closed the regular season strong, winning at LSU and then routing Vanderbilt at home. Summitt's team is built around national player of the year candidate Candance Parker and a smothering defense.

"I would consider this team one of our best defensive teams ever," Summitt, whose 940 victories lead all of college basketball, told reporters after the Vanderbilt game. "The '98 team was the best. They were terrific. This team is getting better. Certain players bring it every night."

Parker averages over 20 points, but Tennessee has been inconsistent offensively otherwise despite all its success.

"We haven't shot as well and haven't made our free throws," Summitt said. "Defense has been a key. When we weren't scoring, our defense affected other teams well. We were able to get people to turn the ball over. With our defense, we have the ability to create scoring opportunities. That is a key."

Georgia didn't come within 10 points in either regular-season loss to Tennessee, but Landers hopes that his team is peaking at the right time.

"We are a better basketball team in the last two weeks than we have been all year," Landers said, "and we still haven't had everyone play great together."

The Bulldogs also will have the advantage of being near home, although Tennessee fans are still expected to make up a large part of the crowds at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.

The last time the SEC women's tournament was held in Georgia was 1998, in Columbus. After moving away from campus sites, the tourney was held in Albany from 1986-92 and then Chattanooga, Tenn. from 1993-97. It has moved around since.

The tournament was held in North Little Rock, Ark., in 2006, with Tennessee edging LSU for its second consecutive championship. Georgia's last title came at Memphis in 2001.