Just In:Kim Caldwell’s Lady Vols aren’t quite prepared to take on UConn just yet. Can she turn that around?

Rekindling the UConn-Tennessee rivalry is exciting, but Kim Caldwell still has work to do in terms of building her roster. Tennessee has brought in three transfer players, but there’s more to be done. With Texas and Oklahoma joining the SEC, the conference is set to be even more competitive next season. This added challenge will push Tennessee’s NCAA Tournament streak to its limits.

Coaching the Lady Vols requires facing the nation’s top teams, and Kim Caldwell is set for that challenge in her debut season at Tennessee. The Lady Vols will host UConn, marking the return of a rivalry that took a one-year break last season. Once, this intense competition between blue-blood programs and the epic clashes between coaching legends Pat Summitt and Geno Auriemma were the pinnacle of women’s college basketball. Although the rivalry has lost some of its former intensity and both programs are in transition, UConn is riding high after a Final Four run, while Tennessee is working to regain its footing.

Will the Lady Vols be ready to take on UConn in Kim Caldwell’s first season as head coach?

In this episode of “The Volunteer State,” Blake Toppmeyer from the USA TODAY Network and the News Sentinel’s Cora Hall and John Adams discuss the revival of the historic rivalry between Tennessee and UConn. They explore whether the Lady Vols have what it takes to face one of the top programs in the nation in Caldwell’s inaugural season. With Tennessee still in transition and UConn consistently competitive, this matchup will be a significant test for the Lady Vols.

They also assess Caldwell’s first month on the job and her efforts to boost the roster through transfer portal additions. And they evaluate Tennessee’s chance to keep its NCAA Tournament appearance streak alive in Caldwell’s debut.

Here’s a snippet of their analysis:

The Lady Vols will host UConn next season. What to make of the rivalry’s renewal?

Toppmeyer suggests that these storied programs, Tennessee and UConn, should meet every year. Their rivalry was once a major driving force in women’s basketball, and as the sport continues to gain popularity, it seems fitting for such a classic matchup to be part of the landscape. Although neither program is quite at its former level, with UConn closer to its peak than Tennessee, the rivalry still carries weight. Even if it’s not as intense as it once was, a rivalry that’s past its prime is still preferable to having no rivalry at all.

Hall believes that the Tennessee-UConn rivalry serves as a valuable reminder of women’s basketball history, especially as the sport experiences tremendous growth. While new fans are joining the women’s basketball community, many might not be familiar with its past. The Tennessee-UConn rivalry, even if it has lost some of its previous relevance, helps highlight the heritage of two programs that played significant roles in the sport’s development. It offers a chance for newer audiences to appreciate the history and traditions that shaped women’s basketball into what it is today.

Adams contends that the Tennessee-UConn game should be played, acknowledging that it’s one of the few decisions of Pat Summitt’s he disagreed with, when she ended the series after the 2007 game. While he understood her reasons, he felt the rivalry’s benefits for both programs outweighed any downsides. Despite its diminishing relevance, the rivalry still carries significant weight for those who have followed women’s basketball over the past three decades. It stands as one of the few matchups that truly capture the spirit and history of the sport. Even if it has become somewhat outdated, the UConn-Tennessee rivalry still draws interest and excitement.


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