Number 5. Fanatical Fans
What kind of people take vacation days to go to a women's basketball tournament? They're the kind of people who love women's basketball and who love their favorite team.
They're the people who will drive for hours to cheer for their team, the kind of people who will paint their faces, spend hours designing costumes or making signs.
In short, they're fanatical fans.
Vanderbilt Bowling Shirt Ladies in front.
"Carol's Court" from Ole Miss in the back.
LSU Lady Tiger fans!
Georgia Lady Bulldogs fans!
Meanie Heads from the P.A.T. Summittorium!
Number 4. Great Players.
For example, Armintie Price from Ole Miss attracts a lot of attention for her eye-popping offensive statistics. But this year Price was voted the SEC's Defensive Player of the Year. Watching her boundless energy, busy hands, and long arms, it was easy to see why.
After the Tennessee Lady Vols defeated the LSU Lady Tigers 67-65 in the championship game, LSU point guard Temeka Johnson stood stoically beside the LSU bench while the Lady Vols broke into a jubilant on-court celebration.
A double double of 13 points and 12 assists in 40 minutes wasn't enough to carry her team to the championship. But the NCAA tourney lies ahead. Is that determination showing in her face?
3. School Spirit
The pep bands might be the most raucous fans in the entire arena. Not only do they provide musical entertainment, they also provide helpful advice to officials, taunt opposing players, and urge their own players to "D-UP!"
Most of the mascots perform on the court during timeouts, but "Colonel Reb" from Ole Miss stayed in the background, wandering amongst the fans like a ghost from the past. When the Lady Rebels lost to Georgia, he raised his cane in salute.
At the end of every game, the Kentucky pep band plays "My Old Kentucky Home" as the cheerleaders link arms and sing. It's always a sweet, sad song, but when it follows the loss that sends your team home, it's more poignant than ever.
2. Story Lines
One story is Alabama's. At Media Day, Alabama senior guard Monique said that she had one goal for the season: "To make the NCAA tournament." During her career, Bama had never been to the Big Dance.
Going into the tournament with a 13-13 record, Alabama's only shot of making the NCAA tournament was a long shot - winning the automatic bid from the SEC by winning the tournament.
After falling into a deep hole against Florida in the first round, the Crimson Tide fought back, led by 25 points from Bivins, to advance to the second round and keep the dream alive.
In the second round, Alabama took LSU to the wire. Trailing by three points with five seconds left, Natasha Gamble's long-range basket was initially tallied as a 3-pointer, tying in the game. But on review, the officials ruled the shot a 2-point shot, and Alabama lost 60-59.
At the press conference afterwards, junior center Krystle Johnson broke into tears when she talked about Alabama's three seniors. Alabama Coach Rick Moody, who announced his plans to retire last month, struggled to hold back the tears in his own eyes. Whether you're a senior or the coach, it's a hard way for a career to end.
1. Vanderbilt's there
It was a tough first day for Florida Head Coach Carolyn Peck, whose Gators lost in the first game of the tournament.
But the former Vanderbilt star nevertheless shared a smile with Vanderbilt Associate Athletic Director June Stewart. Stewart, who moderates the press conferences at the tourney, was the SID for women's basketball at Vanderbilt when Peck was a player.
Barbara Brackman Capobianco was honored as an SEC Great during halftime of the Friday night game. A 1985 graduate, she's still among the all-time Vanderbilt leaders in points scored and rebounds..
Since the Commodores had a first round bye, the players were able to spend some time in the stands relaxing with each other and friends and family during the Thursday night games.
Dee Davis was one of three Commodores in double figures with 14 points in Vanderbilt's 79-60 victory over Arkansas in the quarterfinals on Friday night.
After the game, Charlie Mattos, Voice of Vanderbilt Women's Basketball, talked with Assistant Coach Stephanie Norman about the game.
In Vanderbilt's loss to Tennessee in the semi-finals on Saturday, senior guard Abi Ramsey scored 19 points, including five 3-pointers.
Senior forward Ashley Earley averaged 20.5 points and 10.5 rebounds in Vanderbilt's two games in the tourney and was named to the All-Tournament team.
Despite the 76-73 loss to Tennessee, Vanderbilt's 22-7 record (10-4 SEC) is highly likely to earn the Commodores an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. So with the SEC tournament behind them, the team now looks forward to Sunday, when tournament seedings and pairings will be announced.
Photographs copyright 2005 by WhitneyD for Vandymania.com.