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Is The Season Over For Auburn Women's Basketball Team?

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Auburn's All-SEC guard Alli Smalley dribbles past a Mississippi State defender at the SEC Tournament in Nashville Thursday night. Auburn lost in the final seconds to State 49 - 47.
Auburn's All-SEC guard Alli Smalley dribbles past a Mississippi State defender at the SEC Tournament in Nashville Thursday night. Auburn lost in the final seconds to State 49 - 47.

A month to the day after Auburn defeated South Carolina; to go up 6-2 in the SEC, the Tigers were eliminated from the SEC Tournament Thursday night by 11th seeded Mississippi State 49 - 47.

Auburn led 41-30 with 9:48 remaining but could not hold on. The Bulldogs chipped away at the lead until Diamber Johnson's jump shot with 1:27 left gave them the lead. 

The Tigers still had a chance to push the game into overtime as Alli Smalley's last second shot rolled around the rim and came out as time expired to give Mississippi State (13-16) the win.

On February third it looked like the Tigers were poised to play in the NCAA Regional on their own home court in the new Auburn Arena.

What happened in the last 4 weeks to so drastically alter what seemed to be another run at the Tigers second SEC Championship in two years?

The simple answer would be seven losses is what happened.

But the slide into the mediocrity of a .500 season (15-15) and sixth seed in the tournament was precipitated by two big speed bumps for Nell Fortner's Tigers.

The first was the loss of point guard Morgan Toles to a concussion.

The second and probably more damaging was the dismissal of senior forward Jordan Greenleaf. Jordan was widely recognized as the team leader.

The impact of the loss of Greenleaf and Toles can not be overstated. Everyone knows the old axiom that "Everything rises and falls on leadership."

A team can't lose their senior team leader and their starting point guard just at the point they are in position to make a run at the championship; and it not have an impact on the season's outcome.

MSU will now advance to the SEC Tournament quarterfinals to play Vanderbilt Friday night.

And Auburn?...  Auburn will have to wait to find out its postseason fate.

Finishing strong is usually a prerequisite to being selected for post season play. But who knows? This team never quit and played with heart the entire season.

Maybe that will count for something with the selection committee.

The first and second rounds of the 2011 NCAA Women's Basketball Championship will be held at the new Auburn Arena March 20 and 22.

I just hope the Tigers will be in the field.