MEETING THE MOCS
The UTC women's basketball team will have a different look this fall after losing six seniors from last season's Southern Conference championship roster, including standouts Ashlen Dewart and Taylor Hall. Here are some key games for UTC as coach Jim Foster looks to rebuild the Mocs.
• Nov. 14 vs. Villanova -- UTC will open the season with two games in three days as the host of a round-robin classic featuring the Wildcats out of the Big East as well as South Florida.
• Nov. 21 at Notre Dame -- The Fighting Irish were runners-up at the NCAA tournament, and they promise to give the Mocs a tough road test early in the season.
• Nov. 26 vs. Tennessee -- The Lady Vols return to McKenzie Arena for the first time since UTC pulled off the 80-71 upset on Nov. 9, 2012, that spoiled Holly Warlick's debut as Tennessee's head coach.
• Dec. 17 vs. Stanford -- The Cardinal are coming off a trip to the Final Four, and coach Tara VanDerveer has built a program that consistently battles for national titles.
• Jan. 10 at Wofford -- The Mocs will begin their SoCon title defense on the road a week before their league home opener against Western Carolina. East Tennessee State and Mercer join the conference in women's basketball following the departures of Davidson, Georgia Southern, Appalachian State and Elon.
-- Jim Tanner
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's basketball team will feature a lot of younger players for the upcoming season after losing six seniors from the 2014 Southern Conference champions, but the new-look Mocs will not get a break in the level of competition.
UTC will open the season at home against Villanova as part of a three-team Tip-Off Tournament that also will include South Florida, and the Mocs will have home games against Tennessee, Stanford and Austin Peay in November and December before hosting a Christmas Classic on Dec. 20-21 that will bring Tennessee Tech, North Carolina A&T and Morgan State to McKenzie Arena.
UTC coach Jim Foster wanted to host two tournaments to bolster the home schedule after conference realignment reduced the SoCon slate from 18 to 14 games for the 2014-15 season.
"That's two home games you lose, and it's hard enough to get home games these days," Foster said. "So we tried to get a tipoff tournament: It's going to be a three-team round robin because a fourth team dropped out. As other teams saw who was playing, it became increasingly difficult to get another team to come in."
The Mocs will find no relief on the road in nonconference play, as they play Nov. 21 in South Bend, Ind., against national runner-up Notre Dame and take trips also to Butler, Arkansas State, Belmont, UT-Martin and Harvard along with the Texas-San Antonio Holiday Classic for games against Southern Illinois-Edwardsville and South Dakota. They will open SoCon play Jan. 10 at Wofford.
UTC will face three teams that were in last season's final Associated Press rankings and six teams with RPI rankings in the top 100.
"It's an ambitious, very difficult schedule," Foster said. "We're playing way up, especially with such a young team, but you want to get better for the end of the season. Instead of playing the bottom of the big leagues, we're playing the team that won the SEC, the team that won the Pac-12 (regular season) and the team that won the ACC."
"So we've made a huge step in terms of who we are playing, but the good news is we are getting home-and-aways with those folks."
Despite the loss of so much talent from last season, Foster said this team can be successful. Several of the returning players saw significant playing time last season when he regularly used a 10-player rotation, and redshirt senior Destiny Bramblett will add valuable leadership and experience after sitting out last season.
"We're athletic, we're young and we have the potential to be a pretty good team by the time the year's over," Foster said. "But we've got to withstand the first part of the season. We went from being veteran in the post to being very young in the post, so that's an area where we have to grow up quickly. We are experienced at point guard, and [last year's SoCon female athlete of the year] Taylor [Hall]'s loss is somewhat negated by Destiny's experiences."
"By the end of the year I think we'll be a good team, but we've got to realize who we're playing and realize the kind of effort needed to play people like that."
Contact Jim Tanner at email@example.com or 423-757-6478. Follow him at twitter.com/JFTanner.
Jim Tanner has worked as assistant sports editor at the Times Free Press since late 2006. He started at the Times Free Press in 2001 and worked as a news copy/design editor from 2001 through 2006. In addition to working as a night and weekend editor producing local and national sports coverage for print and online readers, Jim occasionally writes local sports and outdoors stories. Jim grew up in Ringgold, Ga., and is a graduate ...