The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's basketball team opens its season tonight at McKenzie Arena with the same goals it has always had. The Lady Mocs want to win the Southern Conference, win the SoCon tournament and make some noise in the NCAA tournament.
"At the same time," Lady Mocs coach Wes Moore said, "you've got to realize this is essentially the same team that finished third in the conference and went 17-14 last year.
"I realize we have our work cut out for us."
UTC opens against UAB in the first round of the Preseason WNIT. Should UTC win, it likely would face top-ranked Baylor and 6-foot-8 All-America center Brittney Griner on Sunday.
Junior All-SoCon guard Kayla Christopher said she likes playing in a tournament to start the season.
"It's cool because we know we get to travel a little bit, and if we win we get to go to Baylor, most likely," she said. "That's a great opportunity for us. It's an exciting way to start the season."
UTC had its streak of 11 straight SoCon titles snapped last season, but the league's coaches and media have picked the Lady Mocs to regain their crown this season. To do so, UTC will have to perform better than it did in a scrimmage against Georgia Tech and an exhibition against Lee.
Moore said he was hoping the team would look a little better in the preseason.
"I do think the team last year was playing pretty well down the stretch, and I'd hoped we'd just pick up where we left off," he said. "But so far that hasn't happened. I have to hope that maybe it clicks [against UAB]."
UTC hit 34 of its shots and 4 of 18 3-pointers against Lee.
"I think we need to shoot the ball better from the perimeter -- four-out, one-in [UTC's offensive system] is a whole lot more effective when the four out are threats," Moore said. "We've got to shoot the ball well around Whitney Hood and give her some opportunities to score down low."
Hood, a 6-2 All-SoCon senior forward, led the league in scoring last season with 18.8 points per game.
The Blazers went 20-15 last season and return nearly everyone from a squad that won the postseason Women's Basketball Invitational tournament. UAB's size and athleticism have Moore concerned.
"Against UAB, if we don't box out," he said, "everything else we're doing is a waste of time, because they're very athletic and they are going to crash the boards."