The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's basketball team began a three-game stretch Wednesday that is as hard as any this season in the Southern Conference.
Actually, Samford coach Mike Morris might disagree with that.
UTC's league-leading Lady Mocs (13-4, 8-0) hosted his Bulldogs (10-7, 5-3) on Wednesday -- winning 74-68 -- before going on the road this weekend to face defending SoCon champion Appalachian State (12-3, 6-1) and Davidson (11-6, 7-1), which handed the Mountaineers their only loss.
"It's a brutal stretch," said Lady Mocs coach Wes Moore, whose squad as won 11 of its last 12 games -- with the only loss coming at nationally ninth-ranked Tennessee.
Morris won't have any tears of pity for Moore because his Bulldogs play at Davidson and ASU after visiting UTC.
"All three of ours are on the road," Morris said.
The next two games for UTC will feature numerous all-conference-caliber players. Appalachian State's Anna Freeman leads the league in scoring (16.5 points per game), and Davidson's duo of Laura Murray (14.8) and Sophia Aleksandravicius (14.6) are third and fourth, followed by Lady Mocs forward Whitney Hood (14.1), who has scored 21 points or more in three straight games.
Aleksandravicius leads the SoCon with 9.6 rebounds a game, followed closely by UTC's Taylor Hall (9.1), while Freeman leads the league with 4.1 steals a game.
UTC had to prepare for Samford's Princeton-style, pick-happy offense before totally switching gears to get ready for Appalachian State, which presses relentlessly and stays on the attack.
"That Princeton's crazy," Lady Mocs guard Kayla Christopher said. "App presses the whole game -- they're very athletic -- so it's a completely different game plan."
There's a lot of parity and a lot of difference styles of play in the SoCon, Morris said. That's good for the league, but not necessarily for the coaches.
"This is the toughest stretch, and we don't have much time to prepare for any of these teams," he said.
Tonight's UTC game at ASU will figure heavily in the SoCon title race, as will the visit Monday to Davidson. There is additional intrigue, however.
One of the key members of ASU's title team a year ago was forward Ashlen Dewart, who transferred to UTC in the fall and is sitting out this season. And ASU junior forward Courtney Freeman is the sister of Lady Mocs freshman Kayla Freeman.