The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and Elon are tied for first place in the Southern Conference women's basketball standings. Right behind them, one game back in the win column, are last season's co-champions, Appalachian State and Davidson.
In fifth place, and very much in the mix, is Samford, which hosts the Lady Mocs tonight at the Pete Hanna Center.
"I expected there to be four or five teams at the top," ASU coach Darcie Vincent said, "and it's all going to who doesn't lose to somebody they shouldn't, who protects their home court and things like that."
UTC (14-3, 7-1) has won four straight games since falling at Elon in overtime. The Phoenix (10-7, 7-1) have a SoCon-best six-game win streak going, and Vincent's Mountaineers (12-3, 6-1) have won five in a row.
While the top five teams have separated themselves from the rest of the league -- the College of Charleston is in sixth place with a 3-5 record -- "there are no easy games out there," UTC coach Wes Moore said.
He points to Wofford, which is 0-7 in SoCon play yet beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa in December and took Appalachian State to double overtime on Jan. 14.
As for the logjam at the top of the conference?
"People will separate themselves here pretty soon, I'm sure," Moore said.
UTC is in one of its toughest stretches of the season. It picked up a quality road win at Davidson last Friday and cruised past Western Carolina on Sunday. After playing Samford (9-8, 6-2), the Lady Mocs host the Mountaineers on Saturday.
"These are three of the toughest opponents we have. and they're all cramming together," UTC point guard Alex Black said of Davidson, Samford and ASU.
The 60-56 win at Davidson, forward Taylor Hall said, was important on a number of levels.
"Davidson was a big win for us -- confidence-wise and standing-wise," she said. "I think that really means a lot. We have to move on from there and hopefully build on it by playing well these next couple of games."