The UTC women have been firmly on the 12 line of the NCAA tournament field according to ESPN women's bracket projector Charlie Creme. The only thing that has changed over the past few weeks is where they are projected to play. Do the Mocs stand a chance to dance if they don't win the Southern Conference tournament? Here's a look at their resume before their quarterfinal game at noon today against Georgia Southern:
Strength of schedule: 249 (WBB State)
Nonconference SOS: 80 (WBB State)
vs. RPI Top 25: 0-1
vs. RPI Top 50: 0-2
vs. RPI Top 100: 3-3
vs. RPI 100+: 23-0
Best wins: Auburn (65), Alabama (74), Colorado State (86)
Worst losses: Tennessee (5), Minnesota (38), Hawaii (100)
ASHEVILLE, N.C. - By going unbeaten in an 18-game league slate, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's basketball team showed it was by far the class of the Southern Conference this season. Despite all of the Mocs' achievements and accolades, however, one slip-up in the next three days could very well render their regular season all but meaningless.
The Mocs (26-3) begin their postseason quest toward the conference's automatic NCAA tournament bid today, when they face Georgia Southern at noon in the quarterfinals at Kimmel Arena in Asheville, N.C. A win then plus two more Sunday and Monday will erase any angst and doubt about their potential inclusion in the tournament prior to Selection Monday, when the official brackets are revealed.
"There's definitely some pressure," conference player of the year Taylor Hall said. "We realize we can't lose now, because we'd have nothing to show for three months of hard work. It's not unfair, but at the same time it kind of is. There should be some reward for going undefeated in conference play but possibly having one slip-up in the tournament.
"We know the deal, though. We realize what's at stake and we're just going to focus on the tournament."
UTC coach Jim Foster has expressed on multiple occasions that he's not a fan of conference tournaments in general. He and his Mocs have no control over what happens beyond Monday, so his focus this week has been to prepare the players for an unknown foe, whom they now know will be the Eagles (10-20).
"We do it every week," Foster said. "It's not about who we play -- it's about tightening things up and going over a lot of things that we like to keep fresh. We get in the mode of one-day preparation, because that's what this league is. If you prepare three days for one team but only one day for the next, I think you leave yourself a little short."
Chelsey Shumpert, a member of the conference all-freshman team, said the key from this point is just to, as Foster says, "be ready."
"We go hard all the time, whether it's a practice or a shootaround, so it just comes natural now," Shumpert said. "Now we just have to be ready."
Contact Gene Henley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6311. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.