CHATTANOOGA (WRCB/UTC) -- The mission for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's basketball team begins Friday night at the McKenzie Arena when UAB comes to town in the opening round of the Preseason WNIT.
In the same bracket is preseason No. 1 Baylor, who is a potential second-round matchup for the Lady Mocs.
"It's definitely an honor to play in the tournament," said head coach Wes Moore, whose team will host the Blazers at 7 p.m. ET. "It's pretty much based on what your program has done over the long haul, so it is a compliment to our kids and what they've accomplished.
"But there's no peaking ahead (to Baylor), that's for sure. We've got our plates full with UAB and we understand that. They won 20 games in conference USA. It's going to be a big challenge for us."
The Lady Mocs were selected by the Southern Conference coaches and media in both preseason polls to return to the top of the league standings after last season's third place finish snapped an 11-year reign atop the conference.
Chattanooga returns four starters this season including all-conference selections senior Whitney Hood (Meridian, Miss.) and junior Kayla Christopher (Oliver Springs, Tenn.) as well as all-tournament selection junior Kylie Lambert (Etowah, Tenn.). Senior point guard Tenisha Townsend (Antioch, Tenn.), Chattanooga's lone four-year starter, will be on hand to guide the Lady Mocs in their mission to claim an 18th regular season championship.
Despite all the returning experience, UTC was slow to start offensively in last week's exhibition opener against Lee. Moore's primary concern is finding a way for shot's to fall against the Blazers.
"As far as the way we've looked so far in presesaon, I think we need to shoot the ball better from the perimeter," he said. "The 4-out-1-in is a whole lot more effective when the four out are threats.
"We've got to shoot the ball well around Whitney Hood to give her some opportunities to score down low."
Hood led the league in scoring last season with 18.8 points per game. Her 584 total points ranked sixth best in a single season at UTC while her average ranked ninth best in school history for a single season. Hood scored 40 points against Wofford at the McKenzie Arena last season for the third most points ever scored by a UTC player and the most scored by any Southern Conference player in a single game last year.
The winner of the Chattanooga-UAB game Friday night will potentially travel to Waco, Texas to take on Baylor who must first get past Howard in their own first round game. No. 2 Notre Dame as well as No. 22 UCLA are both featured in the preseason tournament.
Moore said one of the primary reasons UTC was able to receive a home date in the opening round was its strong fan support. He's hoping for a good turnout to prove the tournament committee they made the right choice.
"We're very fortunate to be able to host this first round game, and it's a tip of the hat to our fans," Moore said. "Hopefully the fans will come out because I'm ready to start it up and see how we stack up."