CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- March Madness is no doubt the best time of year for basketball fans, but Wes Moore isn't sure you can say the same for coaches.
"Depends who you ask," the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga head coach said after chuckling to himself for a few seconds.
Forget the 19-1 league record, Moore says his Lady Mocs had to scrap and claw to win their first regular season SoCon title since 2010.
Sure, there were a few blowouts along the way, including four double-digit wins over UTC's two possible quarterfinal opponents, but Chattanooga also survived scares in seven single-digit victories.
"On several occasions we've had to pull it out late in the game," Moore pointed out. "That can be a positive because our kids have had to step up down the stretch in several games, but at the same time, you realize that puts you on a fine line."
Which is not where Moore wants to be come March.
The Lady Mocs (26-3) have an impressive resume that may stand on its own as an at-large bid, but they don't want to leave anything to chance.
Seniors Kayla Christopher and Kylie Lambert have led the way in making sure the team resets its mind ahead of a make-or-break stretch of three games in three days.
"Anything can happen (in Asheville), which means everything that happened in the regular season doesn't matter anymore," said Christopher. "Everyone brings a different game in the tournament, so you have to be prepared for that mentally."
There's usually no substitute for experience when it comes to tournament play, and luckily UTC is full of it.
Christopher and Lambert have both logged extended minutes in three SoCon tournaments, and four of their teammates have played in at least two.
"It's been nice because we've had ten veterans and two freshmen, so it's almost like having ten assistant coaches on the court," Moore said. "They've all been here before, so they know what's going on this week and they know what's expected."
Unfortunately, only the two seniors have experienced what's expected of them.
Christopher and Lambert were a part of the 2010 team that won the SoCon tournament title in Charlotte and advanced to the NCAA Tournament.
They haven't been back since.
"We need to win out and go to the NCAA Tournament so that we can show (the underclassmen) what it used to be like in our freshman year," Lambert said. "We want them to have something to push for in the future."
The Lady Mocs already snapped one skid by winning the regular season championship for the first time since 2010, earning them the top-seed in this year's bracket and a date with either No. 8 Georgia Southern or No. 9 Western Carolina in Saturday's quarterfinals (12 p.m. ET at UNC Asheville's Kimmel Arena).
However, the seniors know that's no guarantee that they'll make it past the semifinals for the first time in three years.
"(Winning a regular season title) was one of our goals, but it's not all of our goals," Christopher said. "We want to go to the NCAA Tournament. We want to end the dry spell and do it right."
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