Marquette Wire

C-USA looking to put at least 5 teams in tourney

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While the Golden Eagles are slated to finish eighth in conference, TCU is leading the preseason C-USA polls this year after it captured the regular season conference championship last year. This season the Horned Frogs come into the season ranked No. 23 nationally. TCU returns four starters from last year’s team including Sandora Irvin, who was C-USA’s defensive player of the year.

For Mitchell, it is the depth of the Horned Frogs that warrants them being placed at the top of the preseason ranking.

“I think they have great depth,” Mitchell said. “Last year they subbed, they would play five and sub in five. They never lost anything in their substitutions. I think they also have an unselfishness about their team that there were other players on the team who could have easily played 30 minutes and played 20. I think that was special and the thing that made it was they were so fresh down the stretch.”

The Houston Cougars once again house the preseason Player of the Year in Chandi Jones. Jones is no stranger to accolades since she has won the C-USA Player of the Year award twice in her three year collegiate career. Last season Jones became the first C-USA player to lead the nation in scoring with 27.5 points per game.

According to Mitchell, “(Jones) has the ability to make things happen. You can have two people guarding her and she can still find a way to score. She’s a tremendous athlete and has a command of the basketball and is one of the finest players that I’ve coached against. She is the center of attention in everything they do. We have had some success against her but that means keeping her under 20. She is just an amazing scorer and she is at that point as a senior to try to elevate everyone else around her.”

This season Charlotte, Cincinnati, DePaul and TCU, four of the five teams who made the tournament last year, all welcome back at least three starters from their tournament teams last season. Mitchell feels the understanding of the system these players have is what sets them apart from the rest of conference.

“I think there is a consistency of understanding what it takes to succeed and understanding of what it takes to make it to the postseason,” she said. “No matter how good you are talent-wise, it is the mental edge that puts those teams ahead.”

A new conference face surfaces this season in Louisville, where Tom Collen takes over the program after a year away from coaching. In his previous job, Collen was the head coach at Colorado State for five seasons.

Concerning Collen, Mitchell expressed that “Tom Collen plays an upbeat, up-tempo style and he will be making his push as a first-year coach in conference to change the look of Louisville.”

Though Mitchell does not have any particular team in conference that will turn heads, she knows that the conference will follow the typical pattern as years past.

“The thing about our conference is that people who are historically at the bottom always beat people at the top,” she said. “Time will tell us a lot of things this season.”

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