Highlights: Sun Belt women’s basketball media day

A few themes surfaced during the Sun Belt Conference women’s basketball media day Tuesday.

For one, many teams in the league will be rebuilding. The word “parity” was tossed around frequently as coach after coach discussed integrating several newcomers into the fold.

There was also plenty of talk about improved scheduling efforts, as well as where the Sun Belt stands as a whole. Here are some of the highlights.

First, from a WKU standpoint, coach Mary Taylor Cowles:

On the Lady Toppers’ five seniors:
“I don’t think you replace young ladies when they leave your program. You just hope that you find others that are ready to step up and fill a need.”

“They’re collectively probably the best group of five seniors coming together. I’ve had some great leaders, don’t get me wrong. But as a whole, these five are really together.”

On the progress of the seven freshmen:
“Right now, there’s no separation because all their heads are spinning. They’re trying to learn what’s going on and how we do things, so we’ve got to be patient.”

On the balance in the conference:
“Different teams have lost some key players, but I think it also shows that they’ve got other players ready to make a name for themselves. That’s one reason I’m excited, because I feel like our league has continued to strengthen.”

On the ‘adversity’ of finding roles for new players:
“Number one, we don’t look at it as adversity, especially compared to some of the stuff we put up with last year.”

On the potential of senior forward LaTeira Owens:
“She and I had our longest talk last spring after the season. We had a long talk, really talking about her and her ability and my expectations for her – what her expectations are for herself. I’m really happy for her, but she couldn’t have cared less about this. She’s extremely focused and self-driven, and I know her senior season means a lot to her.”

On playing stiff competition:
“Our philosophy hasn’t changed at WKU. We’re going to play great competition in the pre-conference season to get us prepared for conference, because our conference is becoming very competitive. There are no off-nights. You can’t really turn it on and turn it off in the non-conference and expect to step up come conference season.”

The Sun Belt ranked 17th in conference RPI last season, according to CollegeRPI.com. But several coaches are working to change that. Thoughts:

MTSU coach Rick Insell, on playing a tough schedule:
“Even as a coaching staff, you wanted to see how you could match your wits up against those coaches that you’d admired and watched for years. I wanted to bring those people into Murfreesboro.”

“Yes, we’ve lost some games, but we’ve also won some games playing that type of competition. It also helps the conference. The RPI of our conference is one of the things we’ve talked about as a group — about what we can do to bring our conference up so we can be one of the top six or seven conferences in the country.”

FAU coach Chancellor Dugan on going to play at Michigan:
“It’s good to get out and see some Big 10 basketball and how it’s played. When you think of Big 10, you think of slowing down and throwing the ball inside and pounding it, but Michigan can get up and down the floor.”

Arkansas-Little Rock coach Joe Foley:
“When you bring in a Texas A&M that just won a national championship … they’ve got a possibility of even being better than they were last year. If you can bring that team in, that’s a huge advantage to get interested started.”

Denver coach Erik Johnson:
“As a conference, we’re playing some of the better teams in the nation. We’re going to be battle-tested come conference play, and we have a wide-open conference race.”

Finally, probably the quote of the day, which not too surprisingly came from Insell. The MTSU coach was asked about dealing with so many young players:

“I’m having to become a little more patient. I’m not used to us throwing the ball all over the gym. We’re committing as many turnovers as we possibly can right now. My coaches tell me I’ve got to learn to live with that, and for a while I guess I will.”

I’ll have a full look at media day in Wednesday’s Daily News. The men’s media day takes place Wednesday, and Chad Bishop will have full coverage of that.

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