Chattanooga seeks to upset another national power
Chattanooga's Jim Foster has used connections he's developed during his Hall of Fame coaching career to produce the kind of home schedule rarely seen from a mid-major women's basketball program.
His players are making the most of the situation.
Three weeks after a 67-63 upset of a Tennessee team that was ranked fourth at the time, Chattanooga (6-3) will try to beat another top-10 opponent at home Wednesday when it hosts No. 7 Stanford (6-2).
The Mocs also are scheduled to host two-time defending national champion Connecticut next season and Notre Dame in 2016-17. Mid-major programs usually must travel for the chance to face national powers.
''It's a great opportunity for our players to play against great programs,'' Foster said. ''I think that only makes you better.''
Tennessee has shown a willingness to schedule road games with in-state schools, as the Lady Vols have played at Chattanooga two of the last three seasons, visited Lipscomb on Dec. 7 and opened the 2013-14 season at Middle Tennessee.
Foster's friendships in the coaching fraternity helped him bring other Final Four contenders to Chattanooga.
Connecticut's Geno Auriemma and Notre Dame's Muffet McGraw began their coaching careers as assistants on Foster's staffs at St. Joseph's. Foster and Stanford's Tara VanDerveer are long-time friends who have worked together with USA Basketball.
Foster, who is in his second season at Chattanooga, didn't have to make much of a sales pitch to arrange series with each of them.
''Geno and Muffet play very ambitious schedules, so they certainly weren't an issue,'' Foster said. ''And Tara called me.''
Chattanooga played at Notre Dame last month and lost 88-53. Foster said Chattanooga has road games with Tennessee and Stanford next season and at Connecticut in 2016-17.
Stanford is playing Chattanooga as part of a two-game road trip that also includes a Saturday matchup with Tennessee. Wednesday's game pits two Hall of Fame coaches who know each other very well.
''He actually called me (Sunday and) invited our whole staff over for dinner. I kind of declined just because I just thought his wife would be doing all the work,'' VanDerveer quipped. ''I know her, too. I'm like, `Maybe we can meet somewhere.'
''He's a really good friend. He and his wife, Donna, have stayed at my summer house in New York. He does an excellent job. We've gone out to dinner when he had his team out here for the tournament.''
Chattanooga often makes things difficult for visitors, no matter how lofty their ranking. The Mocs had won 40 straight home games before falling 59-57 to South Florida last month. Tennessee has lost in each of its last two trips to Chattanooga's McKenzie Arena.
Senior guard/forward KaVonne Towns said ''at first we were all a little nervous'' when they learned they'd be hosting Tennessee and Stanford. But now they're eager to find out if they can beat a second top-10 team at home this season.
They believe the experience will help them in the postseason. Chattanooga has lost in the first round in each of the last two NCAA tournaments.
''We're just going to come out like it's another game and play as hard as we can,'' Towns said.
AP Sports Writer Janie McCauley in Stanford, California, contributed to this report.