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Trojans prepare for tough schedule

For the Troy women’s basketball team, the upcoming 2009-10 season will provide a true test.

“We’ve got a very challenging season ahead for a couple of different reasons,” said head coach Michael Murphy. “Number one is our schedule.”

That schedule which Murphy spoke begins with a difficult stretch of games against out-of-conference opponents, including in-state rivals Auburn and Jacksonville State to begin the season.

“It’s always challenging to play an SEC school, especially one the caliber of Auburn,” Murphy said. “Jacksonville State goes back a long way with Troy. We’ve been trying to keep that rivalry alive, and we’ve been very fortunate to be able to do that.”

The Trojans also have a game against defending Ohio Valley Conference champion Austin Peay, as well as a trip over Thanksgiving to Atlanta to play in Georgia State’s Thanksgiving tournament.

Other highlights on the non-conference slate include a trip to New York state to take on St. Francis and a home game against Army.

“We try to put together as tough a schedule as we can in hopes of preparing us for Sun Belt conference play,” Murphy said.

However, the real meat of Troy’s schedule comes once the Trojans open up play in the Sun Belt, a league Murphy said is the deepest it has been in his five years at Troy.

“That’s impressive, especially when you consider that for the past four years, the Sun Belt has had one or two kids drafted in the WNBA draft, which only has twelve teams,” Murphy said. “So, out of 24 players that get drafted, one or two have been from the Sun Belt. So, to make the statement that this is the strongest I’ve ever seen the league gives you an idea of how strong it is.”

The strength of the Sun Belt this season comes largely from the amount of returning talent in the league.

Middle Tennessee, Western Kentucky, Arkansas-Little Rock, Arkansas State, Denver and Louisiana-Lafayette all have at least four starters returning this season, and in some cases, all five starting players back from a year ago.

Especially daunting is the fact that MTSU, WKU and UALR all return starting talent to programs that are traditionally deep anyway.

“The teams who have been traditional powers in this league have all their firepower coming back for this year, and that’s why I think the league is going to be extremely challenging,” Murphy said. The Trojans’ tough slate begins with a showdown with Auburn in Auburn Nov. 13 at 6 p.m.