Sun Belt to implement travel partners for 2015-16 schedule

The 2015-16 schedules for the men’s and women’s basketball teams will accommodate back-to-back games in the same state, and UTA will use this routine for the first time when they travel to Louisiana to take on the University of Louisiana-Monroe and the University of Louisiana-Lafayette in January.

And though the doubleheader format will be employed for the second consecutive season, the difference that players would probably appreciate most is the idea of travel partners.

“It will help all the teams,” men’s basketball head coach Scott Cross said. “It will give you a little more preparation time, cut down with the travel and it won’t wear your guys out as much. I think all of those were factors in why the home teams probably lost a few more home games than they probably should have this year.”

However, because the Sun Belt Conference will remain an 11-team league, Appalachian State University will not have a travel partner. Teams that will play against the Mountaineers will come into the game off of a bye, and in return, will not have to play any back-to-back road games.

Women’s basketball head coach Krista Gerlich said that avoiding unnecessary trips could help the student-athletes stay focused on the court.

“It would help the kids’ mentality and focus a little bit,” Gerlich said. “While they are on the road, they will get to concentrate on the next game instead of the travel weariness that is caused by going back and forth.”

Fatigue and lack of intensity was a big issue for the men’s team. UTA dropped three consecutive road games from Feb. 7 to Feb. 14 and logged more than 1,200 miles.

The women’s team found a way to overcome that weariness and improved its overall record by 13 games from the 2013-14 campaign. Though the team finished just one game over .500, it set a precedent of what the future of the program could entail.

The men’s team split its 20 conference games and failed to reach past the first round of the 2015 Sun Belt Conference Men’s Basketball Championship, but Cross said no matter what happens this season, the one thing that is important is returning to New Orleans in March.

“Our outlook is that we have the same goals as everyone else,” Cross said. “We expect to win a championship, and that’s going to be our mindset. We have to win today in order to win in March.”


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