Panthers look to pounce on new Conference

It’s time for a change in Miami.

All athletic teams at FIU are beginning their transition into the new Conference USA from the Sun Belt.

In their final campaign in the Sun Belt Conference, the Panthers went 12-8 in the SBC and reached the semifinals of the SBC tournament before bowing out to Middle Tennessee and then eventually falling to Florida in the Women’s National Invitational Tournament. With the 2012 season behind them, FIU begins a new era for women’s basketball.  2013 will be the first season FIU enters  their new conference of Conference USA and will now have a new slate of conference opponents to face each year.

FIU is one of eight schools that are joining Conference USA this year giving the conference a total of 16 teams, FIU is not the only school to leave the Sun Belt for Conference USA as Middle Tennessee State, North Texas, and Florida Atlantic University will be joining FIU this coming season.

The Panthers are in the east division along with FAU, East Carolina, Marshall, UAB, Middle Tennessee State, and Southern Mississippi. Out of those teams, East Carolina finished with the best conference record of 11-5 last season. In the west division, Louisiana Tech another team entering its first season in the conference along with North Texas, University of Texas-San Antonio, UTEP and Tulane who finished in second place in the regular season last year with an 11-5 record, and last season’s tournament champion in Tulsa as they defeated former Conference USA member the University of Central Florida.

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Photo by: Roberto Jimenez

The thought of FIU entering Conference USA has been welcomed by some of the current teams in Conference USA including East Carolina Head Coach Heather Macy.

“I would like to welcome all the new teams including FIU into the league, and I look forward to it being a more competitive year with the new teams,” Macy said. “I think we will be a really good basketball league this year and even after this year.”

Macy thinks it will really open up recruiting for FIU joining the new conference.

This change will only be brief for four seniors Jerica Coley, Marita Davydova, Arielle Durant, and Timeyin Oritsesan as they will only have one season in Conference USA.

With the goal in sight of reaching the NCAA Tournament, the Panthers led by the four seniors, will have to achieve success against their opposition where familiarity of their opponents will be minimal.

While FIU will be facing new opponents, the same goes for  current Conference USA teams as many of them might get their first go at defending Coley, who was the nation’s leading scorer last season, and was named Sun Belt Conference Student-Athlete of Year and has broken several records at FIU. The conference schedule has not yet been released for any teams.

“Since we haven’t gotten the schedule out yet, we haven’t really been able to know who our opponents are home or away, so I haven’t really gotten to looking at players from opposing teams yet,” Macy said.

The entire FIU women’s basketball team and the coaching staff were unavailable to comment.

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