It is true that Jody Adams put her Wichita State women's basketball team through a rigorous non-conference schedule to challenge its skills.
There were low points — the 34 points on 19-percent shooting in a 26-point loss at Kansas State on Dec. 7 comes to mind. But the Shockers enter the Missouri Valley Conference season on a high, having won three in a row away from home that included winning Long Beach State's tournament.
That's now what excites Adams the most about the Shockers (6-5), who open on the road tonight against defending MVC champion Northern Iowa. It's the maturity with which her team has handled this season.
"I think through the bad, through the bumps, through the bruises of the non-conference schedule, the good thing about this team is we haven't gotten too high with the highs and too low with the lows," Adams said. "We feel good about winning the tournament, but I can't say this group came back and weren't ready to practice. They were. That's what I'm most proud of."
It's hard to say where the Shockers are entering conference play. WSU has beaten one team with a current winning record, but hasn't lost to a team with a losing record.
What Adams is taking away from the non-conference portion is claiming a mid-season tournament title.
"I think it's a huge step for this team, for this program," Adams said. "I can't tell you the last time Wichita State has won a tournament." (It was two games at Texas-San Antonio in 2002-03.)
So far this season, Wichita State has relied on its known commodities — Jessica Diamond and Haleigh Lankster serve as the go-to scorers, while Jazimen Gordon and Chynna Turner provide consistency inside.
Adams has kept a rotation of 10, and the five bench players are all first-year players. Their development is crucial.
"They're a very talented group," Adams said. "You wish you could redshirt everybody and give them a year of playing and learning because I really do believe it helps. But I will tell you the ones that have been coachable have grown."
Freshman Alex Harden was a player Adams singled out. Redshirt freshmen Kelsey Jacobs and Krystle Henderson are still seeking consistency, while Molly O'Brien and Jasmine Jones have earned minutes on the wings.
All will be called upon to contribute in the Missouri Valley. Adams is hoping that's where the non-conference schedule pays dividends.
"That's what I'll be looking to see the most, is if our bench can continue to grow and be a strong contributor," Adams said. "Our bench play will be very important."