October 9, 2008: Don't Forget: Bouncy-Ball Time Is Near
There is more than just football to get sports fans amped up this time of year. The college basketball season is quickly approaching, and there are tons of interesting storylines to watch in the Baltimore area.
First, this city is home to two Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference teams, in and both battled for the conference championship last year. After Todd Bozeman’s Morgan State team dominated the regular season, Fang Mitchell and the Eagles of Coppin State showed progress down the stretch, winning nine of their last 10 regular season games (the only loss down the stretch coming against Morgan).
This led to a classic Baltimore City matchup at the RBC Center in Raleigh, N.C., for a trip to the NCAA Tournament. In the end, the "Old Professor" led his young Eagles to a win and an NCAA bid. It was Coppin’s first MEAC tournament championship since 1997.
Meanwhile, after a great regular season, the Bears did punch a ticket to the NIT -- Morgan’s first postseason trip in Division I.
The players and coaching staff are hungry to hang Morgan’s first MEAC basketball banner and make this postseason even sweeter.
With returners such as Reggie Holmes, Rodney Stokes and player of the year candidate Marquis Kately, Bozeman's Bears look to finish the job this season and make it to the Big Dance.
But, Morgan’s desire to win the MEAC is matched by Coppin’s. With a young, very talented bunch of Eagles, Mitchell is in a familiar role as a teacher of the game. If this year’s team follows the direction of their master again, fans could easily be treated to another Battle of Baltimore for the conference crown and a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
That only covers two of the local teams. The Eagles weren’t the only ones invited to the Big Dance as the UMBC Retrievers earned a trip to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in the program's 22 years of Division I basketball.
Randy Monroe’s bunch traveled under the radar at the start of the season. But with transfers Ray Barbosa, Cavell Johnson and Darryl Proctor joining Jay Greene and Brian Hodges, many expected the Retrievers to make some noise in the America East Conference, which they won in front of their home fans to seal their spot in the big bracket.
This year, Greene’s leadership will be key. Monroe showed that he’s no slouch in an area of big name coaches and expectations at the Catonsville campus are higher than ever this season.
The Loyola Greyhounds played an extremely difficult non-conference schedule last year, but finished with a winning conference record. Coach Jimmy Patsos’ group made great strides last season but fell short of the NCAA Tournament, falling to Siena in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference championship game.
Things won't be easy for the Greyhounds this season as they lost 30 points a game with the departure of Gerald Brown and Michael Tuck. Marquis Sullivan, who averaged 12 points a game, Brett Harvey and last season’s MAAC Rookie of the Year Brian Rudolph will be expected to provide leadership.
The Greyhounds will be a part of the Preseason NIT when they travel to Boston College to take on the Eagles. That will be the first of three ACC games for Loyola as the Greyhounds will also travel to North Carolina to face the N.C. State Wolfpack and Duke Blue Devils.
Three years ago, the Towson Tigers -- aka “Pat’s Cats” -- were the talk of the town. Since then, the other Division I teams in town have outshined coach Pat Kennedy's squad. Josh Thornton and Junior Hairston return for the Tigers. Last season, that duo represented 25 points a game.
With Villanova, St. Joseph’s and N.C. State added to a tough Colonial Athletic Association schedule, things won't get any easier for the Tigers this year. Kennedy has an impressive resume, but hoops fans in Towson need to see progress this season or his coaching seat could heat up.
Issue 3.41: October 9, 2008