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College Basketball 2003 : State Men

Sunset Season

November 21, 2003|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

1. Milan Brown succeeds a legend

After 49 years at the helm, Jim Phelan stepped down at Mount St. Mary's after last season. His associate, Brown, takes over as the 21st head coach in school history. Brown, who has a three-year contract, said he doesn't feel any particular pressure. "I'm very comfortable in the situation," he said. "This is something that Coach Phelan wanted. I sort of had his blessing. I'm happy that it worked out."

2. Mount's road tasks get tougher

With UMBC switching to the America East Conference, the Mount lost its traveling partner in the Northeast. That means that during the second segment of its two-game trips, the Mount will be coming off a rugged conference game while the home team will have enjoyed extra rest. The effect is something the Mount will learn quickly. Its first NEC trip is to Quinnipiac and Central Connecticut State, picked to finish 1-2 in the league.

3. Fasten your seat belts

Speaking of travel, the Retrievers will be taking to the air frequently in the far-flung America East. But coach Tom Sullivan believes the school's proximity to Baltimore-Washington International Airport and flying the day of the game will lessen the wear and tear over 10 air trips. One travel nightmare confronted Towson when it was an America East member, a six-day stay in Maine when it never got in the game because of the weather. "Sure, there's going to be one of those occasionally," Sullivan said. "But, on the bright side, we won't be fighting New York metro rush hour trying to get to gyms from our hotel like we did in the Northeast."

4. No more Battle of Baltimore

With Channel 2 dropping its sponsorship of the season-opening Battle of Baltimore tournament after this weekend, local coaches are hoping the event can somehow continue. In addition to the social aspects, the tournament provides local teams with television exposure and aids in their recruiting efforts in this area. "It's disappointing that it's going," said Loyola coach Scott Hicks. "The tournament is very positive for coaches, players and alumni."

5. Locals don't duck heavyweights

Led by Coppin with its usual meat grinder of an early schedule, area teams will be confronting some of the nation's premier programs this month and next. The Eagles' latest challenges away from Baltimore include Xavier, Cincinnati, Missouri, New Mexico and Michigan State in "guarantee games" that - in large measure - pay for the school's overall athletic program. Towson visits Georgia and George Washington and has Virginia Tech at home, and UMBC goes to Miami (Fla.) and Ohio State and plays host to Princeton, which also visits Loyola. Morgan State is going to Seton Hall and Virginia Tech; the Mount visits Virginia, Notre Dame, La Salle and Maryland; and UMES is at Auburn, Illinois and Maryland. Usually, such assignments mean a losing record entering January.

6. Mulligan to return to town

A familiar face comes to Baltimore on Feb. 4 when Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference favorite Manhattan comes to Loyola's Reitz Arena. After sitting out last season, former UMBC swingman Peter Mulligan will be half of a Jaspars backcourt that includes league Player of the Year Luis Flores. Mulligan was the Retrievers' leading scorer two years ago before transferring to his hometown school.

7. Patriot League scholarships

Navy's path to a return to eminence in the league continues to get more rocky because of scholarships being granted by its opponents. 'They're all offering scholarships now," said Navy coach Don DeVoe. "When I came here, it was a nonscholarship league." The Midshipmen last made the NCAA tournament in 1998 and remained contenders through 2001, but have finished seventh the past two seasons and seem only better than Army on paper.

8. Area teams not favored

If any state Division I team wins its conference and automatically qualifies for the NCAA tournament, it will be surprising. Only Coppin, which squeezed into the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference's first division at fifth, is picked anywhere near the top in the preseason. UMES and Morgan were seen near the bottom in the MEAC, and Loyola, Towson, UMBC, the Mount and Navy were all seen as also-rans in their respective leagues. But, when postseason tournaments determine NCAA qualifiers in smaller Division I-A conferences, there is always hope.

9. Joe McIver back at Morgan

The namesake of Joe McIver, the longtime Morgan State sports information director and current assistant athletic director, is a member of the Bears' roster. Dad played for Morgan in the 1970s. "For a walk-on, he's done all right," coach Butch Beard said. "He's thin and not real strong, but he has long arms and some attributes. I'd call him a work in progress."

10. Is there enough help for Tee?

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