Team preview: Coppin State

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(Information in this team report is as of October 1.)

Coppin State coach Fang Mitchell thinks there's one simple way for the Eagles to improve on last year's 12-18 record -- play better defense.

"Our defense was simply terrible last season," Mitchell said. "We've been consistently ranked in the Top 50 in the country in defense every year, but last year we weren't very good."

Coppin Sate allowed 68.8 points per game in 2005-06 and that was sixth best in the MEAC. That's foreign territory for the Eagles.

But Mitchell could have a pretty good explanation for Coppin's defensive woes. How about not playing a home game until Jan. 14? The Eagles played their first 12 games away from home and the last nine were on the road. And those nine road games were against a couple of teams you might have heard of -- UCLA, Illinois, Pittsburgh, Michigan State, Michigan, Oklahoma, Clemson and Xavier. A legitimate case could be made that no team in the country faced a tougher non-conference schedule.

Those nine games made a lot of money for the Coppin State athletics department, but it also helped the Eagles start the season 0-12.

After that brutal stretch of games, the MEAC schedule must have seemed tame. CSU's first league game was at Bethune-Cookman and the Eagles were ready. They won, 75-65. Mitchell's group rebounded from that 0-12 start and went 12-6 in the MEAC, good for a second-place finish.

But things didn't end so well. The Eagles lost three of their last four games, including a stunning 79-67 upset to seventh-seeded Norfolk State in the quarterfinals of the MEAC Tournament.

"We played well at times but to end the season the way we did was just unacceptable," Mitchell said. "That loss left a bad taste in our mouths."

And some more bad news happened after the season. Second-leading scorer and top rebounder forward Darryl Proctor decided to transfer to fellow Baltimore school, UMBC.

"Losing Darryl is a blow," Mitchell said. "He was our leading rebounder last season and did a good job scoring for us. We just need someone to step up."

Proctor's loss is particularly tough because the Eagles return their other four starters from last year's club and could have had everyone back.