Team preview: Mississippi Valley State

Editor's Note: ESPN Insider has teamed with Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook to provide a comprehensive look at all 326 Division I teams. To order the complete 2006-07 edition of Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook, visit www.blueribbonyearbook.com or call 1-866-805-BALL (2255).

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

For the last decade, the Delta Devils have been, well, bedeviled.
Since Mississippi Valley won the SWAC regular-season and tournament titles in 1996 with 22 wins, no other program in the league has had to endure such a run of rotten luck, miserable misfortune and outright tragedy.

In 1997, MVSU streaked to a repeat regular-season title, but was dumped by Jackson State in the championship and hasn't seen the title game since. A 14-4 SWAC second-place finish in 2001 was ruined by Texas Southern in a 59-58 first-round exit at the HPER Complex, the Devils' first and final home loss of the year. Three years later, another 22-win campaign that yielded a 16-2 league record and a regular-season title ended with another one-point quarterfinal exit, this time to No. 8 seeded Alcorn State.

There has been off-the-court sadness, too. In January 2003, double-figure scoring guard Michael Archie was paralyzed from the waist down after a stray bullet severed his spinal cord. He and his teammates were celebrating a home win over Prairie View at a local nightspot when it happened.

"I don't think it's a curse on us, do you?" said second-year head coach James Green of MVSU's recent pattern. "If it is, hell, we'd better go to work and see if we can find it, then get rid of it."

Last year's MVSU squad, which went oh for out-of-conference with an 0-9 record, then managed a 9-9 league mark to finish 9-18, was more a result of rebuilding blues than bad fortune. The season did end in yet another quarterfinal squeaker (50-49 to Grambling), when outgoing senior Jesse Taylor missed the second of two free throws with 17 seconds left and then missed an open jumper with three to go.

But the saddest incident in the school's turbulent hoops history occurred in late May with the sudden passing of assistant coach Cecil Dowell, who died in a car accident two hours north of the school's Itta Bena campus. Dowell was an old friend of Green, and had joined his new staff in the summer of 2005. He was 45.

"Personally, it impacted me quite a bit," said Green, who played alongside Dowell at Ole Miss in the 1980s. "He was my old college roommate, and he was my roommate until several weeks before the accident. We all miss him a lot, but knowing him, he'd say, 'Let's hook it up and move on.' Certainly, we're dedicating what we do this year to him."