Team preview: Sacramento State

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

For the fourth time in five seasons, Sacramento State improved its number of victories, and that's saying a lot for a program that, not too long ago was one of the worst in all of Division I.

But the Hornets are behind all that now. Coach Jerome Jenkins has done a fine job in bringing Sac State up to the upper echelon of the Big Sky Conference. Last season the Hornets finished in a tie for fifth, and recorded the most victories since 1991, the year the school became a Division I member. Perhaps in the bad old days there would be cause for celebration. But in reality, 2005-06 was a bit of a disappointment for the Hornets.

They boasted a number of returning starters and letter-winners, and one of the conference's best players in Jason Harris. But the Hornets never seemed to get on a consistent track. They started nicely, recording a 9-5 mark in non-conference play. Then Sac State continued that momentum when league play started, winning its first four games to move to 13-5.

All signs pointed to what people thought the Hornets were before the season -- a conference title-contending club. But then disaster struck. The Hornets lost their next four and won only two of their remaining 12 regular season conference games.

The Hornets scrambled to a 71-70 victory in the first round of the Big Sky Tournament, but then had their odd season put to rest with a 98-83 loss to Northern Arizona in the semifinals.

Sacramento State is one of just three teams in the Big Sky (Eastern Washington and Montana being the others) that have reached the conference tournament each of the last four years. That comes after Sacramento State failed to reach the postseason tournament each of its first six years in the league (the Hornets joined the Big Sky in 1996-97).

The next step is moving up to being an elite conference team, but Sac State has had trouble reaching the level of conference power Montana.