Team preview: South Carolina State

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

That is Jamal Brown's favorite familiar quotation, and for good reason: successful seasons have indeed a habit at South Carolina State over the last decade.

As a player (1993-96) and assistant coach (1997-2003), Brown's been in on all four MEAC titles the school has collected in the last 11 years. In 2003, after winning his fifth overall league championship in 16 seasons, longtime coach Cy Alexander moved on to rebuild Tennessee State's program, and Brown followed him to Nashville.

But this summer, after Alexander's successor Ben Betts resigned to take a spot on Jeff Capel's bench at Oklahoma, Brown returned home to Orangeburg. On June 21, S.C. State hired Brown for his first head-coaching job after nine years of apprenticeship.

"It's a fantastic opportunity," Brown said. "It's great being back at my alma mater. Hopefully we'll get it back to where we were as recently as three years ago."

Betts wasn't able to lead the Bulldogs back to the promised land of the NCAAs in his three seasons. His teams were always in the hunt, but they never could get over the hump the MEAC semifinals, losing by double-digit margins in all three visits. And 2005-06 was a rare down year, as S.C. State struggled to offset three early-season injuries among its starting five.

Uncharacteristically, the Bulldogs couldn't hold on to the ball and they couldn't score. They were in the bottom 25 nationally in offensive efficiency (.893 points per possession), and were the fourth-worst team in D-I in turnover rate, coughing the ball up on 26.1 percent of their possessions.

After a 3-8 non-conference start, S.C. State lost five of six league games during a January stretch. But behind the heroic efforts of 6-6 senior Thurman Zimmerman (11.0 ppg, 8.0 rpg), the Bulldogs rallied late to win nine-of-11 before finally yielding to Delaware State by 12 points in the conference semis.