Team preview: Texas A&M CC

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

Remember in middle school, when the new cool kid moved in from out of town and the entire student body couldn't stop talking about how he was sure to take over as the elite athlete on campus?

That's the kind of buzz around the Southland Conference with the addition of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi this year.

Coming off a second consecutive 20-win season as an independent, packing some impressive victories against major-conference contenders and fielding a roster with three players who are 6-10 or taller, the Islanders present enough of a resume to cause serious concern among coaches in their new league.

In fact, many are already tabbing A&M-Corpus Christi as favorites for the conference title this year. Islanders coach Ronnie Arrow, for one, is just glad to see his team get an opportunity to play for a league championship.

"That carrot has been dangling for so long in hopes of getting into a conference," Arrow said. "We're really looking forward to actually being in a conference and having a chance to play for a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

"Being independent, unless you are Notre Dame, is very tough. We felt like we had laid the foundation here, but it was such a tough situation to try to get into a postseason tournament. Now, if we play well enough to compete for the conference championship, we have a direct avenue to get in. We can go from day one now knowing that if we work hard and good things happen, we have a direct avenue."

Should the Islanders repeat the numbers they've posted the last few seasons, there is good reason to believe they will be serious league title contenders.

Texas A&M-CC led the nation in three different statistical categories last year -- the only team in the nation to do so. The Islanders were first in assists (19.5 apg), margin of victory (15.0 ppg) and field goal percentage (.501).

Among the program's big victories in recent seasons were wins at Florida State, at TCU and at Baylor. The Islanders also beat TCU at home last season.

"The schedule we've had the last few years, I really think it's going to help us," Arrow said. "Our preseason schedule is tough again this year, so that should help us get ready for conference."