Friday , Mar , 16 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

Islanders try to sink Badgers in first round of Big Dance

Chicago, IL (Sports Network) – Although the Islanders of Texas A&M-Corpus
Christi have been a Division I program for a mere eight seasons, the time has
come for the squad to make an appearance on the big stage as it takes on the
Wisconsin Badgers in the first round of the 69th annual NCAA Tournament from
the United Center in Chicago.

The Islanders made a huge splash in just their second year as part of the
Southland Conference as they defeated Northwestern State in the SLC Tournament
title game last weekend, 81-77. The victory was the sixth in a row and the 20th
in the last 22 outings for TAMUCC as it finished with a record of 26-6.

As for the Badgers, who finished 29-5 overall and 13-3 versus the rest of the
Big Ten Conference, they are one of nine programs that have been to the NCAA
Tournament in at least nine straight seasons. The Badgers were in this same
building just last week for the Big Ten Tournament, taking out Michigan State
and Illinois in the earlier rounds before losing to top-ranked Ohio State in
the title game on Sunday, 66-49. It was the second loss in the last two weeks
to the Buckeyes and the third in the last six games overall after Wisconsin
began the season 26-2. The Badgers are making their 13th overall appearance in
the tourney and have a record of 16-11 to show for their efforts, including a
championship from 1941’s 39-34 defeat of Washington State in Kansas City.

With respect to the all-time series between these two schools on the hardwood,
this is the first-ever meeting.

The winner will be back in action on Sunday to take on the winner of the
Georgia Tech/UNLV clash in the second round.

Little-known TAMUCC could well be the new Northwestern State from the Southland
Conference, but only time will tell. What is a certainty at this point is that
Chris Daniels is the premier player in that league after winning both the SLC
Player of the Year and the SLC Tournament MVP last weekend. Daniels led the
team with 15.2 ppg, 6.6 rpg and 49 blocked shots as a definite presence in the
paint for the program. Against conference foes he boosted his scoring up with
17.3 ppg and his rebounding efforts to just under seven per game. Josh
Washington, the top three-point threat for the program with his 47.6 percent
accuracy from beyond the arc, checks in with 12.9 ppg. However, as good as
Daniels and Washington may be, they’ve combined for a total of just 68 assists
this season, which is barely half the number that teammate Taurean Mitchell
(124) has managed to hand out himself, and he started only 12 of 32 games this
season. Another player used somewhat sparingly but who was very influential in
the team’s success was Cedric Smith (9.8 ppg), who averaged just over 21
minutes per game. An offensive-minded team to say the least, the Islanders
averaged 79.8 ppg overall and better than 82 ppg against the rest of the
Southland Conference.

The Big Ten Player of the Year this season, UW’s Alando Tucker, was the only
unanimous choice by both the league coaches and the media for All-Big Ten First
Team honors. In addition Tucker, who is still on the radar for national player
of the year honors, became just the second player in school history and the
24th in the history of the Big Ten to score at least 2,000 points in his
career. Tucker now needs just 23 points to become the all-time leading scorer
for the Badgers, and with an average of 19.9 ppg this season through 34 starts
that accomplishment is certainly within reach. One of four players to have
started every game for the Badgers, continuity and chemistry have been key to
the team’s success. Kammron Taylor, the only other double-digit scorer for the
group with his 12.6 ppg, has shot 39 percent from three-point range to make
himself the most successful long-distance threat on the unit this season.
Michael Flowers (7.2 ppg) paces the team with his 101 assists and 56 steals,
the latter saying a lot about Wisconsin’s defense in 2006-07 which held
opponents to a mere 57.2 ppg. However, the loss of Brian Butch (8.8 ppg, 5.9
rpg) near the end of February with a fractured right elbow is something that is
going to hurt this group moving forward.