It has taken a couple of years for the fallout affects of Virginia Tech and Miami’s move from the ACC to reach the small time. But now that it finally has trickled down, conferences are starting to snatch up Independent teams like a starving kid at a donut shop.
UC-Davis is all set to officially move to the Big West, the Mid-Con has snatched up IPFW, North Dakota State and South Dakota State for the 2007-2008 season and Florida Gulf Coast is already getting looks before they are ever cleared to become a Division I institution. But the biggest winner of all? The Southland Conference. Full of mediocre teams, coaches and players, this conference reeled in a big fish when it landed Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, perhaps the best DI Independent ever.
The Islanders will officially begin conference play this season and the Southland shouldn’t be happier. In fact, the Islanders have a legit chance to win the conference this year. And no, I am not joking.
If for no other reason, look at Islander coach Ronnie Arrow, who already gets some play by being named the Southland Conference’s representative in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll, where he is one of only 31 total coaches. And Arrow has earned that spot. As the only coach in TAMCC’s seven-year DI stint, he has led the Islanders to back-to-back 20-win seasons the past two years and over his tenure with the Islanders, has led the team to wins over teams like South Florida, Florida State, TCU and Baylor, all schools from far more power conferences than the Southland.
Not to mention that in those two 20- win seasons, TAMCC should have easily been tapped to appear in the NIT Tournament at the least. We all know that an Independent would basically have to go undefeated to make the NCAA Tournament and even then would likely be shutout. But lets face facts, who really expects an Independent to win that many games? Probably as few people as Ronnie Arrow had friends with the NIT after getting shunned back-to-back years.
If only he could dress as well as he can coach.
I don’t care why the Southland people decided to bring in the Islanders. Be it because it added a seventh team in the state of Texas or because they were a 20-win school. The fact is that they almost should have invited the team by handing them the conference title trophy. TAMCC dominated some Independent programs that were just as good, if not better than teams like Lamar and McNeese State.
The team returns 14 (yeah, like pretty much the whole team) letterwinners, including four starters. Big man Chris Daniels was named to the Preseason All-Southland Second Team without ever stepping on a court in the conference. Hey, maybe someone is finally giving these guys some respect.
Come January 6, when TAMCC opens conference play against McNeese State, I fear for the other teams in this conference. This is perhaps the greatest move made conference wise in years in Division I ball.
Now, someone better just give Arrow and his Islanders some respect.