Team preview: South Carolina State

Blue Ribbon Illustrated previews the 2004-05 college basketball season, exclusively on Insider.

Updated: October 20, 2004, 5:29 PM ET
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While there was some trepidation about South Carolina State's basketball future after former coach Cy Alexander departed before last season with five MEAC championships on his resume, turns out the Bulldogs were sure-fire Betts to continue their run among the league's top teams.

Seven-year South Carolina State assistant Ben Betts was an immediate and popular choice to take over the program and he was also an instant success, leading the team to the regular season league title and racking up 18 victories. Only an uncharacteristically horrid shooting night from long range (0-for-24 on three-point attempts) against Florida A&M in the MEAC semifinals could derail the squad.

Betts took some basic principles from Alexander, but diversified the offense, extended his defense and played more man-to-man. The results were the MEAC's second highest scoring unit (69.1 ppg) and the second best defense, allowing just 65.1 points per game.

Ironically, the Bulldogs, who shot just 29.8 percent against the eventual champion Rattlers in the tournament, led the league in field-goal percentage, hitting 45 percent on the season. All in all, it was a bitter end to a sweet season.

"We've very excited about this season," Betts said. "We're still disappointed about how we finished, but the guys realize we've still got a lot of work to get done and we're going to have to stay hungry."