Coppin State becomes the first losing team to ever make NCAA Tournament

DAYTON – At one point this season, Coppin State lost 17 of 18 games and was 4-19. The Eagles are the first team to get into the NCAA tournament with 20 losses, eclipsing the 19 losses posted by Bradley in 1954-55.

But it’s not the losses that are catching the eye of the Eagles’ opponents in Tuesday’s play-in game; it’s that they won 12 of the final 13 games and captured the Mid-Eastern Conference championship that made them eligible for the tournament.

“We’re definitely not looking at their record to see how good they are,” Mount St. Mary’s coach Milan Brown said. “They’re going to be a tough test.”

Coppin State, from Baltimore, won the conference championship by Morgan State 62-60. Mount St. Mary’s (18-14), from Emmitsburg, Md., won the Northeast Conference tournament, beating Sacred Heart 68-55.

Coppin State coach Ron Mitchell said the season began to turn when the seniors took a greater leadership role and younger players got game experience.

“We had to mix that together, and it took some time,” he said.

Coppin State is led by senior point guard Tywain McKee, who is averaging 16.6 points a game and made the floater in the lane with two seconds remaining that lifted the Eagles over Morgan State.

“He has the possibility of being the best player on the floor tomorrow night,” Brown said. “We’re going to have to make him take a lot of contested shots, tough shots.”

Mitchell said his team will have to be worried about the perimeter play of Mount St. Mary’s guards Jeremy Goode and Chris Vann. Goode averages 14.3 points a game and 5.5 assists and Vann averages 14.4 points.

The Mountaineers are making their third NCAA tournament appearance and first since 1999. Coppin State is making its fourth appearance and first since 1997.

Mount St. Mary’s is 3-0 against Coppin State, but the two teams haven’t met since 1984. The winner of Tuesday’s play-in game will face top-seed and No. 1-ranked North Carolina in the east regional in Raleigh, N.C.