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HomeSportsUT
Published: Saturday, 2/23/2008

Rockets host Hens from 'other' league

BY MAUREEN FULTON
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

The University of Toledo men's basketball team has played in the Mid-American Conference for 57 years, and it doesn't appear that will change anytime soon.

If the Rockets are ever looking for a new league, though, they have lots of recent experience against the Colonial Athletic Association.

When UT hosts Delaware tonight at 7 in a BracketBusters matchup, it will be the fourth CAA opponent the Rockets have faced this year. UT also played four CAA teams last year.

The BracketBusters agreement means the Rockets will continue their CAA relationship next season when they travel to Newark, Del., to play the Blue Hens.

"We might as well be in the CAA, we might as well be an honorary member," junior Anthony Byrd said.

UT is 1-2 against CAA teams this year, with a win over Drexel and losses to Old Dominion and North Carolina-Wilmington. The Rockets went 2-2 last year against schools from the league that is based in Norfolk, Va., and stretches along the East Coast.

The CAA has had some good runs recently with the 2006 Final Four appearance by George Mason, but this year the MAC has a better overall RPI than the CAA. RealTimeRPI.com ranks the MAC 12th-toughest among conferences, with the Colonial at 14th.

UT coach Stan Joplin said some years, the two conferences can be quite similar.

"They get a little bit more publicity, and they buy some home games," Joplin said. "That's the difference.

"I think it's good to play teams like that because the conference is pretty good and it gives us good tests."

The Rockets (8-16) are hoping a return to Savage Hall and a light schedule over the next few weeks will mean they play better offensively. UT's average of 58.3 points per game is the lowest in school history. Only one other year have the Rockets averaged less than 60 points per game, with a 58.4 average in 1991-92.

With the game against Northern Illinois being canceled, UT had a light schedule early in the week before starting to prepare for Delaware on Wednesday.

"Since we've got a short bench, it gives us a little rest and gives us time to focus on us," Byrd said. "As far as what we're doing defensively and offensively, we can watch film on us and focus on what we need to get done."

Delaware (11-15) is seventh in the CAA standings out of 12 teams. The Blue Hens have already doubled their win total from a year ago, when they went 5-26.

Joplin said Delaware likes to play up-tempo and is a strong rebounding team.

"We've got to get back in transition," Joplin said. "They try to beat you off the dribble. They like to attack the basket and make some plays."

Contact Maureen Fulton at: mfulton@theblade.com or 419-724-6160.



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