AMES, IOWA — AMES, Iowa -- The Coppin State basketball team arrived here yesterday in another small town in middle America and immediately began preparing for an expected confrontation with another Big 12 opponent.
This time, it's Iowa State, which made a surprising run to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament last March before losing to UCLA by a point in overtime in the Midwest semifinals.
Coppin coach Fang Mitchell and his players were still so pumped up yesterday from their 78-70 victory over perennial Big 12 standout Missouri on Tuesday night, they seemed less than awed by the possible showdown with Iowa State and oblivious to the swirling snow that met them here.
As Mitchell ran out a hotel door to board a bus to practice at Iowa State, he said, "All I know is people here will be even more wary of us now that we beat Missouri."
Before getting a shot at Iowa State tomorrow night in the 9 p.m. championship game of the Cyclone Challenge, Coppin (1-1) must fend off Southwest Texas State (2-2) tonight at 6: 30 in the opening round of the tournament.
Iowa State (2-1) also has preliminary contest tonight against Texas Southern (0-3) in the other first-round game.
It would be a stunning turn of events if Coppin and Iowa State did not advance to the championship game.
In fact, Iowa State has already been penciled into the championship game in one release put out by the school.
Coppin State should be favored, but the Eagles are on the road and playing a team that made it to the NCAA tournament last March as a representative of the Southland Conference.
So, what kind of team is Southwest Texas State this season?
"They play up-tempo and man-to-man defense," said Coppin assistant Derek Brown, whose job it was to scout the Bobcats.
Mitchell said he wouldn't look at film on Southwest Texas State until late last night.
Mitchell and the Eagles can't help being confident about the prospects of a meeting with the Cyclones because the Big 12 hex has ended with the victory over Missouri.
Coppin is 1-16 against the Big 12 and is ready to plunge forward with the sudden improvement of a front line that was virtually nonexistent in a season-opening 72-50 loss at No. 13 Connecticut.
In just eight days from the Connecticut game to Missouri, Mitchell seems to have improve the likes of 6-foot-5 junior swing man Fred Warrick, 6-6 junior forward Dorian Pena and 6-7 senior center Kareem Lewis.
Two frontcourt reserves, 6-9 junior Rafi Reavis and 6-8 sophomore Tyran Watkins, also made huge strides from the first to the second game.
"I don't think it's anything magical other than the fact they want to win," said Mitchell. "And it's back to listening to me. It is my team and they realize that after a few of those wonderful practices."
Pub Date: 12/05/97