About 10 years ago, Rascal Flatts reached No. 1 on the country charts with their now-classic hit "What Hurts The Most." The song's heart-wrenching lyrics would be a fitting tribute to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi's season-ending loss in the Southland conference final to perennial power-house Stephen F. Austin; the loss left the Islanders "never knowin’ what could’ve been" when it came to their NCAA tournament hopes.
The Islanders haven’t played a game in March Madness since 2007, which was around the same time that "What Hurts The Most" was topping the charts and Corpus Christi-native Eva Longoria was at the peak of her fame on "Desperate Housewives."
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi head coach Willis Wilson spoke about the agony of coming so close, only to fall short, in a video produced by his athletic department.
"A painful experience for everybody. It’s been a lot of fuel and motivation for our returning guys."
The Islanders should continue to build on the momentum from last year’s impressive 25-win campaign, because they return one of the best players in program history in Rashawn Thomas.
The 6-8 senior forward was hotter than a July afternoon in Texas last year, earning First Team All-Southland honors, the conference Defensive Player of The Year award and a finalist spot for the Lou Henson Mid-Major Player of The Year Award.
Thomas will hope to build on his impressive 16.6 points and eight rebounds per game, and will be the unquestioned key to success for the Islanders this season. This will be especially important as the Islanders look to make up for eight players gone from last year's squad.
Thankfully for Thomas, the Islanders have done of a good job of reloading their talent pool to help. They bring in five new players, and those guys have already drawn the praises of Wilson.
Those newcomers also make the Islanders bigger and more athletic for next season. The class includes two 6-9 forwards -- Perry Franois (Miami) and Alex Holcomb (Houston) -- plus two more 6-8 forwards -- Elijah Schmidt (Houston) and York Benjamin (Tulsa). 6-6 wing-man Jamell Bradley (San Antonio) joins the crew as well.
That kind of size could create some difficult matchups for their Southland opponents, and each of these players will be given every opportunity to contribute to the lineup immediately.
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi plays with a certain style and swagger that gives them the feel of a team from the1990s, which adds to its entertainment value. However, the looming question around campus heading into the season will be if Wilson and his staff have done enough to surround Thomas with the supporting cast to get over the hump and finally take down the Goliath of the Southland, Stephen F. Austin.
When all is said and done, the Islanders hope that if they are going to be singing Rascal Flatts songs at season’s end that it will be their more recent hit "Unstoppable," instead of a replay of last year’s soundtrack, "What Hurts The Most."