- Ky McKeon
3MW’s All Conference Team:
1. James Daniel Goes Down
The nation’s leading scorer in 2015-16, James Daniel, was expected to lift the Howard Bison to new heights this season, as HU was picked by many (including 3MW) to win the MEAC title. Daniel went down with an ankle injury before the season, and ended up only appearing in two contests as the Bison sputtered to a 5-11 conference record, good for 11th place (tied) in the MEAC. Freshman Charles Williams did an admirable job trying to pick up Howard’s slack, but to little avail. The Bison face an uphill battle in the postseason tournament.
2. NC Central is Actually Good
The MEAC and the SWAC take a lot of flak for being the two clear worst conferences in the nation. But this doesn’t mean that every team is “garbage”. North Carolina Central was actually impressive this season, finishing 13-3 in the MEAC and beating Missouri (tears) at Mizzou, Northern Kentucky at NKU, and LIU Brooklyn (one of the top NEC teams). The Eagles are the only MEAC team ranked in the KenPom top 200, and would be the only team ranked in the top 300, if it weren’t for Norfolk State being currently ranked #299. NC Central’s success can partially be attributed the stellar play of Patrick Cole, a redshirt senior that ranked third in the league in scoring (19.6ppg), fifth in rebounding (6.9rpg), and first in assists (5.7apg). Yeah, he won Player of the Year.
The tournament tips off Monday, March 6th, and concludes on March 11th. The entire tournament is played at the Norfolk Scope in Norfolk, Virginia. One little tidbit – Savannah State is ineligible for postseason play due to APR sanctions, so they are not in the tournament bracket.
Best Team and Projected NCAA Tournament Seed
No matter which team ends up coming out of the MEAC postseason tourney, a 16 seed is almost a guarantee. North Carolina Central has the best shot of avoiding a play-in game, but would still likely fall short of the 15 line if they take the crown. No 16-seed has ever toppled a 1-seed in the Big Dance, but it wouldn’t be SUPER bat shit insane to see NC Central be the first school to achieve that feat. This is a tough and experienced squad, and the MEAC has a bit of a history with slaying giants (Norfolk State, Hampton).
Dark Horse Team
Norfolk State has the best shot at the auto-bid outside of NC Central. The Spartans feature two of the best guards in the conference in Jonathan Wade and Zaynah Robinson, and rank first in the MEAC in defense. Since picking the 2-seed as a dark horse isn’t much of a stretch, let’s throw out one more name: Delaware State. The Hornets, though only 7-9 in the MEAC, have wins over NC Central and Morgan State within the conference, and a signature win at St. John’s earlier in the season. DSU’s ability to speed teams up and force turnovers will be the key to their auto-bid hopes against a turnover prone league. Morgan State, featuring the excellent Tiwian Kendley, also has a shot to make waves in the MEAC tourney.
(8) Delaware State defeats (9) Bethune – Cookman
(5) Maryland – Eastern Shore defeats (12) North Carolina A&T
(6) Coppin State defeats (11) Howard
(10) Florida A&M defeats (7) South Carolina State
(1) NC Central defeats (8) Delaware State
(4) Hampton defeats (5) Maryland – Eastern Shore
(3) Morgan State defeats (6) Coppin State
(2) Norfolk State defeats (10) Florida A&M
(1) NC Central defeats (4) Hampton
(3) Morgan State defeats (2) Norfolk State
(1) NC Central defeats (3) Morgan State
With the parity in this league, it wouldn’t be shocking to see a team other than NC Central emerge on March 11th. For the sake of the magical “16-seed defeats a 1-seed” quest, I hope we see the Eagles.