- Jim Root
3MW’s All Conference Team:
Player of the Year: RJ Cole, So., Howard
Coach of the Year: Jay Joyner, North Carolina A&T
Newcomer of the Year: Cletrell Pope, Jr., Bethune-Cookman
Freshman of the Year: Sherwyn Devonish-Prince, Morgan St.
1. Howard's Prolific Pair
It wasn't a surprise given the Bison's tempo, but Howard had both of the league's top two scorers in RJ Cole (3MW's MEAC POY) and Charles Williams. The two guards combined to average over 40ppg, combining effective outside shooting and slashing to constantly put pressure on opposing defenses. That duo was made all the more difficult to defend via the arrival of Rice transfer Chad Lott, who also finished in the league's top 10 in scoring. Despite starting zero seniors, the Bison won four straight on the road to close the season, and coach Kevin Nickelberry's bunch will be a prime contender both in this year's tournament and in next year's MEAC.
2. No-nonsense Norfolk
Norfolk State ran through the league, only suffering losses @ Bethune Cookman and at home to Howard on the season's final day (after the 1 seed had already been clinched). An incredibly balanced roster made the Spartans difficult to defend and score on, aided by having the league's best shooter (Derrik Jamerson) and shot-blocker (Jordan Butler). Coach Robert Jones has been incredibly successful at the Spartans' helm, but he's never won the conference tournament before; this is his best chance.
3. The Race to the Bottom
The annual duel between the MEAC and the SWAC for "worst conference in the country" was "won" by the MEAC this year, narrowly edging their counterparts to the south according to KenPom.com's rankings. The MEAC was home to the nation's worst two teams, as well (apologies to Chicago State), as Delaware St. and UMES set a clear standard for sucking. The two combined to go 20-35-1 against the spread, so if you were wise to their misery early, congratulations on your new mansion!
Florida A&M is ineligible for the postseason due to an APR ban. All seeds below them move up a slot. Otherwise, nothing crazy - all games at one site, with the quarterfinals played over two nights.
Best Team and Projected NCAA Tournament Seed
Norfolk State is the clear favorite after an impressive regular season in which they had the league's second-best offense (to Howard) and third-best defense (to FAMU and NC A&T). Plus, the tournament is held at nearby Scope Arena in Norfolk, so the Spartans should have plenty of fan support as well.
Norfolk might be able to avoid a play-in game as a 16 seed if things break right, but they're likely headed to Dayton, and every other team would definitely be a PIG participant.
Dark Horse Team
Between their late season surge (won four straight road games) and individual talent (3 of the league's top 10 scorers), Howard jumps out as a major contender. Cole is indisputably the league's best player, always a factor in win-or-go-home games, and the Bison can go on serious runs in a hurry.
Don't count out either of the North Carolina schools, either. Both are well-coached (Central by Levelle Moton, A&T by Jay Joyner), and while neither roster is loaded with stars, they play the kind of cohesive basketball that should hold up well in postseason play as the games tighten up.
(9) South Carolina St. over (8) UMES
(6) Savannah St. over (11) Delaware St.
(10) Morgan St. over (7) Coppin St.
(1) Norfolk St. over (9) South Carolina St.
(4) Howard over (5) Bethune-Cookman
(3) NC Central over (6) Savannah St.
(2) NC A&T over (10) Morgan St.
(1) Norfolk St. over (4) Howard
(3) NC Central over (2) NC A&T
(1) Norfolk St. over (3) NC Central