After spending years as the conference with some of the craziest conference tournament upsets we can remember, the MEAC seems to be finding a way to even the score, as the top seed has captured its automatic bid in three of the last four seasons, including North Carolina Central last year. The Eagles stay in the Big Dance was a short one, falling to UC-Davis in the First Four. That game was also the final game for all five Eagle starters, meaning that the defending champions are not likely to repeat this year.
The pick to win the MEAC this season is Todd Bozeman’s Morgan State team. The Bears feature two of the top players in the entire conference in forward Phillip Carr and guard Tiwian Kendley. However, there are a few legitimate challengers to that top spot, and one of them is Bobby Collins’ Maryland-Eastern Shore Fighting Hawks. UMES has never made the NCAA Tournament, but has enough talent to grab a bid this season should Morgan State slip up. Also keep an eye on Hampton, as the Pirates may have the league’s best backcourt and could be another team right in the hunt for the title.
Predicted Order of Finish
- Morgan State – Todd Bozeman has a great chance to lead his Bears to the MEAC title with all five starters returning, led by a pair of the best players in the conference, Tiwian Kendley and Phillip Carr.
- Maryland-Eastern Shore – Bobby Collins has done an amazing job the past few years turning UMES into a factor in the MEAC. Even though his leading scorer from last season, Bakari Copeland, is gone, all four other starters do return and this could be the year they break through.
- Hampton – The backcourt tandem of Jermaine Morrow and Kalin Fisher make the Pirates a very dangerous team that should be in the hunt for the conference title all season long.
- Norfolk State – The Spartans finished second in the MEAC and made it to the conference tournament title game last year thanks to guards Jonathan Wade (19.4 points per game) and Zaynah Robinson (13.5 points per game). Robinson is back, but Wade is gone, and the team may take a few steps back.
- North Carolina Central – Zero. That is the number of returning starters for the Eagles from last year’s MEAC regular season and tournament championship team. However, Levelle Moton has had this team in the NIT or NCAA three of the last four seasons and even with a bunch of new faces, they should not be counted out.
- Savannah State* – The Tigers run the ball at almost breakneck speed, making them one of the most fun teams to watch in the MEAC. However, not much should be expected in terms of wins this season, especially with the team ineligible for postseason play and getting ready to drop its athletics program down to the Division II level.
- Florida A&M – The Rattlers welcome in former Western Michigan and South Florida head coach Robert McCullum to try to help them avoid the bottom of the MEAC standings. With three solid returning starters, led by forward Desmond Williams, this team could surprise a few people this season.
- Howard – Even though the Bison only return one starter from last season, that player was the MEAC Rookie of the Year, Charles Williams, who averaged over 15 points per game. If they can begin to develop some more talent around him, an improvement on a 10-24 record is possible.
- Bethune-Cookman – After posting a 10-22 record last season, the Wildcats lost three of their top four scorers and parted way with head coach Gravelle Craig. Ryan Ridder takes over, and does have one piece with senior guard Brandon Tabb, who averaged almost 18 points per game last season.
- Delaware State – The Hornets’ top three scorers from last season are gone, and with those players they lost 22 games. It could be even worse this time around.
- South Carolina State – The Bulldogs lost 20 games last season and three of their top four scorers from that team are gone. It looks like another tough season for head coach Murray Garvin’s team.
- Coppin State – The Eagles have a real chance to climb in the MEAC standings over the next few years if their new head coach, former Maryland and NBA player Juan Dixon, can use his name recognition to bring in the recruits. This year, unfortunately, will likely be a long one.
- North Carolina A&T – The Aggies were a finalist for the HoopsHD Centenary Award last season after managing only one win against Division I competition all season long. With only two starters back, the good news is that it will be next to impossible to be worse than they were last year.
*Savannah State is ineligible for postseason play due to APR scores.