2009-10 Conference Primers: #31: MEACPosted by rtmsf on October 6th, 2009
Predicted Order of Finish:
- Morgan State (22-9)
- North Carolina A&T (17-14)
- South Carolina State (16-12)
- Coppin State (14-13)
- Bethune-Cookman (14-16)
- Hampton (12-18)
- Delaware State (10-17)
- Norfolk State (9-19)
- Florida A&M (9-16)
- Howard (4-23)
- Winston-Salem State (4-26)
- UMES (3-27)
- Tavarus Alston (G) – North Carolina A&T – Should lead the MEAC in assists this season, and could be a scoring threat as well.
- Reggie Holmes (G) – Morgan State – 3rd leading scorer and leading 3pt shooter in the MEAC in 08 will expand his role in 09.
- Jason Flagler (F) – South Carolina State – Dynamic scorer is SC State’s best chance at post-season success.
- Neal Pitt (F) – UMES– Tenacious rebounder and defensive force under the basket will lead conference in glass cleaning for second straight season.
- Kevin Thompson (C) – Morgan State – Could emerge as a secondary scoring option in the low post, and will fill role as interior stopper.
- Alexander Starling (6th Man, F) – Bethune-Cookman –Versatile forward is Bethune-Cookman’s primary scoring option.
What You Need to Know. The MEAC is a mid-major conference that, while among the lowest rated in RPI, is among the more recognized brands in college basketball outside of power conference competition. The MEAC champion has won three first-round tournament games in the last 20 years, and has produced tough out of conference wins over quality competition in the last three years. (Morgan State defeating Maryland, Hampton defeating George Mason in 2008)
Predicted Champion. Morgan State (NCAA Seed #15). Morgan State, with its marquee head coach in Todd Bozeman and influx of Baltimore-area talent, is the favorite to win the MEAC conference for the second-straight year. With leading scorer and three-point shooter Reggie Holmes and rebounding machine Kevin Thompson returning for their senior and junior years, respectively, the Bears will need a super showing out-of-conference to justify anything higher than a 15th in the NCAA Tournament, thanks to their tomato can conference peers. The Bears should make their tournament appearance in 2010 a lot closer than they did against Oklahoma in 2009, but will probably taste defeat in another first-round exit.
North Carolina A&T – The Aggies return the best point guard in the conference in Tavarus Alston, who recorded five assists or more in 12 games last season. The Aggies were also among the top defensive units in the MEAC in 08-09, averaging just over five blocks and eight steals per game last season.
South Carolina State – The Bulldogs were a championship contender in 08-09, but questions about replacing leading rebounder and big scorer Jason Johnson will circle this team throughout the season.
Top 5 RPI Boosters:
Nov. 14, 2009 – Hampton at LaSalle – This will be the first big winnable game for new Hampton head coach Edward Joyner.
Nov. 15, 2009 – North Carolina A&T at Marshall – Morgan State defeated Marshall last season, and was a big factor in the Bears receiving a #15 seed in the national tournament.
Nov. 24 , 2009 – Morgan State at Arkansas – Should the Bears hang tough or win this road game, the selection committee will have tough time not putting the Bears at #13 or #12 should they reach the national tournament.
Dec. 8, 2009 – Morgan State at Minnesota – Again, it’s all about the Bears making a good showing on the road against tournament-caliber competition.
Dec. 21, 2009 – South Carolina State at Iowa – The Bulldogs pulled a rare upset when Iowa traveled to Orangeburg. Now they move onto to a bigger, better program in the Iowa Hawkeyes.
Key Conference Games:
Dec. 5, 2009 – Morgan State at Coppin State – Arch rivalry, a first big game to open a new gym. Could set the tone for both of these teams.
Jan. 11, 2010 – South Carolina State at Delaware State – A match-up between two teams that could challenge for the regular season title.
Feb. 1, 2010 – Morgan State at North Carolina A&T – The first meeting in what could be the championship game preview.
Feb. 6, 2010 – Hampton at South Carolina State – Could be a game that shifts the balance in the regular season standings.
Feb. 27, 2010 – Maryland-Eastern Shore at Howard – The battle to avoid the last seed will be fought here.
Digging Deeper. By this time next year, the MEAC may have two new teams in competition – North Carolina Central University and Savannah State University. NCCU was recently accepted into the conference and will begin athletic competition at the D1 level in 2010. Savannah State is still awaiting a decision from the conference.
Fun With KenPom. Traditionally, the MEAC isn’t a strong statistical league, especially on the offensive end. That remained true last season, as every school finished in the bottom third of offensive efficiency. But where Morgan State separated itself as the best team in the conference was at the defensive end of the court. The Bears were in the top fifty teams in the nation in defending both twos and threes, and their overall defensive efficiency (#93) rated ahead of at-large teams such as Cal and BC last season. As a case in point, when Morgan State defeated Maryland in their signature upset last season, they held the Terps to 42% overall shooting and a pitiful 7% from three (1-14).
NCAA Tournament History. After last year’s Morgan State blitzing at the hands of Oklahoma, the MEAC sits at 3-28 (.087) in the NCAA Tournament, with one of those wins coming in the 2004 Play-in Game. Of course, the 2001 Hampton upset over Iowa St. and 1997 Coppin St. upset over South Carolina remain the pinnacle for the league at the national level. Both upsets took place as a #15 seed over a #2, so if the MEAC aspires to become America’s first-round darling again, Morgan State needs to win one of their two big nonconference road games (they were a #15 seed last year).
Final Thoughts. You shouldn’t anticipate much damage in the tournament from the MEAC champion, or many other mid-majors for that matter. What you should value out of this league is an up-tempo style of basketball, with a good slate of talented players and coaches. It’s not enough to say “watch this conference because it is comprised of historically black colleges and universities” – but the tradition and history of these teams and this conference are no longer driving the national recognition of the conference. Now, it’s about talent and the ability of the MEAC programs to compete.