RTC Conference Primers: # 31 – MEACPosted by jstevrtc on October 3rd, 2011
For our complete list of 2011-12 conference primers working backward from #31 to #1, click here.
Readers’ Take I
- Turmoil at Bethune-Cookman. Bethune-Cookman is the defending regular season champion, but can they concentrate on basketball? Since least season, the school has fired Clifford Reed, its head coach for the previous nine years, because of “insubordination and failure to cooperate” during an investigation of the basketball program. His son, C. J., was last year’s conference Player of the Year and the league’s top scorer, but was named (not charged) in a now-closed sexual assault case and has left the college. The elder Reed is suing the school for wrongful termination. Forget that the Wildcats will be under new leadership and have to place replace C.J.’s scoring; will they be able to concentrate on hoops with this stuff hanging over the program all year?
- NCCU Wild Card. We ask the above poll question about North Carolina Central because even though they’ve been readmitted to the MEAC, the Eagles welcome three transfers from Power Six conferences (on whom more in a bit). In the few pre-season writeups we’ve seen so far, NCCU has been predicted anywhere from first to 12th. They’re by far the biggest wild card in this conference this season.
- MEAC Parity. From 2000 to 2009, the MEAC post-season tournament saw only two schools claim more than one title (Hampton and South Carolina State). Hampton took the conference tournament crown last year and won the honor of a 16-seed in the NCAA Tournament. Morgan State took the two before that, and Coppin State won in 2008. Those three schools have separated themselves in recent years as the top programs in this league. Which one will rise up this year, or can another squad challenge that trio?
Predicted Order of Finish
- Hampton (13-3)
- Morgan State (11-5)
- Coppin State (10-6)
- North Carolina Central (9-7)
- Howard (9-7)
- Bethune-Cookman (8-8)
- Norfolk State (8-8)
- North Carolina A&T (8-8)
- Florida A&M (7-9)
- Delaware State (7-9)
- South Carolina State (6-10)
- MD-Eastern Shore (5-11)
- Savannah State (3-13)
All-Conference First Team
- Kwame Morgan, G, Hampton (16.1 PPG). Morgan isn’t just Robin to teammate Darrion Pellum’s Batman. He’s one of the top guards in the league in his own right.
- Darrion Pellum, G, Hampton (17.7 PPG, 4.3 RPG). The Pirates’ most important player is not only their top scorer but their niftiest thief, as well, snagging a team-high 1.7 steals per game last year.
- Michael Harper, G, Coppin State (15.2 PPG, 1.6 SPG). Harper didn’t just shoot more threes last year than he did in his other two seasons as an Eagle, he shot them more accurately (47%). He’s got to have another leap forward if Coppin State is to challenge Hampton.
- Dominique Sutton, F, North Carolina Central (7.2 PPG, 5.8 RPG at Kansas State in 2009-10). NCCU should transition easily in its readmission to the MEAC with KSU transfer Sutton on the roster.
- Kyle O’Quinn, C, Norfolk State (16.4 PPG, 11.1 RPG, 3.4 BPG). Our choice for MEAC Player of the Year, the 7-footer was also 4th nationally in swats last year.
6th Man: DeWayne Jackson, F, Morgan State (14.5 PPG, 1.4 SPG). It speaks well of the MEAC — and cetainly the Bears — that we could have chosen Jackson or teammate Kevin Thompson (13.1 PPG, 9.1 RPG) as all-conference selections, let alone as our 6th man.
Newcomer: Dominique Sutton, North Carolina Central
Hampton (NCAA #16). That’s right, just like last year. We expect the Pirates to be neck-and-neck with Morgan State for conference supremacy the entire season. Big things were expected of Morgan State’s Jackson and Thompson last year and they didn’t live up to the expectations. Hampton’s guard duo of Morgan and Pellum now carries that burden; if they can handle it, the title is theirs for the taking.
- Morgan State (NIT) — As noted above, it’s going to be a war between the Bears and the Pirates all year. Jackson and Thompson should have led MSU to easy regular season and conference tournament titles last season. If those two continue on their current arc, Hampton will be more than happy to benefit. If they play in 2011-12 at the level predicted for them in 2010-11, the Pirates will have a hard time keeping up with them.
- Coppin State (CBI or CIT) — The Eagles led the conference and were in the top 100 in the nation in 3-pointers made (232) and 3-point percentage (36%) in 2010-11, and led the conference in scoring (72.5 PPG). All the shooters are back, so expect more of the same.
Readers’ Take II
Here Today, Gone Tomorrow?
Hampton coach Ed Joyner, Jr., has his program on the rise and his squad is the favorite to make it to a second consecutive NCAA Tournament this year. He may be only 38-27 in his two seasons in charge of the Pirates, but 24 of those wins came last season. With another 20+ win season on the Virginia peninsula and another NCAA appearance, Joyner will have plenty of opportunities in the spring of 2012 to make the leap from low-major to mid-major, if he wants.
Spotlight On…NCCU’s New Arrivals
We don’t think the welcome mat will be out very long for North Carolina Central. As we said, they’ve been readmitted to the MEAC this year. Not only are they back, but they’ve got three transfers from Power Six conferences in tow: Ray Willis arrives from Oklahoma, Ebuka Anyaorah is in from Georgia, and of course there’s the aforementioned Sutton from Kansas State. Willis played in 29 games over two seasons at OU. Anyaorah played 10.5 minutes a game at UGa as a redshirt freshman in 2009-10. And we all know what Sutton meant to KSU in his three seasons there. In short, these guys weren’t stop-gap recruits at their original schools meant only to fill out the rosters. It’s going to be interesting to see how far they can take NCCU this season, especially given that they’ve never played on the same floor together in a game that counts.
NCAA Tournament History
The MEAC has managed to avoid slotting into a play-in game of the NCAA Tournament for the last three seasons, with Hampton last year suffering a 42-point pasting at the hands of top-seeded Duke. To find a win of any kind in the tourney, you have to go back to Florida A&M’s play-in game win over Lehigh in 2004, and for a win over a major conference team, back to 2001 when Hampton upset Iowa State. The league carries a 3-30 (.091) all-time record into 2011-12, but two of those wins were #15 over #2 seeds (the other: 1997 Coppin State vs. South Carolina). Given that a #15 has only defeated a #2 seed four times in NCAA Tournament history, the MEAC should be proud that its members comprise two of those historic wins.
The MEAC will be fun this year because of the battle that will ensue among the cluster of three programs in Hampton, Morgan State, and Coppin State that have put a little distance between themselves and the rest of the league in the last few seasons. One could put Bethune-Cookman in that mix, too, but with the abrupt departure of their coach and the reigning conference POY, it’s going to be difficult for them to keep pace with the top three. Hampton and Morgan State both have dynamic duos who have to take the reins of leadership for their clubs to achieve the expected success. Coppin State will rely on their expertise from the outside. Norfolk State has quite possibly the best player in the conference. Throw in a wild card like North Carolina Central, and you’ve got no shortage of compelling storylines, not to mention good basketball, in the MEAC for 2011-12.