JC of HBCUSportsBlog is the RTC correspondent for the SWAC and MEAC conferences.
Predicted order of finish:
- Morgan State University (22-11) (14-2)
- Hampton University (18-12) (11-5)
- Norfolk State University (16-15) (11-5)
- Delaware State University (14-16) (10-6)
- N.C. A&T State University (15-16) (9-7)
- Florida A&M University (15-17) (9-7)
- Coppin State University (16-21) (7-9)
- South Carolina State University (13-20) (7-9)
- Bethune-Cookman University (11-21) (5-11)
- Howard University (6-26) (3-13)
- Maryland - Eastern Shore (4-28) (2-14)
What You Need to Know (WYN2K). The MEAC is not a conference you want to sleep on this year. Two teams from the conference earned automatic bids to postseason play last year, with the conference champion Coppin State Eagles making it to the play-in game of the Big Dance, and regular-season MEAC champion Morgan State appearing in the NIT. With a loaded stock of Division I transfers across the board, in-conference parity and out-of-conference guaranteed games against power-conference opponents, the MEAC will be among the toughest mid-major conferences in the country this season.
Predicted Champion. Morgan State (#16 Seed NCAA). While the MEAC is usually relegated to play-in purgatory (four of the last five years), the Morgan State Bears could reverse the 16-seed blues this season. In several mid-major polls last season, the Bears were ranked in the Top 25 as a result of strong showings against the Big East (4-pt loss at UConn) and ACC (4-pt loss at Miami). Todd Bozeman is the reigning MEAC Coach of the Year, and returns two key starters in All-MEAC forward Marquise Kately and sharpshooting guard Reggie Holmes.
Others Considered. Norfolk State could surprise many in the conference this season. An early season road victory against the Richmond Spiders last year served notice of their depth and offensive talent, and they have several seniors returning. Despite the transfer of forward Matt Pilgrim, Hampton is also a team to watch because of forward Theo Smalling, who will likely be among the conference leaders in rebounding and minutes played this season.
Games to Watch. The MEAC doesn’t have many games with national intrigue, but in conference, these contests will be a litmus test for post-season mettle.
- Morgan State vs. Coppin State (12.6.08) – In the first game since the Eagles defeated the Bears to capture the conference championship and advance to the NCAA Tournament, the intensity of this Charm City rivalry will heighten one of Baltimore’s signature athletic contests.
- Hampton vs. Virginia Commonwealth (12.27.08) - Could be a bracket-busting test for an NCAA tournament-tested program in VCU. A win for the Pirates contributes to state bragging rights and boosts recruiting efforts at home.
RPI Booster Games. Several MEAC teams are participating in tournaments and classics, which present the best opportunities for upset wins.
- Hampton @ Virginia (12.23.08)
- Morgan State @ Utah (Glen Wilkes Classic) (11.22.08)
- NC A&T @ Akron (12.13.08)
Odds of Multiple NCAA Bids. Nah.
Neat-o Stat. Of the top ten individual scoring leaders in the MEAC last year, only Howard’s Eugene Myatt will be playing this season. Morgan’s Jamar Smith, Coppin State’s Tywain McKee, Bethune-Cookman’s Dewayne Pettus, and Delaware State’s Roy Bright were all seniors, while UMES’ Ed Tyson is academically ineligible for his senior season.
65-Team Era. The MEAC is responsible for two of the only four #15 over #2 seed wins in history, #15 Hampton over #2 Iowa St. in 2002, and #15 Coppin St. over #2 South Carolina in 1997. The only other win of the era was in 2004 in the PiG over Lehigh.
Final Thought. At least the MEAC isn’t the SWAC, right?