Tuesday, March 6, 2007

MEAC Tournament Preview

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The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference did not have a banner year. They finished next-to-last in conference RPI, and didn’t feature an overly competitive race for the league title. Delaware State finished 16-2, four games ahead of the second-place team, Florida A&M. However, only three teams finished below .500 in league play, with five teams finishing tied for third at 10-8. Overall, though, only Delaware State and Florida A&M finished above .500. Can the winner avoid the play-in game?

Favorite: Delaware State pretty much ran away with the MEAC regular-season championship, winning their final seven games to give themselves separation from the rest of the pack. Their RPI was nearly 100 spots better than the next-best team. The Hornets were next-to-last in scoring offense, but they led the conference by a wide margin in scoring defense. They are led by the terrific forward tandem of Jahsha Bluntt, an athletic scorer who can do a variety of things, and Roy Bright, a former Cincinnati transfer who has really come on strong lately. Darrin Shine is the main man in the backcourt; he is a very good distributor.

Contenders: Florida A&M was in the mix for the league title midway through the league season, after knocking off Delaware State to get to 7-2. However, they lost four of their next seven MEAC games to fall back. They are a terrific rebounding team, and are led by Rome Sanders up front. He is one of the best forwards in the conference. Darius Glover and Brian Greene form a very good wing duo, and Leslie Robinson is a solid guard. North Carolina A&T had won three in a row before falling in their season finale at Delaware State. Steven Rush is a sixth man only by name—he averages almost 17 points per game and plays over 26 minutes per game. Jason Wills is tough to stop in the frontcourt, while Austin Ewing is a good contributor in the backcourt. South Carolina State is led by an experienced trio of perimeter players. Brian Mason is one of the best players in the conference, while Travis Jones and Derrick Davis also average double-figures in the backcourt.

Sleeper: Coppin State finished behind the pack of 10-8 teams, so they got the #8 seed, but they went 8-4 in their last 12 games, and could pull an upset. Leading the way is one of the best players in the conference, guard Tywain McKee. He can do everything on the court for the Eagles, and can really fill it up on the offensive end. Fellow juniors Antwan Harrison and Robert Pressey anchor the frontcourt.

Prediction: Delaware State is the odds-on favorite to win the automatic bid, and I think the Hornets will hold serve in the tournament. They have the best forward tandem in the conference, and not many teams have the frontcourt to stop Jahsha Bluntt and Roy Bright. DSU also plays, by far, the best defense in the conference. Throw in the experience factor, and there is no reason the Hornets shouldn’t reach the Dance.

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