Monday, October 15, 2007

MEAC Preview


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. In the conference tourney, FAMU gained the honor of advancing to the play-in game by upsetting top-seeded DSU in the title game before falling to Niagara in the dreaded No. 64 vs. No. 65 match-up. Can the champion avoid the play-in game this season?

Favorites: Heading into the season, Hampton has to be considered the favorite to win the conference this year. They finished only one game below .500 last season overall, tied for third in the conference, and return all five starters—with three being all-conference candidates. Rashad West leads the way in the backcourt. He is a terrific scorer that can carry the Pirates. Two freshmen will handle the point in Christopher Tolen and Brandon Tunnell, while last year’s starter, Vincent Simpson, will back-up West. Up front, the Pirates have the best inside duo in the league in sophomores Mike Freeman and Matthew Pilgrim. Both have the potential to dominate. The center position will be manned by several newcomers, led by JC transfer Donte Harrison.

Contenders: The three-time defending champions, Delaware State, lose four starters, but will still be in the title hunt. The main reason is Roy Bright, arguably the best player in the conference. He can do everything on the court, but is a terrific scorer. Joining him in the frontcourt will be Joe Dickens, who missed all but two games last season due to an ankle injury, and Nebraska transfer Chris Douse. Andre Topic will help inside. In the backcourt, Kyle White will lead the team from the point. Freshman Trevor Welcher is expected to make an impact as well. Morgan State could be a real contender this season, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see them at the top of the standings. Jamar Smith and Jerrel Green return in the backcourt. Smith is a very good scorer who could have a break-out year this season, while Green is a very good distributor. On the wing opposite Smith will be Reggie Holmes, who is a solid shooter and a good defender. The frontcourt duo of California transfer Marquise Kately and Boubacar Coly will be one of the best in the league. Kately is a very versatile performer who was a double-digit scorer in the Pac-10, while Coly was the best rebounder in the MEAC last year. North Carolina A&T made a huge jump in the standings last season, winning 15 games after winning a combined 16 over the previous four seasons. The Aggies should continue their winning ways this season. Steven Rush is a sixth man by name only—he is one of the best players in the conference and one of the best three-point shooters in the country. Jason Wills anchors the interior and provides balance with his scoring, rebounding, and passing ability. Austin Ewing is a solid third scorer. Angelo Hernandez and Glenn Nelson also return in the backcourt, while Trahern Chaplain will join Wills down low.

Sleepers: Coppin State finished last season strong, and will look to carry that momentum over to this season. Tywain McKee is one of the best players in the conference, and is very solid at both ends of the floor. Antwan Harrison is a solid performer on the wing and can get to the basket, while Brian Chestnut, Robert Pressey, and Ethan Kennedy return as a good trio inside. Ruben Britt will likely start in the backcourt, but several newcomers will push for playing time. The defending conference tournament champions, Florida A&M, will need to rebuild after losing three starters and their coach during the offseason. The perimeter game is in good shape. Leslie Robinson is one of the best guards in the conference, and Ernest Maul also returns as a starter. Jon Mason and Lamar Twitty are solid players on the wing, while Joe Ballard led the team in assists coming off the bench. Inside, Akini Adkins leads the way, but JC transfer Ron Green will make an impact. Howard did not have a very good season last year, winning fewer than 10 games for the fourth consecutive season. If they are to improve, Eugene Myatt will have to stay healthy. He was one of the top players in the conference last year before injuring his ankle. Curtis White also hurt his ankle, but both should be healthy this year. Julius Hearn returns at the point. Inside, Kandi Mukole and Drexel transfer Randy Hampton are expected to start.

Rounding out the Pack: South Carolina State tied for third in the league last year, and do have some solid talent to make a run. The perimeter is loaded. Derrick Davis is a very good all-around player on the wing, while Wright State transfer Everett Spencer will also start. Double-figure scorer Thomas Bookman will man the point and Jason Flagler is another solid guard. Julius Carter and Chris Miller-Williams are two solid returnees who will start inside, unless JC transfer Jason Johnson gets the nod. Norfolk State will be led by all-conference candidate Tony Murphy, who needs to carry the Spartans if they are to finish in the upper half. He will be flanked by point guard Rashid Cann. Michael Deloach is an efficient shooter from the field, while wing Corey Lyons is the second-best scorer on the team and will start. Larry Vickers is the main option down low. Bethune-Cookman will need to make several adjustments if it is to move up in the standings. However, the Wildcats have a solid perimeter group led by Jimmy Hudson and Dewayne Pettus. Pettus is a good scorer, while Hudson can shoot. Josh Cummings will push for a starting job, as will Kevan Creppy and Jordan Carrier. John Anderson leads the frontcourt group. Maryland-Eastern Shore was awful last season, winning only one league game; expect more of the same this season. Ed Tyson is the best player on the team and one of the best guards in the MEAC. Freshmen Marc Davis and Roland Dunston will fight for a starting spot beside him. Inside, Milutin Mirjacic and Aleksander Popovic will form a solid duo.

Prediction: Last year, Delaware State was the clear-cut frontrunner from start to finish, but the Hornets aren’t the favorites this year. Hampton has the best trio in the conference in Rashad West, Michael Freeman, and Matthew Pilgrim, and arguably the best overall team. However, Morgan State has several playmakers in its starting line-up and Marquise Kately will make an impact. Even North Carolina A&T has some good players. Don’t forget about Delaware State, either—Roy Bright will make sure of that. In the end, expect Hampton to win the regular season title, but don’t be surprised to see Morgan State in the NCAA Tournament after winning the league tourney.

Player of the Year: Roy Bright, F, Delaware State

All-Conference Team:

G- Tywain McKee, Coppin State
G- Rashad West, Hampton
G- Steven Rush, North Carolina A&T
F- Michael Freeman, Hampton
F- Roy Bright, Delaware State

Second Team:

G- Tony Murphy, Norfolk State
G- Ed Tyson, Maryland-Eastern Shore
F- Eugene Myatt, Howard
F- Matthew Pilgrim, Hampton
F- Jason Wills, North Carolina A&T

Photo Credit: Roy Bright; DSU Athletic Department

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