Monday, October 20, 2008

MEAC Preview


The MEAC was one of the worst conferences in the country last season, as it has been for the past several years, but it featured a competitive race at the top of the standings, with Morgan State eventually winning the regular-season title by 2.5 games over Hampton. Norfolk State looked like it was going to make a run late in the year, but it lost four of its last five to fall back in the standings. Six teams finished above .500 in conference play. In the conference tournament, Coppin State came out of nowhere to nab the automatic bid after finishing just 7-9 in the league and getting the No. 7 seed. The Eagles fell to Mount St. Mary’s in the NCAA Tournament play-in game, while Morgan State lost to Virginia Tech in the NIT after getting upset in the MEAC title game. This year will feature most of the familiar faces at the top of the standings.

Favorites: Morgan State will be looking to get to the NCAA Tournament after losing in the conference title game last season. Marquise Kately is one of the best players in the league, while Reggie Holmes is another all-conference player. Jermaine Bolden also returns, but a deep and talented recruiting class will make an impact. Hampton is headed by guards Vincent Simpson, an all-conference candidate, and Jordan Brooks, a solid passer. The frontcourt is very good, with Mike Freeman, Theo Smalling and Donte Harrison forming one of the better trios in the MEAC.

Contenders: Delaware State loses Roy Bright, one of the best players in the MEAC, but returns four starters. Donald Johnson is the best of the lot, while Trevor Welcher mans the point. Up front, Frisco Sandidge and Manhattan transfer Arturo Dubois will lead the way. Norfolk State finished tied for second last season, and returns Corey Lyons, an all-conference candidate on the wing who can fill it up. Michael Deloach is another big-time scorer at guard, while Brandon Monroe is solid up front. Coppin State had a great finish to last season, but the Eagles lose four starters from that team. The lone returnee, though, might be the best player in the league in Tywain McKee. Vincent Goldsberry is another solid guard, while a host of newcomers will fight for starting jobs. South Carolina State could be a real threat this season, as the Bulldogs have a very good core of players leading the way. Jessie Burton and Carrio Bennett form a great backcourt, while Jason Flagler and Jason Johnson are arguably the league’s best inside duo.

Sleepers: North Carolina A&T has had back-to-back 15-win seasons, and will aim for more this year. Ed Jones and Tavarus Alston will start in the backcourt, while Thomas Coleman could be primed for a breakout year at center. Florida A&M’s success will likely depend on its frontcourt duo of Lamar Twitty, an all-conference swingman, and sophomore forward Larry Jackson. In the backcourt, Joe Ballard, one of the better all-around guards in the league, returns.

Rounding out the Pack: Howard has all five starters coming back – from a last-place team. The best returnee is all-conference forward Eugene Myatt, while Randy Hampton is another productive player up front. In the backcourt, Curtis White and Kyle Riley return as solid scorers on the wing. Bethune-Cookman was not good last season, and it returns just one starter from that group. Of course, that player is all-conference forward John Holmes, who will carry the Wildcats. Dominique Whatley and Kevan Creppy will push for increased time on the perimeter. Maryland Eastern Shore is coming off of back-to-back four-win seasons, and will look to improve despite the return of just four players. Marc Davis and Alexsander Popovic are the only returning starters, while freshman Chris Connor could make a major impact.

Prediction: There is not a clear-cut favorite heading into the season, despite Morgan State and Hampton both returning plenty of solid personnel. The conference lost a lot of talent, including Rashad West and Roy Bright. That could open the door for a surprise team to come in and make some noise in conference play. I think that team could be South Carolina State. They have a great quartet of players and also bring in some solid newcomers. MSU looks like the team to beat right now, but watch out for SCSU come March.

Player of the Year: Tywain McKee, G, Coppin State

All-Conference Team:
G- Tywain McKee, Coppin State
F- John Holmes, Bethune Cookman
F- Eugene Myatt, Howard
F- Marquise Kately, Morgan State
C- Jason Johnson, South Carolina State

Second Team:
G- Jessie Burton, South Carolina State

G- Corey Lyons, Norfolk State
G- Reggie Holmes, Morgan State
F- Lamar Twitty, Florida A&M
F- Jason Flagler, South Carolina State

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