Tuesday, March 10, 2009

MEAC Tournament Preview

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The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference did not have much suspense this season, as Morgan State came into the league campaign as the favorite and the Bears did not disappoint, winning the title by three games. They won 10 of their final 11 to end any potential mystery. MSU was also the only team in the conference with more than 16 overall wins. South Carolina State finished at 10-6 in the MEAC, and a quartet of teams went 9-7. The winner is going to be a No. 16 seed.

Favorite: Morgan State defeated Maryland, DePaul and Marshall in the non-conference portion of the season, all away from home, sending a message that they were going to be a force in the MEAC. The Bears play terrific defense, defending both inside and outside the arc extraordinarily well. Reggie Holmes is a big-time scorer and three-point shooter, while Marquise Kately and Kevin Thompson are solid up front.

Contenders: South Carolina State finished in second, winning nine of its final 11 league games after starting 1-4 in the MEAC. The Bulldogs love to push the ball up the floor, and they defend fairly well. Jason Johnson is one of the best inside players in the conference and Jason Flagler is another very solid frontcourt. Coppin State had won eight of nine before dropping two of its final three to end the season. The Eagles force turnovers and get points in transition. Tywain McKee is one of the best players in the conference and can really put CSU on his back and carry them. His backcourt partner, Michael Harper, can shoot the three.

Sleeper: It’s not often a team sweeps the dominant conference champion but finishes just 8-8 for the season. However, that’s exactly what happened with Hampton. The Pirates beat Morgan State twice this season, and also beat South Carolina State. They play outstanding defense and can stay in any game as a result. They are deep and balanced, but Vincent Sampson leads the way.

Prediction: The MEAC is always an exciting conference, but its winner is usually relegated to either the play-in game or a No. 16 seed outright. Basically, this is their NCAA Tournament. And Morgan State is in good shape to win the championship. The Bears play some of the best defense in the league and have two of the best players in Holmes and Kately. They are battle-tested and should be able to win the automatic bid – and maybe strike fear into a No. 1 seed for five minutes or so.

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