MEAC Tournament Preview

10 Mar

Where: Scope Arena Norfolk, VA

When: 3/10-15

Bracket

Who should win…#1 North Carolina Central, without question. The Eagles dominated the MEAC, losing only to Florida A&M, and have won 17 in a row. Jeremy Ingram is an unstoppable force when he puts his head down and goes to the rim, and the Eagles are the best offensive and defensive team in the MEAC. They don’t turn the ball over either, and force turnovers at a 26% rate in league play. Weakness…they aren’t a good outside shooting team, as they prefer attack relentlessly, as 51% of their shots are at the rim, the second highest rate in the country. They can also tend to give up a lot of points from outside, preferring to fall back after pressure to pack in the lane to protect against their lack of height. NCC has a chip on their shoulder after what happened in the tournament last year, getting bounced by 7 seed NC A&T.

If not them then…#2 Hampton plays extremely quick, and brings a lot of ball pressure. If you get past that, they have one of the best shot blockers in the country in Du’Vaughn Maxwell protecting the paint. The problem is if you slow them down by not turning the ball over, they struggle offensively in the halfcourt. They don’t have any shooters who can stretch out the defense and give their attacking guards room to work. They’ll also have #3 Morgan State most likely in the semi-finals, a team they were swept by, but both were close, including a 2OT loss at Hill Fieldhouse. With the 7’2 Ian Chiles protecting the rim, the Bears have unreasonable height for a MEAC team. Hubbard and Black attacking and getting to the FT line is the Bears best, and maybe only, form of offense. They’re the worst 3 point shooting team in the country. They nearly won at NCC and were on short rest from an OT loss at NC A&T.

Sleepers: #4 Norfolk State is playing in their home city, and they’re one of the few teams in the MAAC who can hit the outside shot consistently with Hawkins and Williams, and they also have “Goode” height inside (MEAC pun joke!). They’re an experienced team with a lot of these guys being a part of the squad that upset Missouri. Despite the experience in the backcourt, they can be turnover prone. The Spartans also have the benefit of playing in their hometown and finally having Jones’ preferred starting 5 healthy at the same time. They’ll have #13 UMES in the first round, who is playing their best basketball of the season. Unfortunately they just don’t have the height to deal with the Spartans, and because of that lack of height, they often play a zone, which is also problematic vs one of the better shooting teams in the MEAC. I also don’t know the status of KyRee Jones (Indy kid). He’s been having ulcer issues and missed the last game of the season. Hakeem Baxter is a player to keep an eye on. He will be a MEAC star for the next few seasons.

#5 Savannah State brings aggressive man to man pressure, and has a big time shot blocker in Jyles Smith. The problem is their inability to score using their extremely slow motion offense. They can’t shoot and they have maddeningly inconsistent guard play offensively. They beat their first round opponent, #12 South Carolina State, by an average of 16 points though. SC State has some solid inside play in Hezekiah, but turnovers are a major, major issue, as Adams has had a hard time replacing Toombs.

I’ll include #6 Florida A&M in the sleepers section because they’re the only MEAC team to actually defeat North Carolina Central. Ingram was 2-15 and Jordan Parks picked up 4 fouls in 8 minutes somehow in that loss. NCC returned the favor with a 92-49 beatdown though on 2/10. Similarly to Hampton, the Rattler bring pressure and like to play fast to try and create easy buckets for a very limited offensive squad. The Rattlers have won 4 of their last 5 MEAC games, and Jamie Adams and Reggie Lewis represent the only real offensive options as they have no height. The defense is a major issue as well, as they simply don’t guard you if you beat the pressure. The average possession length for opposing offenses is 16.5 seconds. They’ll play #11 Delaware State in the first round. The Hornets are 5-5 since Keith Walker replaced Greg Jackson. It’s been a disappointing year for the Hornets, who nearly went to the tournament last year, and returned a lot of pieces this year, hence the dismissal of Jackson. They play a zone and play possibly the slowest basketball in America. Their average possession length is 22.1 seconds. So tonight we have the slowest offense vs a defense who refuses to guard. The Hornets probably should have won at FAMU in the first meeting, but missed 12 FTs. Awkward game between these two here. The Hornets are a tremendously awful rebounding team out of their zone, but it didn’t really show vs FAMU. Kendall Gray inside needs to have a big game for the Hornets tonight.

The Rest: 

#7 Coppin State vs #10 Bethune-Cookman

Thanks to the awesomeness of MEAC scheduling, these two didn’t play each other, which is just ridiculous to not play teams IN YOUR OWN CONFERENCE. Anyway, these two shoot more three’s than anyone in the MEAC, and both play a zone. The difference, B-CU is the best 3pt shooting team in the conference behind Trapp, Jackson, and Owens, but Coppin actually has some height on the perimeter, making it difficult on teams to consistently hit the 3 over them. Both have no height and struggle on the glass, but B-CU is the worst defensive rebounding team in the country. Both teams come in having ended losing streaks, and whoever gets the most 3s to drop will win. Coppin is one of the worst transition defenses in the country, but Delaware State’s style doesn’t really allow them to take advantage of that.  Cephas should be playing for Coppin State from what I can gather.

#8 Howard vs #9 NC A&T

Defending champs NC A&T have a boost with Pack back, as he and Howard freshman star James Daniel basically had a FT shooting contest in Howard’s 8 point win in their only meeting. The Howard offense essentially boils down to Daniel and Okoroh getting to the free throw line, as they have no inside options and an obscene 27% TO rate, second worst in the country. That also makes them the least efficient offense in the country. They essentially face their double in NC A&T, who basically only score from the FT line as well with Middleton and Pack attacking relentlessly. With those two, NC A&T has the highest FT rate in the country. Again, this game is essentially a free throw shooting contest, as they’ll both just try to attack the other’s zone, since neither have any height or shooting ability.

 

 

 

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