When and Where: Monday – Saturday, Scope Arena, Norfolk, VA
Last year: Norfolk State, the No. 2 seed, managed to get through the tournament playing nothing higher than the No. 4 seed. Then they went on to beat Missouri in one of the more memorable NCAA Tournament 1st round games.
This year: Despite graduating four of their top five players (in terms of minutes) they managed to finish the season with 15-straight wins, and went undefeated to win their first MEAC regular season title since joining in 1997. Due to quirky scheduling in the 13-team league, they never played the second place team NC Central.
The favorite: Yes, NC Central, finished a game back of Norfolk State, but the two didn't play. The Eagles are rated No. 153 at Pomeroy, while the Norfolk State Spartans are No. 220.
NC Central got tremendous production from a trio of players. 6-3 Jeremy Ingram made 41% of his 3s and led the team 15.9 points per game. Stanton Kidd, a 6-7 JUCO transfer, scored 14.6 per game and led the team with 6.9 rebounds. 6-6 Ray Willis, an Oklahoma transfer, continues to be too high volume shooting the 3 (makes 31%) but he can get to the line and he makes 84% once he gets there. These three led NC Central to the league's best offense.
The contender: Is it possible to go undefeated in conference play and still not be the favorite? Yes, if you play in the bizarre format of the MEAC. Norfolk State got it done defensively, holding conference opponents to 41% shooting on 2s and 26% shooting on 3s.
The Spartans have the MEAC Player of the Year in 6-6 junior Pendarvis Williams. He makes 41% of his 3s, 53% of his 2s and 81% of his FTs. In conference play he was held in single digits just twice.
The dark horse: Morgan State won the MEAC regular season three straight times from 2008-10. This year they finished 5th at 10-6. Of the six losses, one was in overtime, and three were by just 2-points. A little better late game luck and they could have earned a first round bye (to the top 3 seeds). The good news is that they can advance to the semis without having to face any of the top three.
The Bears have an All Conference performer in 6-8 senior Dewayne Jackson. For some reason he takes 38% of his shots from beyond the arc despite making only 28%. But he makes 55% of his 2s and is all over the floor on defense.