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MEAC Tournament preview: Literally every team can be considered the favorite

It’s hard to find a more even league in the country.

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina Central at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a wild year for the MEAC, with Bethune-Cookman, Howard, and UMES all opting out of the season because of COVID-19 concerns, then the league splitting into divisions and stoking rivalries.

The North went off without a hitch, as Coppin State won a share of its first MEAC regular-season title since the 2003-04 season. It was the complete opposite in the south, which was ravaged by cancellations and postponements. North Carolina A&T reeled off a division title in its last season in the MEAC, as NC Central barely practiced, only playing 13 total games.

Any of the six teams participating could easily make the big dance.

Bracket

Schedule:

All games in Norfolk. All times are Eastern.

Quarterfinals (Thur., March 11), FloSports

Game 1: No. N3 Morgan State vs. No. S2 Florida A&M, 6 p.m.
Game 2: No. S3 North Carolina Central vs. No. N2 Norfolk State, 8 p.m.

Semifinals (Fri., March 12) FloSports

Game 3: Game 1 winner vs. No. N1 Coppin State, 6 p.m.
Game 4: Game 2 winner vs. No. S1 North Carolina A&T, 8 p.m.

Finals (Sat., March 13) ESPN2

Game 5: Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner, 1 p.m.

Every team in this league could be a favorite, here’s why:

North Carolina A&T (11-10, 7-1): The MEAC South champions eased their way through the league except for a post-pause game against Florida A&M. Their defensive playmaking ability and depth is what has made the difference this year though, as they have six players who average more than seven points per game.

Norfolk State (14-7, 8-4): The Spartans have clinched yet another MEAC regular-season title, sharing the North with Coppin State. Along with great three-point shooting percentages, the Spartans have two of the league's signature non-conference wins in victories over James Madison and George Mason. There is no one that they can’t beat in this league.

Coppin State (9-12, 8-4): If you like catch-and-shoot basketball, Coppin is your team. They rank first in the country in tempo and are succeeding with it. Led by MEAC Player of the Year Anthony Tarke, and his brother, MEAC Freshman of the Year Nendah Tarke, the Coppin State Eagles are deep. Juan Dixon has his team in a prime position.

Morgan State (12-7, 7-5): Unlike many teams in this league, the Bears can rebound. Kevin Broadus has a roster full of high-major talent that could be deadly if they all go off at once.

Florida A&M (8-11, 7-5): The Rattlers rank fifth in the country in three-point shooting defense. This led to near victories against SEC foes Georgia and South Carolina. They also have two deadly guards in MJ Randolph and Jalen Speer.

North Carolina Central (5-8, 3-5): You can never count out a LeVelle-Moton-coached team. They struggled throughout conference play due to a lack of practices because of COVID-19 outbreaks within the program, but have the experience it takes.

Players to Watch:

Devante Carter, Norfolk State (15.9 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 43.2% FG%)
Anthony Tarke, Coppin State (16.4 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 47.4% FG%)
DeJuan Clayton, Coppin State (15.3 PPG, 5.0 APG, 36.8% FG%)
Koby Thomas, Coppin State (12.4 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 41.5% FG%)
Troy Baxter Jr., Morgan State (17.1 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 44.5% FG%)
De’Torrion Ware, Morgan State (15.7 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 42.1% FG%)
Malik Miller, Morgan State (12.5 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 51.4% FG%)
Kameron Langley, NC A&T (10.6 PPG, 6.6 APG, 42.5% FG%)
MJ Randolph, Florida A&M (15.2 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 46.2% FG%)
C.J. Keyser, NC Central (16.4 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 46.8% FG%)

Prediction:

Every single game in this tournament will be a battle, but I have Morgan State pulling out a low-scoring win against NC A&T in the championship.