The MEAC just completed its best season since 2002, having five of its eight programs finish .500 or better.
It shows in the talent on the floor as six teams have a legitimate chance to win-it-all and one bad ball-handling game can decide your season. The league ranks first on KenPom in tempo and steal percentage. M.O.’s of MEAC basketball.
Whether it is Howard, who won its first outright regular season title since 1987, or NC Central, who's on a seven-game win streak, or Norfolk State, who returns nearly everyone from last season’s tournament team, every game should be a battle in Norfolk.
MEAC Men's Basketball Tournament Bracket pic.twitter.com/gVJCGx0JK0— HBCU Premier Sports & More (@HBCUSports1) March 8, 2023
Note: All times are Eastern and all games take place in Norfolk, Virginia.
Quarterfinals (Wednesday-Thursday March 8-9), ESPN+
Game 1: No. 8 South Carolina State vs. No. 1 Howard, 6:00 p.m. (Wednesday)
Game 2: No. 7 Delaware State vs. No. 2 North Carolina Central, 8:00 p.m. (Wednesday)
Game 3: No. 5 Morgan State vs. No. 4 Maryland Eastern Shore, 6:00 p.m. (Thursday)
Game 4: No. 6 Coppin State vs. No. 3 Norfolk State, 8:00 p.m. (Thursday)
Semifinals (Friday, March 10), ESPN+
Game 5: Game 1 Winner vs. Game 2 Winner, 6:00 p.m.
Game 6: Game 3 Winner vs. Game 4 Winner, 8:00 p.m.
Finals (Saturday, March 10), ESPN2
Game 7: Game 5 Winner vs. Game 6 Winner, 1:00 p.m.
Howard (19-12, 11-3): For the first time since 1987, the Howard Bison are outright MEAC regular season champions.
Led by MEAC Coach of the Year, Kenny Blakeney, the turnaround at the Mecca of HBCU hoops has been impressive. The Burr has been sold out every game and for the most part, they’ve dominated opponents.
Howard comes into the tournament as the best 3-point shooting team in the league by a landslide and are straight-up disciplined. They’re interesting on the defensive end because opponents put up shots the sixth quickest in the nation, but because of their discipline on the offensive end, it usually turns into a rout.
Norfolk State (20-10, 9-5): In my couple of seasons covering the MEAC, I have not seen a team return as much talent as Norfolk State did this season. It was a good bunch too, winning last season’s regular season and conference tournament title.
They recently got in a bit of trouble as Dana Tate and Joe Bryant Jr. sat out a game because of a violation of team rules, but that can make a team stronger. On Tuesday evening, Bryant was named conference player of the year for the second straight season.
If they can continue their efficient offensive ways, there’s no reason why they can't win this tournament.
NC Central (17-11, 10-4): The mighty Eagles of NCCU are the hottest team in the MEAC, winning its prior seven games.
Justin Wright has picked up right where he left off and their strong defense is led by one of the best coaches in the country, LeVelle Moton.
NC Central almost always finds a way to make the conference tournament title game.
The Long Shots
UMES (17-12, 9-5): What else do the Hawks have to do to get your attention? This season, they reached 17 wins for the second time since 1975 and are the epitome of a pesky defense. They rank third in the country in steal percentage. If they can reel off a couple of wins like they did at the beginning of MEAC play, there is no reason why they can’t leave the NMTC.
Morgan State (15-15, 7-7): Another pesky on-ball defense team, the Bears are winners of three of their last four. Its problem throughout the season has been injuries, but they have an experienced squad.
Coppin State (9-22, 4-10): Penn State transfer Sam Sessoms has carried a chip on his shoulder all season and for good reason. He’s not getting the respect he deserves, averaging 20.7 points, 2.0 steals, and 5.0 assists per game. That’s a kind of player who can take over a tournament in March.
Players to Watch
Elijah Hawkins, Howard (13.4 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 5.9 APG, 44.6% FG%)
Steve Settle III, Howard (11.2 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 41.1% FG%)
Justin Wright, NC Central (16.0 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 47.3% FG%)
Brendan Medley-Bacon, NC Central (12.1 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 69.1% FG%)
Joe Bryant Jr., Norfolk State (17.3 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 3.3 APG, 43.2% FG%)
Kris Bankston, Norfolk State (14.3 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 69.7% FG%)
Kevon Voyles, UMES (13.2 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 50.6% FG%)
Zion Styles, UMES (11.6 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 46.1% FG%)
Isaiah Burke, Morgan State (18.7 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 2.7 APG, 45.0% FG%)
Sam Sessoms, Coppin State (20.7 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 5.0 APG, 51.3% FG%)
Nendah Tarke, Coppin State (12.6 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 43.3% FG%)
Martaz Robinson, Delaware State (11.8 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 2.7 APG, 44.7% FG%)
Lesown Hallums, SC State (10.7 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 44.5% FG%)
Howard goes dancing for the first time since 1992, beating Cinderella Coppin State in the title game.