By Kevin Sweeney
The MEAC has become the butt of many jokes on twitter among college basketball writers (myself included) as one of, if not the worst conference in college basketball. However, while the teams may not stand up on paper to the teams at the highest levels of college hoops, the purpose of these previews is to give a look at every team in every conference in college basketball. And even though the league may not be destined for NCAA Tournament glory, it still will be an exciting one to follow this season.
- Morgan State: The Bears possess one of the most potent duos in college basketball in high-scoring guard Tiwian Kendley (21 ppg last season) and forward Phillip Carr (16.6 ppg, 9.6 rpg) and are coming off a 3rd-place finish a season ago. Their my pick to come out of a league that is very tough to predict.
- NC Central: Yes, this pick is a gamble given the amount of production the Eagles lose from last season. However, they have the best coach in the conference in LeVelle Moton, and he has brought in some incredibly talented newcomers who promise to wreak havoc in the MEAC.
- Norfolk State: One of the most consistent programs in the conference, the Spartans have won at least 17 games in 6 consecutive seasons. Look for that streak to continue this year, as NSU has one of the best point guards in the conference in Zaynah Robinson (13.5 ppg, 4.5 apg, 1.7 turnovers per game)
- Hampton: With perhaps the next star in the conference in Jermaine Marrow (over 15 ppg as a freshman) in fold, the Pirates look like a contender for the foreseeable future in the MEAC. However, if they are to contend this season, they’ll need a spark offensively to improve a unit that shot just 41% from the field as a team (322nd in D1).
- Bethune-Cookman: Very much a sleeper team for me, Bethune-Cookman has a few high-upside newcomers joining star guard Brandon Tabb. Watch out for former Fresno State signee Isaiah Bailey, who averaged over 16 ppg last season in junior college, and fellow JUCO transfer and former Nevada signee Shawntrez Davis.
- Maryland-Eastern Shore: The loss of Bakari Copeland definitely hurts, but the Hawks will have one of the better backcourts in the league in Ryan Andino, Logan McIntosh, and Dontae Caldwell.
- Florida A&M: Another team with a strong senior duo, the Rattlers will rely heavily on Desmond Williams and Marcus Barham to lead the way in the first season of the Robert McCullum era.
- Savannah State: The Tigers, which are in the process of changing to Division 2 athletics, still have a chance to be feisty this season. Dexter McClanahan is one of the more dangerous guards in the conference, a 3-point sniper who is also more than capable off the bounce.
- Howard: Definitely a hard team to predict given the youth on the roster (8 players will be in their first season of college basketball- 4 freshmen, 4 redshirt freshmen), but I like the look of some of these newcomers. Watch out for 3-star guard RJ Cole, who garnered offers from many mid-major programs coming out of historic St. Anthony High School in New Jersey.
- Coppin State: The Eagles have a new coach in former Maryland great Juan Dixon. However, he doesn’t inherit too much talent, so this opening season may be a struggle. He’ll need a huge year from sophomore shooting guard Dejuan Clayton, who averaged over 13 points during a terrific freshman season.
- South Carolina State: Last season was definitely a disappointing one for SC State, as they came in with title aspirations and finished 7th. They do bring back a versatile combo forward in Tashombe Riley, but will need contributions from a large group of backcourt newcomers to move up the standings.
- Delaware State: The transfer of point guard Devin Morgan to Youngstown State this offseason was a crushing blow for the Hornets. Senior Kevon Walker will carry the load offensively for DSU this season.
- North Carolina A&T: The Aggies were really, really bad a season ago, failing to earn a Division 1 win until February. With their leading scorer in Sam Hunt departing (NC State) it could be another very long season for the Aggies.
Champions: Morgan State
When you have two guys who could contend for conference player of the year honors in Tiwian Kendley and Phillip Carr, you immediately become a contender in your conference. However, to push the Bears over the top, they’ll need some solid production from the rest of their roster. One candidate is freshman guard Kyson Rawls, a 6-1 combo guard who was the Gatorade Player of the Year in Delaware last year. Another guy to watch is David Syfax, a versatile forward who showed flashes as a rotation player in his freshman campaign. If a guy like Rawls or Syfax can take the next step in their game, the Bears should be in outstanding position to win the MEAC.
Dark Horse: Bethune-Cookman
As I mentioned, I’m pretty high on this Wildcat team’s potential for this season. Brandon Tabb is an awesome starting point, a high-volume scorer with the potential to take over games. Then, add a pair of high-level talents in Shawntrez Davis and Isaiah Bailey from the JUCO ranks who will be mismatches at the MEAC level, and the roster begins to look more and more dangerous. Morehead State transfer PG Malik Maitland could also be an outstanding piece for them, assuming he’s eligible to play this season. First-year head coach Ryan Ridder has done a good job bringing in talent in a short amount of time, and it could pay dividends quickly.
First Team All-Conference:
- G: Brandon Tabb (Bethune-Cookman)
- G: Tiwian Kendley (Morgan State)
- G: Zaynah Robinson (Norfolk State)
- G: Jermaine Marrow (Hampton)
- F: Phillip Carr (Morgan State)
Player of the Year: Tiwian Kendley (Morgan State)- Honestly, I don’t think you could go wrong choosing either Morgan State star for this one, but I’ll go with the dominant scorer in Kendley, who has a chance to be a top-10 scorer in all of college basketball this season. One thing he will need to tighten up are the turnovers, as he gave the ball away an unsightly 4.3 times per game a season ago. Those are the types of small adjustments that can go a long way for a team hoping to win a conference title.
Breakout Player of the Year: Logan McIntosh (Maryland-Eastern Shore)- The senior point guard from Atlanta seems poised to have a huge season to cap a strong 2-year career at UMES. A capable scorer and distributor, look for McIntosh’s scoring responsibilities to increase this season with leading scorer Bakari Copeland having graduated.
Newcomer of the Year: Dominique Reid (NC Central)- Reid resurfaces at NC Central, looking to revitalize his collegiate career following a promising start in 2014-15 at Niagara. Reid averaged nearly 10 points and 6 rebounds per game as a freshman for the Purple Eagles before leaving the team and eventually heading to junior college. Reid is the type of talent that could star in the MEAC if he returns to the form he displayed at Niagara. Don’t be surprised if we are talking about Reid as an all-conference player this season.