By Kevin Sweeney
The MEAC is always one of the toughest previews to write, given the lack of coverage the teams typically receive during the offseason. Some teams still haven’t even updated official rosters! Combine that with most of the recruits coming as unheralded prospects, and it’s just hard to evaluate teams going into the season. That said, I did the best I could with the information I had to put together a solid preview of the league.
Ryan Ridder did as good a job as any first-year coach in the country last season, bringing a big-time talent injection to BCU and leading it to a share of the conference title. With 4-double digit scorers returning including do-it-all wing Isaiah Bailey, the Wildcats should be favored to repeat as champs.
#2. NC Central
The NCCU program has been incredibly consistent since LeVelle Moton took over, doing a great job of finding talent from all avenues and putting it together to make a MEAC contender. This year’s team will be built around star big man Raasean Davis, while a pair of transfers in JUCO product Randy Miller and former Drexel guard Rashann London should be expected to hold big backcourt roles.
#3. Norfolk State
With key cogs Steven Whitley and Alex Long back, the Spartans figure to have a good chance to contend in the MEAC. The x-factor here is the potential eligibility of Saint Louis transfer Jermaine Bishop, who sat out last season at SLU but shined as a freshman and early in his sophomore campaign. He’d be an all-league player if allowed to play right away.
Howard has one of the nation’s most dynamic scoring duos in explosive point guard RJ Cole and high-scoring wing Charles Williams. The drop-off after that pairing was significant last season, but with highly-regarded freshman Michael Barber joining the mix next to talented rising sophomore Zion Cousins, a 3rd scorer might be in tow. If so, watch out.
#5. Florida A&M
FAMU took nice strides in year one under Robert McCullum, but fill have to fix a defense that was among the nation’s worst to make a further climb up the MEAC standings. Getting Isaiah Austin back, who missed much of last season with an injury, should help the frontcourt.
#6. Coppin State
Juan Dixon didn’t have much to work with in year one, and lost arguably his best player in DeJuan Clayton after just 6 games. Clayton’s return is a welcome sight for Dixon, as he’s a reliable scorer who hardly left the floor in those 6 games (averaged 39.8 mpg). Put him next to Lamar Morgan, and there might be something there.
#7. Savannah State
Savannah State was one of the sneaky-awesome stories in college basketball last season, earning a share of the MEAC title simply by shooting more shots than anyone else. Horace Broadnax’s club heaved 3 after 3 with a low success rate, but put up enough points to hang in every game. However, it’s been tough to recruit with an impending drop out of D1 coming after this season, so we’ll see if Broadnax is able to work some magic with a depleted roster.
#8. Morgan State
The Bears lose a pair of absolute stars in Phillip Carr and Tiwian Kendley, but return much of the rest of their rotation. Veterans Martez Cameron and Stanley Davis will have to step up in their absence, given that pairing was used on almost 60% of MSU’s offensive possessions last season
#9. South Carolina State
The early departure of Tashombe Riley (South Alabama) hurts here, as Riley would have paired nicely with Damani Applewhite to form an athletic, versatile frontcourt that would have been tough to stop in the MEAC. Applewhite should contend for all-league honors, but it isn’t enough to make the the Bulldogs contenders.
#10. NC A&T
NC A&T has been brutalized by unexpected grad transfers two years in a row, with Sam Hunt departing for NC State in 2017 before Femi Olujobi transferred to DePaul this offseason. The Olujobi loss was especially backbreaking given the Aggies had taken a chance on him as a little-known transfer from Oakland and turned him into a star, but such is life at this level of college basketball. Look for sophomore point guard Kameron Langley to break out.
#11. Maryland-Eastern Shore
Getting Dontae Caldwell back after he missed last season is big, but it isn’t close to enough to fix the train wreck that was UMES last season. Cam Bacote transferring to Indiana State hurts, as he looked like a foundational piece in the backcourt. Meanwhile, the program is going with an interim coach this season in former associate HC Clifford Reed after electing not to fill the position after Bobby Collins departed.
#12. Delaware State
DSU’s coaching search was equal parts adventure and mystery before eventually landing on UMBC assistant Eric Skeeters to take over. Skeeters is a solid hire, a guy who is well-respected in the DMV as a long-time assistant for several programs. However, the cupboard is bare as he waits for transfers John Crosby (Dayton) and Kevin Larkin (Niagara) to become eligible.
All-Conference First Team:
- RJ Cole– Howard (23.7 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 6.1 apg, .394/.359/.770)
- Charles Williams– Howard (20.4 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 0.6 apg, .446/.409/.782)
- Isaiah Bailey– Bethune-Cookman (16.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 4.8 apg, .423/.275/.785)
- Shawntrez Davis– Bethune-Cookman (14.7 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 1.3 apg, .554/.377/.592)
- Raasean Davis– NC Central (15.1 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 0.4 apg, .671/.000/.587)
Player of the Year: RJ Cole (Howard)
Cole was just flat-out absurd as a freshman, posting at least 12 points in every game and five 30+ point performances. He fits perfectly in Kevin Nickelberry’s offense that allows tremendous freedom to its guards, and if he stays at Howard for 4 years he has a chance etch his name in all sorts of record books.
Breakout Player: Kameron Langley (NC A&T)
Langley was incredibly impressive for a freshman point guard, making excellent decisions and scoring the ball efficiently for the Aggies in 2017-18. With so much production around him gone, look for him to be featured more prominently in the scoring plans.
Newcomer of the Year: Justin Steers (Coppin State)
Steers was a late signee for Juan Dixon at Coppin State, but packs considerable upside at 6-6. He had extensive mid-major recruiting offers and interest and profiles as a nice two-way wing for Dixon’s bunch.