2019 MEAC Tournament Betting Odds, Preview: Can an Unusual 40-1 Longshot Make a Run?

2019 MEAC Tournament Betting Odds, Preview: Can an Unusual 40-1 Longshot Make a Run? article feature image

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports. Norfolk State guard Mastadi Pitt

  • We're analyzing the 2019 MEAC conference tournament field and looking for futures value in the 11-team bracket that will begin play on Monday in Norfolk, Va.
  • Top seed Norfolk State (+125) enters as the favorite, but three of the past six MEAC champions have been seeded six or lower.
  • One potential deep sleeper profiles like no other team in the country, which creates intrigue in a conference tourney that has seen plenty of recent upsets.

Eleven of the 12 MEAC teams will compete in the conference tournament, which tips off Monday night. The tourney will be held  in Norfolk, Va., for the seventh-straight year, which should favor top seed Norfolk State on paper. However, Norfolk State hasn’t won the MEAC tourney since it was played in Winston-Salem in 2012.

The Spartans have failed to take the title despite being a No. 1 or 2 seed in four of the previous six held in Norfolk. And the last time they were the top seed, they lost in the quarterfinals to No. 8 seed Bethune-Cookman — its first potential opponent this year.

Excluding First Four games, MEAC teams have only won two NCAA Tournament games in 32 appearances. However, those two wins represent two of the four wins by 15 seeds since 2000:

  • 2012 Norfolk State beat Missouri
  • 2001 Hampton beat Iowa State

The UMBC win over Virginia was a more historic upset from a seeding perspective, but Norfolk State’s win over Missouri is the biggest point spread upset in the history of the tournament.

Let’s take a look at this year’s MEAC tournament field to try to identify a sleeper in a conference that has had more surprise winners than any in recent years. Three of the past six champions have been seeded sixth or lower, including last year’s champion NC Central.

2019 MEAC Tournament Odds, Format

  • Who: 11 MEAC teams (Florida A&M ineligible)
  • Format: Top 5 seeds receive a bye
  • When: March 11-16
  • Where: Norfolk, Va.
  • How to Watch: ESPN2, ESPN3
  • Defending Champion: NC Central

Who Should Win?

Norfolk State is the clear favorite here, illustrated by its close to even-money odds. Not only does Norfolk have the best team, the MEAC tournament is played in Norfolk, Va.,, which will also give it a home-court advantage.

The Spartans want to run on offense and excel in transition, but they do struggle at times in the half court. They are more than capable from the perimeter, as they shot just under 40% from deep during league play.

However, this team relies on its excellent man-to-man defense, which ranks in the 97th percentile nationally, per Synergy Sports. They will throw some zone in, but their man is their bread and butter. You’re just not going to get anything at the rim against Norfolk State.

Norfolk State is a veteran team with solid depth and great balance. It doesn’t rely on any one player, as its top six scorers all average between 8 and 15 points per game. Just look at the first six games of February when it had six different leading scorers.

Throw in the location and it’s easy to see why the Spartans are favored to cut down the nets in Norfolk. However, after what looks like a free pass to the semifinals, they will play the winner of Howard and Bethune Cookman — the only two MEAC teams to beat Norfolk State this season.

Let’s take a look at those two teams and a few others to identify any potential futures value in the MEAC.

Potential Sleeper

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