College Basketball Betting Preview for MEAC: Breaking Down Eight-Team League
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- There are only eight teams remaining in the league after three deparatures.
- Can Norfolk State build off its NCAA Tournament appearance last season?
- Keg breaks down the conference from top-to-bottom.
Last season, Norfolk State became the first MEAC team to win an NCAA Tournament game since Hampton in 2015. The Spartans outlasted Appalachian State in the First Four before falling to Gonzaga in the Round of 64.
This season comes with a lot of changes for the MEAC, as North Carolina A&T left the conference to join the Big South and Bethune-Cookman and Florida A&M became members of the SWAC.
As a result of being left with only eight teams, the MEAC will play a double round-robin schedule.
Two new coaches will begin to rebuild programs within the MEAC, as Tony Madlock — who spent the last three seasons at Memphis — gets his first head-coaching opportunity at South Carolina State. Meanwhile, Stan Waterman takes over at Delaware State.
|Overall Record 2020-21||14-8|
It was a very up-and-down year for the Bears last season, as they beat Iona, Norfolk State and James Madison. Iona and Norfolk State reached the NCAA Tournament and James Madison won its conference in the regular season, but the Bears also lost to a Division II team in West Virginia Tech at home.
This year, they return a duo of second team all-league picks. De’Torrion Ware (17.0 PPG, 5.7 RPG) shot 38.4% from 3-point range and led the MEAC in scoring, while Malik Miller averaged 12.1 points and eight rebounds per game.
Between the two of them and Cincinnati transfer Trevor Moore (8.5 PPG), the Bears can definitely threaten some of the best teams in the MEAC.
|Overall Record 2020-21||1-4|
The Bisons had high hopes heading into last season. Unfortunately, none of them came to fruition.
High-profile recruit Makur Maker was sidelined with an injury after two games, their home game against Notre Dame was canceled and on February 9th, the team called the rest of the season off after not playing more than seven weeks.
While the Notre Dame showdown is back on the schedule, Maker has left to play professionally in Australia.
Howard does return all five starters from a season ago and more minutes than anyone else in the MEAC. However, it’s still unknown how the team will do after only playing five games in 2020-21, none of which were against conference opponents.
Howard is a wild card in the MEAC, so there’s really no clue how well it will compete in the conference until we see it on the floor this year.
I don’t expect Howard to win the league, but against lower-level opponents there is definitely some upset potential.
|Overall Record 2020-21||17-8|
The MEAC has been Norfolk State’s conference to lose for some time, as it has gone 92-32 in league play during the last eight seasons under coach Robert Jones.
Jones returns with a five-year contract extension, but the only full-time starter that is back is Joe Bryant Jr. (11.1 PPG, 4.2 RPG), who ranked second on the team in scoring behind the now-graduated Devante Carter.
Key incoming transfer Kris Bankston had an 81.3 shooting percentage three seasons ago at Little Rock. He will join forces with Bryant.
Bankston missed much of 2019-20 with injury before averaging just 3.4 points and 1.8 rebounds per game in a backup role last season. But in 80 career games (35 starts), he has shot 72.5 percent from the floor.
In league games last year Norfolk State led the conference in 3-point shooting (35.7%), turnover percentage (17.2%) and defensive rebounding percentage (76%).
A team that had its postseason ended by an eventual national championship finalist in Gonzaga will absolutely be in contention to win the MEAC again this year.
|Overall Record 2020-21||3-16|
Delaware State only won one game against a Division I opponent last year, but it was able to compete. That in and of itself is a success.
The good news for first-year head coach Waterman is there isn’t anywhere to go but up at Delaware State. The program hasn’t had a season above .500 since 2011-12.
With a lot of players still on the roster, Waterman will have to work with what he has in his first year. It may not be ideal, but it isn’t awful.
Two of the premier returnees will be Myles Carter — a former walk-on who was a Second Team All-MEAC pick last year — and Dominik Fragala — who was a 41.4% 3-point shooter at Howard College in Texas two seasons ago and could be the Hornets’ top perimeter scorer.
Waterman isn’t expected to turn the Hornets around in a single season, and I don’t think he will. Anything other than last place would be impressive for Delaware State as Waterman lays the foundation for his rebuild.
|Overall Record 2020-21||9-13|
Last year, during its 9-13 season, Coppin State played at a faster pace than any other program. It ranked first by KenPom in adjusted tempo at 76.8 possessions per 40 minutes, two more than second-place Eastern Kentucky,
In raw totals, the Eagles averaged 79.4 trips per 40 minutes, the most of any Division I team since Savannah State in 2017-18.
They were even faster in league play, averaging 81 possessions per 40 minutes. That helped them share the MEAC North title, which was their first championship of any kind since joining the conference in 2008.
Only two of last year’s top-nine scorers are back, so it could take time for everyone to settle in. That couldn’t be worse news for a Coppin State team that will play nine games in the 16 days before Thanksgiving.
I will be looking to fade and potentially bet the over early with Coppin State based on its inexperience and pace.
|Overall Record 2020-21||DNP|
Non-conference play was canceled in September 2020 for the Hawks and the conference schedule followed in November as the school canceled competition.
Missing a year of limited play may not set UMES back as far as you would think, though.
Only two players in the program have actually played for the Hawks, but the MEAC saw three schools depart, two others make coaching changes and there were major roster overhauls at Coppin State and North Carolina Central.
One of those two returning players is Da’Shawn Phillip (7.4 PPG, 3.1 RPG in 2019-20), the most proven player at the Division I level. Head coach Jason Crafton believes Phillip can be one of the MEAC’s premier defenders.
The other returnee will be Kevon Voyles (4.2 PPG, 1.5 RPG in 2019-20).
Only three total players on the roster have Division I experience for the Hawks and seven players haven’t played a competitive basketball game in more than a year due to the program’s cancellation.
It’s very hard to predict how good or bad this team might do, but I don’t expect them to be too far from the bottom of the MEAC, at best.
|Overall Record 2020-21||5-9|
The Eagles had one of the oddest schedules in all of the NCAA last year, playing twice in November, twice more in December and once in January. They were only able to practice 13 times the entire year.
The pandemic gave North Carolina Central its second losing season since 2011.
It may return to its previous dominance, but it will take a lot from what is nearly an entire new team under head coach LeVelle Moton.
Only three players on scholarship return for the Eagles: Nicolas Fennell (7.8 PPG, 3.4 RPG), Justin Wright (1.3 PPG, 1.7 RPG, 5.5 MPG) and Alex Caldwell (3.7 PPG, 1.3 RPG).
|Overall Record 2020-21||1-17|
The Bulldogs have not finished above .500 in the last five years. Tony Madlock will look to change that as he enters his first year as head coach.
With previous stops at multiple schools as an assistant, Madlock says he wants to coach a team that plays similar to what he’s dealt with the past three years at Memphis: fast-paced and high pressure.
Step one for Madlock will be improving the offense, which ranked 351st last year by KenPom.
He returns 63.9% of minutes and two starters.
The most important pieces from last year’s team will likely be Rahsaan Edwards (9.5 PPG) and Omar Croskey (7.2 PPG), who led the team with 18 steals last season.
It will likely be the early stages of a rebuild for the Bulldogs, but if Madlock can get this team to buy into the Memphis style of basketball he wants to recreate, they could fight for positioning in the middle of the MEAC standings.