MEAC Basketball Tournament Odds, Bracket, Betting Preview: Can Norfolk State Repeat as Champs?
Sarah Stier/Getty Images. Pictured: Joe Bryant Jr.
The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament is scheduled for March 9-12 in Norfolk, Virginia. The MEAC is in its 51st year of competition and features eight HBCUs across the Atlantic Seaboard.
The Norfolk State Spartans are defending champions and enter the tournament as the No. 1 seed after finishing the season with a 21-6 (12-2 MEAC) record.
The hometown Spartans will enter the tournament as Vegas’ favorite to win it all after taking home at least a share of the MEAC regular-season title in three of the last four seasons.
Norfolk State is currently -250 to win the tournament outright, and rightfully so, as they open the tournament against No. 8 seed Delaware State (2-25, 0-14).
No. 2 seed Howard and No. 3 seed North Carolina Central will provide the biggest barriers to Norfolk State’s quest for a repeat. Howard and North Carolina Central went 9-5 and 8-5 in MEAC play, respectively.
Howard lost both contests to Norfolk State this season but did play the Spartans very tough at home, losing 74-77. North Carolina Central split the series with Norfolk State, winning by a score of 70-67 at home and getting crushed, 75-46, in Norfolk.
Morgan State will fill the No. 4 seed after going 7-6 in MEAC play, while South Carolina State takes the No. 5 spot after going 7-7 in conference play under first-year head coach Tony Madlock.
No. 6 Maryland Eastern Shore and No. 7 Coppin State both ended the season 6-8, but the Hawks won the tiebreaker between the two programs after winning the season series.
Delaware State will round out the bracket at the No. 8 spot after going 0-14 in MEAC play.
The quarterfinals begin at 6 p.m. ET on Wednesday with Norfolk State facing Delaware State. The semifinals tip at 6 p.m. ET on Friday, and the championship game will be at 1 p.m. ET on Saturday.
MEAC Tournament Bracket & Schedule
No. 1 Norfolk State Spartans (-250)
Senior guard Joe Bryant Jr. was named the MEAC Men’s Basketball Player of the Year and earned a spot on the All-MEAC first team. Bryant led the Spartans in points (16.8), assists (3.3) and steals (1.5).
Senior forward Kris Bankston was named to the All-MEAC second team and the MEAC All-Defensive team after a standout season. He played in all 27 contests for the Spartans, averaging 11.2 points and leading the team in rebounds with 6.9 per game.
Head coach Robert Jones also earned MEAC Coach of the Year honors after leading Norfolk State to back-to-back regular-season conference titles.
The Spartans finished the season as the top ranked MEAC team in KenPom’s rankings at 156th in the nation. They led the MEAC in both AdjO and AdjD, scoring 103.2 points per 100 possessions while giving up 102.7.
Norfolk State plays at a slow pace relative to its MEAC peers. It’s tied for last place in tempo in the league at 67.5 possessions per 40 minutes.
The Spartans have had an excellent season and have a clear track record of success. But at -250, there doesn’t appear to be a ton of value.
However, the more I look at their bracket, the more I like their chances to coast into the championship game.
No. 2 Howard Bison (+500)
The Bison are led by freshman guard Elijah Hawkins, who captured the 2022 MEAC Rookie of the Year award. Hawkins was also selected to the MEAC All-Rookie team. The D.C. native was a national leader in both assists (17th) and steals (14th).
Fifth-year senior Kyle Foster received first-team All-MEAC honors as well, while sophomore Steve Settle III earned a place on the All-MEAC second team.
Foster has been lethal from beyond that arc all season, leading the country in 3-point field goal percentage for most of the season with a 46% sink rate. Settle was a strong contributor for the Bison as well, playing in all 28 games and finishing fourth in the conference in scoring with 13.8 points per game.
The Bison have the offensive capability to make a run at the MEAC Championship. That’s because they own an AdjO of 102 points per 100 possessions to rank second in the MEAC behind Norfolk State.
The Value Play
No. 3 North Carolina Central Eagles (+1200)
Sophomore guard Justin Wright earned first-team All-MEAC honors after ending the regular season averaging 13.7 points per game. Wright excelled in league play, putting up 20.1 points per game.
Junior guard Eric Boone earned a spot on the All-MEAC second team as a defensive specialist. He proved to be a top defender nationally, ranking fourth in steals with an average of 2.5 per game. He also was a contributor on offense, placing second in the conference with 3.7 assists per game.
The Eagles are the third-highest ranked team in the MEAC at 287th, per KenPom. They have the third-best offense in the league as measured by AdjO, scoring 97.1 points per 100 possessions.
North Carolina Central has shown it can rise to the occasion, splitting their series with Norfolk State and taking Howard to the limit at home in overtime.
At +1200, it’s worth considering a dusting of capital on a tournament futures bet.
No. 7 Coppin State Eagles (+2000)
Coppin State is led by redshirt freshman Nendah Tarke, who was named to both the All-MEAC first team and MEAC All-Defensive Team. Tarke ranked seventh in the conference in scoring (13.2), third in boards (6.9) and first overall in steals (3.0) at the conclusion of the season.
Freshman guard Greg Spurlock earned a spot on the All-MEAC Rookie Team after coming on later in the season. He was also a key contributor in a win over Howard.
After falling to the seventh seed because of a tiebreaker, the Eagles will face a difficult first-round test against Howard. However, Coppin State has had Howard’s number this year, winning both regular season games.
The Eagles play with incredible tempo, averaging 72.9 possessions per 40 minutes to rank fifth nationally.
The Eagles are one of the best defensive teams in the conference with an AdjD of 104.9 points per 100 possessions, which ranks third in the conference.
If Coppin State can get past Howard in the quarterfinals, the path to a MEAC title becomes feasible at a huge plus-money number.
Pick: Norfolk State Spartans (-250)
Projections for all Quarterfinal Games
No. 1 Norfolk State vs. No. 8 Delaware State
- Projected Spread: Norfolk State -21.07
- Projected Total: 129.98
Look for the Norfolk State Spartans to have a big quarterfinal round against the lowly Delaware State Hornets. The early read on the line for this opening game is -16. I like the Spartans at -16.
Pick: Norfolk State -16 or better
No. 2 Howard vs No. 7 Coppin State
- Projected Spread: Howard -9.77
- Projected Total: 140.78
Coppin State has had Howard’s number this season. I think bookmakers will overreact to this and there will be value on Howard against the spread.
Play the Bison at -3.5 or better.
Pick: Howard -3.5 or better
No. 4 Morgan State vs No. 5 South Carolina State
- Projected Spread: Morgan State -1.96
- Projected Total: 139.84
This matchup features two of the better defenses and two of the lesser offenses. Early totals appear to be too high compared to my projected number.
Look to bet the under at 147.5 or better.
Pick: Under 147.5 or better
No. 3 North Carolina Central vs No. 6 Maryland Eastern Shore
- Projected Spread: North Carolina Central -2.31
- Projected Total: 122.6
NC Central should be able to pick up the win behind an offense that is averaging 4.5 more points in AdjO.
The total is where my money will be, though. I think Vegas will hang a total that is too high here, and I’d look to target the under at 132.5 or better.
Pick: Under 132.5 or better