College Basketball Preview: MEAC

By Jesse Kramer

Norfolk State has dominated the MEAC in the regular season the last two years, going 29-3 in league games. Once again, the Spartans are the favorite in this league, although North Carolina Central and Morgan State will give them a good fight.

 

The Favorites

1. Norfolk State

Norfolk State went 16-0 in the MEAC last season but was upset by Bethune-Cookman in the conference tournament. The Spartans now return five of their top six scorers as they look to return to the NCAA tournament for the second time in three years. The big difference this time around is on the sideline, where Robert Jones will start his head coaching career as the interim. Jones spent the 2012-13 season as the associate head coach for the Spartans.

In the backcourt, Norfolk State returns Jamal Fuentes, Malcolm Hawkins, and Pendarvis Williams. Fuentes is one of the nation’s most underrated point guards. Last season he averaged 4.9 points, 4.9 assists, and 1.8 steals per game, and ranked No. 29 nationally in assist percentage and No. 55 in steal percentage.¬†Hawkins and Williams combined for 25.7 points per game.

At forward, the Spartans return RaShid Gaston and Brandon Goode. Gaston was named to the MEAC’s All-Rookie Team last season after averaging 8.3 points on 56% shooting and 6.3 rebounds. As a freshman, he posted three double-doubles. Goode, a 7-foot senior, had a breakout junior season with 7.7 points, 5.3 rebounds, and two blocks per game. He is one of the conference’s better defenders this season.

The Spartans also add junior college transfer LaTre’e Russell, a forward who averaged 12.7 points and 5.1 boards last season.

 

2. North Carolina Central

North Carolina Central went 15-1 in the MEAC last season and will once again be one of the best teams in the league. The Eagles return three starters and add a handful of transfers who should be effective.

Returning in the backcourt for the Eagles are Jeremy Ingram and Emanuel Chapman. Ingram was named to the All-MEAC First Team as a junior with 15.7 points and 1.4 steals per game. He led North Carolina Central in both those categories, as well as three-point percentage (39.4%). Chapman led the conference in assists with 5.8 per game, and he also averaged 4.4 points and 1.4 steals per contest.

Joining them in the backcourt is Canisius transfer Reggie Groves. Groves did not do much for Canisius last season, but as a junior he averaged 5.8 points, 2.5 assists, and 1.3 steals.

In the frontcourt, the Eagles return Jay Copeland (7.3 ppg, 4.4 rpg) and Karamo Jawara (2.8 ppg, 3.2 rpg), and they will add James Madison transfer Enoch Hood and junior college transfer Jordan Parks.

 

The Contenders

3. Morgan State

Morgan State returns four starters and its sixth man from a team that went 10-6 in the MEAC and advanced to the conference championship game.

Returning at guard are Blake Bozeman, Justin Black, and Anthony Hubbard. Bozeman logged 31.7 minutes per game last season as a sophomore and averaged 5.8 points and 2.8 assists. Black, who was named to the All-MEAC Third Team, led the Bears with 14.2 points and was their best three-point shooter at 33%. Hubbard added 11.4 points and 6.5 rebounds per game.

In the frontcourt, the Bears return defensive stalwarts Shaquille Duncan and Ian Chiles. Duncan posted 7.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 2.2 blocks per game, and he led the team with a 58.6 field-goal percentage. His block percentage ranked in the nation’s top 50. Chiles, a 7’2″ center, averaged 9.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks, and he ranked No. 67 in block percentage.

 

4. Hampton

Behind MEAC Freshman of the Year Deron Powers, Hampton could pose a threat for the conference title.

Powers, who averaged 11.9 points and 4.6 assists last season, will once again be the Pirates’ best player. The Virginia native was a consistent scorer and had five games with at least 10 assists as a freshman.

He will be joined in the backcourt by Ke’Ron Brown (5.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 1.7 spg) and Ramon Mercado (7.9 ppg).

In the frontcourt, Hampton returns Du’Vaughn Maxwell and Emmanuel Okoroba. Maxwell posted 10.4 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks last season, and Okoroba averaged 8.3 points and 5.1 boards.

 

The Sleepers

5. Savannah State

Savannah State finished third in the MEAC last season with the nation’s 16th-most efficient defense. However, the Tigers will fall in the standings this year after losing four starters.

Savannah State’s only notable returning players are Deven Williams (7.9 ppg), Khiry White (3.0 ppg, 1.3 spg), and Jyles Smith (2.9 ppg, 5.1 rpg).

Junior college transfers Terel Hall (6.1 ppg, 5.3 apg) and Hikeem Champaigne (10.4 ppg, 8.5 rpg) will have a notable impact.

 

6. Coppin State

Coppin State is going to make some improvements this year under Ron Mitchell, who has been coaching the Eagles for more than a decade. The Eagles return four starters and a pair of notable bench players, and they also add a handful of junior college transfers.

Coppin State returns star forward and Michael Murray and reserves Charles Ieans and Zach Burnham to anchor the post. Murray, a 6’5″ senior, averaged 12.4 points and 8.9 rebounds last year, recording 10 double-doubles. Ieans added 3.8 points and 2.3 rebounds, and Burnham posted 3.7 points and 3.5 boards per contest.

At guard, the Eagles return Taariq Cephas, Andre Armstrong, and Sterling Smith. Cephas led the team with three assists per game last season, and he also added 7.7 points. Armstrong posted 12 points per contest while shooting 35.6% on three-pointers, and Smith contributed 5.2 points and 4.1 rebounds.

Junior college transfers Daquan Brickhouse, Arnold Fripp, and Dallas Gary should all fit into the rotation immediately.

 

The Rest

7. North Carolina A&T

North Carolina A&T, which appeared in the 2013 NCAA Tournament and lost to eventual national champion Louisville, returns three key players: Lamont Middleton, Bruce Beckford, and Jeremy Underwood. Middleton led the Aggies with 12.4 points per game, Beckford earned All-Rookie Team honors with 8.2 points and 4.5 rebounds, and Underwood contributed 6.4 points and is the team’s best returning outside shooter.

After those three, the Aggies will rely on big contributions from freshman big men Khary Doby and Jerome Simmons and junior college transfer Bryan Akinugbe.

 

8. South Carolina State

With a young team, South Carolina struggled to a 2-14 MEAC record. But with four starters and a bunch of key bench players returning, the Bulldogs could make a move in the standings.

Returning at forward to lead the way is All-MEAC Second Team member Matthew Hezekiah. Hezekiah is a MEAC Player of the Year candidate who averaged 12.9 points on 55.7% shooting, 7.4 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks last season. Also returning in the frontcourt is sophomore Darryl Palmer, who started and averaged 9.5 points, 5.9 boards, and 1.5 blocks as a rookie.

At guard, the Bulldogs will start Adama Adams, Shaquiell Mitchell, and Devin Joint. Adams averaged 9.6 points and was second on the team with 2.6 assists per game. He was also the team’s best three-point shooter at 34.8%.

 

9. Delaware State

Delaware State struggled last season but still finished .500 in conference play. The Hornets lost their top two scorers but return three starters for the 2013-14 season.

Albert Thomas (4.9 ppg, 2.8 apg) returns in the backcourt, and he will get help from junior college transfer Kendal Williams, who averaged 14.8 points and 4.9 assists at Baltimore City Community College last season. Senior Casey Walker (8.6 ppg) also returns to fill out the backcourt.

At forward, the Hornets bring back Tyshawn Bell and Kendall Gray. Gray was one of the conference’s leaders in blocks with 2.6 swats per game.

 

10. Florida A&M

Florida A&M returns its top four players, including All-MEAC Third Team member Jamie Adams, but that’s not necessarily a good thing considering the Rattlers went 8-23 and ranked No. 327 overall on KenPom.

Aside from Adams (14 ppg, 3.1 apg), the Rattlers return Reggie Lewis (10.5 ppg, 2.1 apg), Muhammad Abdul-Aleem (9.2 ppg, 4.1 rpg), and Jamari Bradshaw (9.2 ppg, 1.5 spg).

 

11. Maryland-Eastern Shore

Maryland-Eastern Shore returns its two best scorers, Kyree Jones and Troy Snyder. Jones, a former Northern Illinois transfer, averaged 13.6 points and 2.5 assists last season while Snyder, a former Green Bay transfer, averaged 11.9 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 1.9 steals.

The Hawks also add two solid transfers this season in Devon Walker and Mike Myers. Walker averaged 14.2 ppg at GlobeTech last season, Myers averaged 20.3 points and 9.1 rebounds in 2011-12 at Angelina College, and Guillaume

 

12. Bethune-Cookman

Bethune-Cookman returns one starter from its 2012-13 club, Ricky Johnson. Johnson, a 5’9″ point guard, averaged 6.8 points and was third on the team with 2.6 assists.

Citadel transfer Barry Smith (6.3 ppg, 2.6 rpg) and Hofstra transfer Daquan Brown (2.7 ppg, 1.4 rpg) will give the Wildcats some desperately needed support in the frontcourt.

 

13. Howard

Howard returns only one player who played at least 15 minutes per game last season. Prince Okoroh, who averaged 6.9 points and 4.6 rebounds in 29.3 minutes per game, is back, along with Brandon Ford (2.8 ppg) and Theodore Boyomo (1.3 ppg, 2.7 rpg). Redshirt sophomore Oliver Ellison is also back on the roster.

With no point guard returning, freshmen Keon Hill and Ausar Madison should log solid minutes and possibly even start. The Bison also add a talented freshman at shooting guard in Kofi Andoh.

 

MEAC Player of the Year

Pendarvis Williams, Norfolk State

MEAC Defensive Player of the Year

Shaquille Duncan, Morgan State

MEAC Freshman of the Year

Jerome Simmons, NC A&T

MEAC All-Conference Team

Jeremy Ingram, North Carolina Central

Pendarvis Williams, Norfolk State

Justin Black, Morgan State

RaShid Gaston, Norfolk State

Matthew Hezekiah, South Carolina State

 

*All advanced statistics are courtesy of KenPom.

Author: Jesse Kramer

Jesse Kramer is the founder of The Catch and Shoot. He's a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. He has had work featured on SI.com, College Insider, The Comeback/Awful Announcing, and 247Sports.

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