The second week of conference tournaments gets underway with the Mid-Eastern Athletic conference tournament. North Carolina-Central won the league, but three other teams are nipping at the Eagles' heels.
Where: All games will be held at the Scope Arena in Norfolk, Virginia.
#12 North Carolina A&T vs #5 Maryland-Eastern Shore, 6 ET.
#11 Howard vs #6 Coppin State, 8:30 ET.
#9 Bethune-Cookman vs #8 Delaware State, 4 ET.
#10 Florida A&M vs #7 South Carolina State, 6 ET.
Bethune-Cookman/Delaware State vs #1 North Carolina-Central, 6 ET.
Florida A&M/South Carolina State vs #2 Norfolk State, 8 ET.
Howard/Coppin State vs #3 Morgan State, 6 ET.
North Carolina A&T/Maryland-Eastern Shore vs #4 Hampton, 8 ET.
Semifinal #1 (Top half of the bracket), 6 ET.
Semifinal #2 (Bottom half of the bracket), 8 ET.
Championship game, 1 ET.
N.C.-Central leads close pack of four
The best team in the conference resides in Durham. Top seed North Carolina Central (13-3, 22-8) is led by MEAC Player of the Year Patrick Cole and second-team MEAC guard Dajuan Graf as coach Levelle Moton, named the coach of the year, looks to guide the Eagles to the tournament for the second time in school history.
A close second is Norfolk State (12-4, 15-15). The Spartans are also looking for their second trip to March Madness, with their first being memorable, upsetting Missouri as a 15 seed. The backcourt of Jonathan Wade and Zaynah Robinson gives the Spartans a dynamic pair of guards capable of challenging N.C.-Central.
Third seed Morgan State (11-5, 14-15) is aiming for a third NCAA bid in program history. The Bears have appeared in six of the last nine MEAC championship games and any hopes of a seventh finals trip rest with juniors Tiwian Kendley and Phillip Carr.
Hampton (11-5, 14-15) is seeking to become the first MEAC team to win three straight conference titles since North Carolina A&T won seven straight from 1982-87. The Pirates are seeded fourth this year and feature one of the best young players in the league in guard Jermaine Marrow, a member of the MEAC third team and freshman team.
Maryland-Eastern Shore headlines the best of the rest
Fifth seed Maryland-Eastern Shore (9-7, 12-19) has the services of 6'6" senior Bakari Coleman, a first-team all-MEAC selection to try and lead the Hawks to their first ever NCAA Tournament.
Coppin State (7-9, 8-23) reached the NCAA's in 2008 with 20 losses, similar to this year as they became the first team ever to do that. This year, the sixth-seeded Eagles pin their fortunes on freshman guard Dejuan Clayton to help lead them to a similar surprise run.
Seventh seed South Carolina State (7-9, 10-19) was once a power in the MEAC, taking four titles between 1996 and 2003. After reaching last year's final, senior guard Eric Eaves hopes to lead the Bulldogs one step further in his final go-round.
Delaware State (7-9, 10-21) is led by sophomore guard Devin Morgan as the eighth-seeded Hornets attempt to reach the NCAA's for just the second time in program history.
Ninth seed Bethune-Cookman (6-10, 9-21) has never made the Big Dance and for that to change, junior swingman Brandon Tabb will need to play up to his second-team all-MEAC status.
Tenth seed Florida A&M (5-11, 7-22) has junior forward Desmond Williams to turn to as the Rattlers, twice winning the MEAC title with a losing record, seek to go dancing for the first time since 2007.
Howard (5-11, 8-23) was by far the most disappointing team in the league. Picked to win the championship in the preseason polls, the Bison finished eleventh and hope that rookie standout Charles Williams can help lead Howard to a few surprises in Norfolk.
North Carolina A&T (1-15, 3-28) had one of the worst seasons in the country and were the only squad with no players on any of the all-league teams as the Aggies search for their former glory of the 1980's.
Who will go dancing?
In some leagues, a close race indicates any number of teams winning the conference tournament would be a good thing. Despite the closeness at the top of the standings, that is not the case here. North Carolina-Central is by far the best team in the MEAC and they are the only squad with a winning non-conference record, a good indicator of how to separate the teams in such a tight race. The MEAC is unfortunately one of the worst leagues in the country despite two of the biggest upsets in NCAA Tournament history engineered by Coppin State in 1997 and Hampton in 2001. We've seen how unpredictable conference tournaments have been so far, but with such a gap in overall quality, for the good of the league, North Carolina-Central needs to reach the field of 68 and with Cole leading the way, they should.
Prediction: North Carolina-Central defeats Morgan State in the final.