|NC A&T’s Austin Witter hopes to lead his team to its first MEAC title in 17 years. (NC A&T photo)|
In the aftermath of Wednesday’s double upset, here’s what has changed in the MEAC Tournament:
1) The MEAC Champion will be one of the “First Four.” As defending conference tournament champions, regular season champions and owners of a 15 game winning streak, Norfolk State was still listed as a candidate for the First Four (aka “play-in” game) by ESPN’s Joe Lunardi. NC Central’s 22-8 record was impressive, but there was a good chance they would have been in a play-in game if they won the tourney. And with their losses, so went the MEAC’s chance of avoiding being in a play-in game since 2008.
Of the six remaining teams in the field-Hampton, NC A&T, Savannah State, Morgan State, Delaware State and Bethune-Cookman-only Savannah State (19-13, 11-5 MEAC) and Morgan State (15-14, 10-6) have winning records. And with the conference near the bottom of the RPI list, there is little doubt any of these teams would be among the eight forced to fight for the right to take on a no. 1 seed.
2) Hampton and NC A&T will have to pack the house. The Scope hadn’t been exactly packed the first few days, but with both Norfolk State’s men and women’s teams out, attendance could get dicey. Both Hampton and NC A&T’s still have both men and women’s teams in contention, and both will be counted on heavily to keep The Scope looking respectable. The good news is, both Hampton and NC A&T women are favored to meet in the championship game. The bad news is, the men would have to meet in the semifinals, if Hampton takes care of Delaware State on Thursday.
3) There are no ‘favorites.” With the top two teams now out of the equation, it’s not a stretch to see any of these teams winning the title. Hampton was 5-1 against the remaining five teams. NC A&T has now won four of its last five games. Savannah State was the only team to beat NCCU before Wednesday. Morgan State is always dangerous with Todd Bozeman running the show. And as long as Bethune-Cookman has Adrien Coleman, they can play with anyone in the conference. Buckle up for an interesting final three days.
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The second annual Deacon Jones Trophy will be awarded in Feb. 2018.