1. North Carolina Central will make noise in March Madnes–if it can get past Norfolk State
North Carolina Central (7-3) has been the story of HBCU basketball through the first month. They’ve won OCC games MEAC teams generally don’t win, and even their losses have been respectable. Norfolk State has been a solid team as well, as it still has a lot of talent left from the Anthony Evans era. Both these teams disappointed their fans with quick exits in the 2013 MEAC tourney. Don’t look for that to happen again. NCCU gives the MEAC its best chance of getting a no. 15 seed, and we all know the history of MEAC teams with that seed.
2. Grambling will be in the SWAC West Mix
We all know about the troubles Grambling has had over the past few years. But the G-Men really have no where to go but up. And in the SWAC West, up isn’t far away. Southern is currently wearing the SWAC crown, but both Dray Joseph and Lee Doss are gone. You’d have to say that Prairie View is the favorite right now, but their defense always seems to fail them when they need it most. New coach Broderick Fobbs has his work cut out for him, but Jonathan Williams showed flashes of promise in 2013 and could make a big leap in 2014.
3. Hampton will rise quickly under Connell Maynor
Despite his overwhelming success at Winston-Salem State, Connell Maynor still has some doubters. They wonder if he can take a team that is not supremely talented to the next level. Just ask those six Division II playoff teams that Maynor beat in three seasons whether or not the guy can coach. And he has more talent on the field than most people realize.
Hampton rebounded from an 0-5 start to win four of their final seven last season. Freshman quarterback Bryan Bailey was a big part of that late surge, efficiently guiding the HU offense. Joining him in 2013 will be playmakers like Jorrian Washington and Twarn Mixon.
Not saying that Hampton will win the MEAC in 2014, but don’t be surprised if they are in the mix.
4. Johnson C. Smith will win the CIAA Tournament and make a playoff run
It’s been a while since JCSU kept the CIAA Tournament crown in Charlotte, but it looks like this could be the year. They’ve got good perimeter players in LeMarquis Letchaw and Robert Williams as well as two studs down low with Emilio Parks and Antawn Wilkerson.
5. Jackson State will have a down year
Even before the SWAC Championship Game, it was clear that JSU would need to reload to stay competitive in the SWAC East. With players like Qua Cox, Clayton Moore and Zach Pendleton having exhausted their eligibilty, there were some major holes to fill. Since that loss to Southern, Rick Comegy has been sent packing and the Tigers’ brightest young star, JaVancy Jones, has followed him out of Jackson. With about six weeks until Signing Day, JSU still doesn’t have a coach. At this rate, it would take almost a miracle for the Tigers to attempt a three-peat as SWAC East champs.