The biggest headline maker in HBCU basketball over the last two weeks has been COVID-19. Individuals and teams testing positive have caused disruptions in the schedules of every HBCU league.
Only the SWAC men and women on Monday (Jan. 10) were able to get in a full slate of games without a postponement or cancellation.
The MEAC has had the most cancellations or postponements with 17 of the last 19 men’s games not hitting the court. MEAC women’s programs have almost been hit as hard as 13 cancellations or postponements have occurred since just before the new year.
That means it’s hard to get a bead on the top prospects or teams in the young season.
HBCU Basketball – SWAC
Southern posted the best non-conference mark in the SWAC at 5-7. Sean Woods’ Jaguars (4-0 SWAC) have won their first four SWAC games to jump to the early lead in conference play. NC A&T transfer forward Tyrone Lyons (13.7 ppg.), 6-4 Murray State transfer Brion Whitley (12.5 ppg.)and 6-1 senior guard Jayden Saddler (11.6 ppg.) are leading the Jaguars.
Southern plays at Grambling State Saturday (5:30 p.m.).
Alcorn State (4-12, 3-0) won just one of 13 non-conference games but head coach Landon Bussie has the Braves off to a 3-0 start in league action behind the play of Prairie View transfer Lenell Henry (13.0 ppg.). Alcorn has a key date with preseason favorite Texas Southern (5-8, 3-1) Saturday at 3 p.m.
The Braves then host Prairie View (1-11, 1-3) on Monday.
HBCU Basketball – MEAC
On the Div. I level – men’s teams in the MEAC or SWAC – only the 10-4 MEAC defending champion Norfolk State Spartans under Robert Jones entered the new year and conference play with an above .500 record.
The Spartans have been led by 6-1 senior guard Joe Bryant’s 14.2 points per game. Six-nine redshirt senior forward Kris Bankston (11.2 ppg.) and 6-2 junior guard Christian Ings (10.5 ppg.) are other double-figure scorers. Bryant tallied a game-high 29 points as the Spartans knocked off Delaware State Wednesday, 80-51 for in their first conference tilt.
They hope to add to that record Saturday (4 p.m.) at Howard (6-6), who had the second-best non-conference slate. It will be the first conference game for Howard and an early indicator of just how good the Bison are.
Head coach Kenny Blakeney’s squad has six players scoring in double-digits led by 6-10 sophomore forward Steve Settles’ 13.1 points per game and senior sharpshooter Kyle Foster’s 14.6 ppg. off the bench. Foster has made 42 of 82 3-pointers to lead the conference at .512 shooting from behind the arc. His 3.5 3s per game is also tops in the conference.
Norfolk State plays at Maryland-Eastern Shore on Monday (4 p.m.).
MLK Special on FOX
After the Norfolk State game, the Bison are set to host Notre Dame Monday (Jan. 17) at 2:30 p.m. in a special game on FOX Sports honoring the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the day of his national holiday. The coverage will include special messages from prominent figures sharing stories of Dr. King and what his legacy means to them.
The matchup marks the first time in its history that Notre Dame will visit and play at an HBCU campus.
Brey / Blakeney connection
The coaches, Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey and Howard’s Blakeney, have a lot in common. Both began their hoop careers playing under late legendary head coach Morgan Wooten at local DeMatha High School, one of the top prep programs in the nation. Brey also became an assistant on the bench with Wooten before he launched his college coaching career.
Blakeney played under Mike Kryzyzewski collegiately at Duke. Both Brey and Blakeney also worked as assistants under Coach K. Blakeney was also on Brey’s staff at Delaware before he became head coach at Notre Dame.
Two of Howard’s best players – Settles and freshman point guard Elijah Hawkins (12.6 ppg., league-best 7.0 assists per game) are DeMatha products.
Howard alumnus to call the game
The game was originally scheduled for MLK Day in 2021 but was cancelled as the teams battled COVID-19 issues.
Howard alum Gus Johnson, now a play-by-play announcer for FOX College Hoops, will call the game with NBA vet and College Hall of Famer Jim Jackson providing analysis.
Host Mike Hill and analysts Steve Lavin and Donny Marshall will provide pregame, halftime and postgame coverage on-site from Howard’s Burr Gymnasium. FOX COLLEGE HOOPS TIP-OFF begins at 2:00 p.m. on FOX.
HBCU Basketball – CIAA
A traditional MLK weekend game in the CIAA will pit Virginia Union and Virginia State Saturday in Ettrick, Va. (4 p.m.). Jay Butler’s VUU squad (10-3) is undefeated in league play at 3-0. Lonnie Blow’s Trojans of VSU are 5-7 overall, 2-3 in the CIAA.
VUU has a date Monday at Saint Augustine’s and Wednesday at Bowie State.
Fayetteville State (8-5, 3-0 S) and Lincoln (10-4, 4-0 N) are the early CIAA division leaders. FSU is at J. C. Smith Monday (4 p.m.) and at Livingstone Wednesday (7:30 p.m.). Lincoln is at BSU Saturday (4 p.m.) and hosts Elizabeth City State Wednesday (8:30 p.m.).
HBCU Basketball – SIAC
Benedict (11-3, 7-0 N) and Miles (9-3, 4-1 S) are the leaders in the SIAC North and South respectively. Benedict is on the road at Morehouse Saturday (2 p.m.) and at Albany State Monday (7 p.m.). Miles hosts Central State Saturday (3 p.m.) and Kentucky State Monday (7:30 p.m.).
HOOPS GAMES THIS WEEK
SAT., JAN. 15
Fayetteville State @ JC Smith 4
Lincoln @ Bowie State 4
Virginia Union @ Virginia State 4
W-Salem State @ St. Augustine’s TBA
Elizabeth City State @ Shaw 5
Livingstone @ Claflin 7:30
NC Central @ SC State 4
Norfolk State @ Howard 4
Coppin State @ Morgan State 4
Allen @ Albany State TBA
Savannah State @ Ft. Valley State TBA
Benedict @ Morehouse 2
Central State @ Miles 3
LeMoyne-Owen @ Kentucky State 4
Spring Hill @ Lane 5
Clark Atlanta @ Edward Waters 6
Texas Southern @ Alcorn State 3
Florida A&M @ Arkansas-Pine Bluff 5:30
Bethune-Cookman @ Miss. Valley St. 4
Alabama A&M @ Alabama State 4:30
Prairie View A&M @ Jackson State 5:30
Southern @ Grambling State 5:30
Presbyterian @ Hampton 5:30
NC A&T @ High Point 7
Morehead State @ Tennessee State 4
Central Oklahoma @ Lincoln (MO)` 3
W. Va. State @ Alderson Broaddus 4
Langston @ Mid-America Christian 4
MON., JAN. 17
Virginia Union @ St. Augustine’s 4
Notre Dame @ Howard 2:30
Norfolk State @ Md.-E. Shore 4
Benedict @ Albany State 7
Allen @ Morehouse TBA
Central State @ LeMoyne Owen 7
Clark Atlanta @ Savannah State 7:30
Kentucky State @ Miles 7:30
Tuskegee @ Lane 8:30
Prairie View A&M @ Alcorn State TBA
Texas Southern @ Jackson State 7:30
B-Cookman @ Arkansas-Pine Bluff 7:30
Florida A&M @ Miss. Valley State 7:30
Tennessee Tech @ Tennessee State 2
TUES., JAN. 18
Spring Hill @ Fort Valley State 8:30
WED., JAN. 19
JC Smith @ St. Augustine’s
Claflin @ Winston-Salem State 7:30
Shaw @ Virginia State 7:30
Fayetteville State @ Livingstone 7:30
Virginia Union @ Bowie State 7:30
Elizabeth City State @ Lincoln 8:30
Albany State @ Allen 4
Hampton @ Radford 6:30
NC A&T @ UNC-Asheville 6:30
W. Va.State @ Glenville State 7:30