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The Morning Dish – Monday, November 10, 2014

by - Published November 10, 2014 in The Morning Dish
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Picking up where we left off with conferences, we start today with the best academic league of them all, the Ivy League.

The Ivy League is in the midst of a great up cycle, and league favorite Harvard has a lot to do with that. The Crimson will again be favored, though not to the same degree as last year when they were prohibitive favorites. They have the league’s best backcourt and plenty of options up front. They will be pushed, however, by the likes of Yale (whose own star, Justin Sears, will be in the running for Player of the Year), Princeton and Brown, for starters. Columbia figured to be right there, but the loss of Alex Rosenberg is a big blow and has to knock them back some.

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2013-14 MEAC Post-Mortem

by - Published July 1, 2014 in Columns, Conference Notes
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Though it is often right around the bottom of NCAA Division I, the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference furnishes some really good teams from time to time. North Carolina Central provided yet another example of that this year.

The 2013-14 season was N.C. Central’s year. The Eagles completed their four-year ascent to the top of MEAC and were easily its best team, winning both the regular season and tournament titles and capturing their first-ever D-I tourney bid. The Eagles finished 28-6 overall, won at North Carolina State, and were competitive in every one of their losses, even giving Wichita State a stiff challenge on the road in December.
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How the conferences shake out as 2014 approaches

by - Published December 31, 2013 in Columns, Your Phil of Hoops
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Non-conference play is just about over at this point. Conference games are ready to take over the rest of the slate, with a few having an “opening day” of sorts, including the Big East with its well-publicized day of five games on Tuesday. A few have already had early conference games, with the West Coast Conference having its opening day on Saturday.

How are the conferences shaping up? Which ones look like we thought and which ones look nothing like what we thought before the season? Here is a look at all 32 conferences as conference play beckons.

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How the conferences shake out as 2013 approaches

by - Published December 28, 2012 in Columns, Your Phil of Hoops
author_kasiecki

Non-conference play is almost over, and it has been quite a stretch. We’ve learned a good deal about a lot of teams, while some are still a mystery for various reasons – injuries, suspensions, ineligibility and a light schedule are all possible reasons. In addition, a few conferences have already seen a game or two mixed in with the non-conference schedule.

Conference play is right around the corner, and while a non-conference resume doesn’t tell the whole story, it does shed some light on teams and conferences. In conference play, there is more familiarity since teams play each other every year, although the changing landscape is starting to diminish that factor a bit. That’s one reason why we see some teams put forth a very good non-conference showing, including some good wins, then go on to have a mediocre showing in conference play.

With that in mind, here’s a look at how every conference in America shapes up.

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Will Syracuse’s hot start cool off this winter?

by - Published January 10, 2012 in Full Court Sprints
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Syracuse is officially on the clock.

As of Jan. 9, the Orange look an awful lot like the best team in the country. But considering that it’s still early January, that’s not terribly surprising. The question is whether Syracuse will still look like the best team in college hoops in another two months as the NCAA Tournament approaches.

Since the Orange won the championship in 2003, Syracuse has made a habit of starting hot, building a record at least nine games better than .500 each season. In half of those seasons, the Orange have had a record as gaudy as at least 15 games better than .500.

But each season, the team has fallen apart for one reason or another. In some cases, it’s a lack of leadership to handle adversity when the team inevitably drops a tough Big East game or two. In other cases, the downfall has been rifts in team chemistry, sometimes leading to suspensions or poor play. And injuries have factored into a few of the collapses.

In sum, Syracuse has not finished a season better than three games above .500 after the Orange’s struggles creep into the picture. Why would this team be any different?

To start, this team has fantastic depth. Ten players average at least 12 minutes per game. Seven players contribute at least seven ppg, but no one scores more than 14.1 ppg, and that’s senior swingman Kris Joseph. In addition, the Orange have superior height than nearly any other team in Division I, with nine players who stand 6’4” or taller.

Coach Jim Boeheim has helped this team navigate through the tumultuous Bernie Fine affair without any semblance of a disturbance on the court. Compared to the off court drama, Boeheim must be happy dealing with any complaints about playing time that come from his talented players — if there have been any at all. Only two players are averaging more than 25 minutes per game, but as far as we can tell, everyone has embraced his role on the team. And that is leading to win after win.

At some point, the Orange will likely drop a game or two in Big East play. Road games against Cincinnati, St. John’s, Louisville, Rutgers and Connecticut are potential land mines. But unlike in recent years, this team seems built to overcome the struggles of one night. Boeheim has the Orange playing their best basketball in eight years, according to Ken Pomeroy’s efficiency stats. If Syracuse can maintain its 1.202 points per possession on offense and 0.883 points per possession on defense, both those numbers will be the best marks for offensive and defensive efficiency for the years that Pomeroy has data available (since 2003).

In a season filled with talented teams, Syracuse has earned its No. 1 ranking, and the Orange should remain near the top from wire to wire. And for Syracuse fans, a strong finish to bookend a strong start would be a refreshing change of pace.

We go coast to coast with news from around the college basketball nation.

Morgan State coach Todd Bozeman is in the thick of serious allegations after several people at the Bears’ game at South Carolina State said the coach punched Morgan State senior Larry Bastfield during the game, according to ESPN.com news services. The school has indefinitely suspended Bozeman while looking into the accusations. Bozeman and Bastfield say the news is much ado about nothing — with that nothing being an accidental bump during the game, as Bastfield described it.

Xavier coach Chris Mack made his point, then paid the price. Mack missed the past couple of days after tearing a tendon in his left knee while dunking to re-energize the struggling Musketeers, who are 2-5 in the past few weeks, writes USA Today’s Marlen Garcia.

Arizona State coach Herb Sendek has accepted the departure of leading scorer Keala King, who left a few days after Sendek suspended him for unacceptable conduct, according to a CBS Sports.com wire report. King’s departure is a massive loss for a pretty bad Sun Devils team. King averaged 13.7 ppg, 4.9 rpg and 3.3 apg.

St. John’s scored a talented point guard when former Texas A&M sophomore Jamal Branch decided to transfer to the Red Storm, writes the New York Daily News’ Roger Rubin. Branch averaged 4.2 ppg and 2.5 apg for the Aggies, and he chose St. John’s over several other suitors.

Michael Jordan’s son Jeff has decided to leave Central Florida, according to an Associated Press report. His brother, Marcus, remains with the Golden Knights, as Jeff cited personal reasons for his decision.

Picking out some early season turkeys – and sweet performances

by - Published November 23, 2011 in Full Court Sprints

Thanksgiving is nearly upon us, and that means we’re cooking up something for the holiday.

For the main course, we’re serving a few turkeys that have crept up in the college basketball nation. These conferences, teams, players and — in one case — an entire city’s judicial/law enforcement institution just aren’t getting the job done for one reason or another.

Some of these look tastier than others, but all will be heading to the chopping block if they don’t shape up soon. Some much-needed improvement could save these proverbial turkeys from the fate awaiting their avian namesakes across the country.

After the entrees, we’ve got a delicious spread of all-American winners that are worth saving room for — just like that pumpkin or apple pie. In the Protos household, my mother has added a German chocolate pie to the mix that is as mouth-watering as its more traditionally American pastries. Perhaps we need a new name for the pie. Or maybe not, as one of the coaches that we name has a distinctly Central European flavor.

Let’s get to the tryptophan-inducers first.

J’Covan Brown

How can someone putting up more than 26 ppg be on a list of turkeys? Well, when you get kicked out of a game for swearing and your young teammates subsequently choke up a double-digit lead in a few minutes, you become a turkey. Brown is absolutely essentially to a Longhorns team dominated by freshmen. After picking up a fourth foul midway through the second half against NC State, Brown protested the call with a vulgarity en route to his bench during a timeout. The referee took offense and gave Brown at technical and fifth personal, thus ending his night and beginning the Wolfpack’s comeback.

Colonial Athletic Association

The CAA isn’t exactly off to a great start, just months removed from sending VCU to the Final Four. The conference’s preseason favorite, Drexel, dropped a game to Norfolk State and then scored only 35 points in a loss to Virginia. George Mason has two overtime losses already, to Florida International and Florida Atlantic. Every team except Northeastern has at least two losses already, and five teams haven’t won more than one game.

UCLA

It’s messy out in Westwood. Heading into tonight’s game against Michigan, the Bruins are still looking for their first win against a Division I team after losing to Kansas in Maui and Loyola Marymount and Middle Tennessee State — by 20 — at home. The team can’t hit anything right now, and Reeves Nelson earned a suspension for sulking during the team’s opening loss to Loyola Marymount. There’s time to turn it around, but if they don’t, Howland might take much of the blame for this sloppiness.

The Syracuse edition of law & order

There’s no bigger turkey in college basketball right now than the attorneys and police officials in Syracuse, N.Y. They’re not even related to Orange basketball, but they have been thrust into the spotlight by accusations that Syracuse assistant coach Bernie Fine molested two ball boys over a span of more than a decade. The sordid story has devolved into people calling one another liars, and we need a functional investigation to get even close to realizing justice and revealing the truth. But the Syracuse district attorney’s office and police chief are too busy blaming each other for bungling the original investigation last decade. The DA has accused the police chief of hiding information while the police officers are calling the attorneys incompetent and unresponsive.

And now let’s enjoy some good stuff.

Coastal Carolina

The Chanticleers are back in business after injuries and suspensions derailed a promising season last February. Coastal Carolina already has knocked off power conferences foes LSU and Clemson — with the victory against the Tigers coming on the road. Besides a road game at East Carolina and a home date with Charleston, the Chanticleers look setup to post another gaudy record, which could earn this team an at-large bid if needed. That’d be a major accomplishment for the Big South.

Cleveland State

It’s certainly far more common for the Horizon League to get some extra love in the NCAA Tournament than the Big South, and the conference is certainly on the basketball nation’s radar after Butler made two consecutive trips to the title game. But with Norris Cole gone this season, the Vikings didn’t appear to be the team to beat in the conference. They certainly are playing the part after taking out Vanderbilt and Kent State on the road and a strong St. Bonaventure team at home by Lake Erie.

The cream of the crop

The top teams in the country have looked strong thus far, as North Carolina, Kentucky, Ohio State, Syracuse, Connecticut and Duke have performed well against some stiff competition. As mentioned plenty of times, the top teams are returning an unusual amount of top talent, thanks in large part to the NBA lockout. We should be in store for a fantastic season with plenty of epic match ups, especially come March and April.

Coach K

Speaking of Duke, coach Mike Krzyzewski notched one of the sweetest accomplishments in sports in 2011 by surpassing his mentor, Bob Knight, for the most Division I wins in NCAA coaching history. Coach K has Duke in contention for ACC and NCAA titles nearly every season, a testament to his ability to adapt to a changing game and remain in the forefront for multiple generations of ballers.

Missouri Valley

The MVC might be the new CAA, which had been the new MVC anyways. Creighton, Wichita State, Indiana State, Northern Iowa and even Missouri State look like they could be in NCAA Tournament contention by the end of the regular season. Creighton annihilated Iowa on in Des Moines, while Wichita State dispatched Colorado and looked strong against Alabama and Temple.

Norfolk State

A week after losing to Marquette by 31 points, the Spartans regrouped to win three straight — including games against Drexel and TCU — before taking Marquette to the final possession in a rematch in the Paradise Jam title game in the Virgin Islands.

Howard Wins Season Opener

by - Published November 15, 2008 in Columns



After Season-Opening Win, Howard Beaming With Confidence

by Michael T. Lyle, Jr.

WASHINGTON – Before Howard’s season-opening victory over Oregon State, the buzz going around campus was the possibility of an appearance from Beaver head coach Craig Robinson’s brother-in-law, President-Elect Barack Obama and soon-to-be First Lady Michelle Obama, Robinson’s sister.

But with neither the future Commander-In-Chief nor First Lady taking in an eventful night at 2,700-seat Burr Gymnasium, perhaps the new excitement is about just how good of a team Jackson’s squad can be this year.

The Bison boast a few senior veterans in forward Randy Hampton, guard Curtis White and guard Eugene Myatt. The trio, along with a mixture of young, upcoming talent, gives Howard the depth they lacked last season when the injury bug bit them as conference play began. It proved to be the difference in their 47-45 victory over the visiting Beavers, with Myatt and White providing the spark, chipping in 13 points a piece.

Undoubtedly, the victory gives Howard an immediate confidence booster, as they became the first MEAC school to knock off a Pac-10 member in quite some time.

Jackson has taken part in memorable victories over his illustrious coaching career, but giving the magnitude of this contest, he says the win ranks at the top of his list.

“(Howard) has had some big wins in their history,” said Jackson after the win. “In my tenure here, it’s huge, especially with the pressure of the first game and with a Pac-10 team coming in.”

Myatt agreed.

“The (MEAC) has gotten big wins in the past and we contributed to that tonight,” he said.

Even with Howard holding onto a comfortable lead late in the second half, Jackson acknowledged his team being in such situations before, yet failing to find a way to close out wins. Friday night, the mission was accomplished.

“I knew we were practicing well and we worked hard to prepare for this game,” said Jackson. “They come from a power conference and for us to finish off a win like this was big.”

Special thanks, according to Jackson, goes to the fans, who were just as excited about the contest as they were in hopes of catching a glimpse of Mr. and Mrs. Obama. After Oregon State’s Daniel Deane missed a game-tying layup at the buzzer, a few Howardites swarmed the court in celebrating the program’s biggest win in recent memory.

“I’ve never seen that,” said Jackson. “It just shows that excitement is building here. We have a great atmosphere and a great stage for basketball. (Fans) were cheering and helping us out.”

Meanwhile, it was a bittersweet debut for Robinson. He spent some of the last 20 months on the campaign trail with his brother-in-law, during which he was hired to help rebuild a program that went winless in Pac-10 conference play – including a now 22-game skid dating back to last season – and faced issues with certain players trying to adapt both team chemistry and discipline.

Still, Robinson says he was humbled by the atmosphere and the attention both he and the game received.

“It’s very exciting and an honor to take part in something like this,” he said. “A great atmosphere, great students and a great band, but what I was most impressed with was that the pressure didn’t bother the team. They made a great effort and handled it well.”

As for Howard, health and stamina will continue to remain a factor for this team as they head into an early tough stretch that includes road contests at Navy, then to St. John’s in the first of two trips to the Big Apple this season.

The Bison will see these same Oregon State Beavers again, this time out in Corvallis for a rematch on December 20th.

     

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MEAC Preview

by - Published November 10, 2008 in Conference Notes



Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference 2008-09 Preview

by Michael T. Lyle, Jr.

Few will argue that Coppin State’s unlikely run to the MEAC championship was the one of the biggest stories in the conference last season.

Perhaps playing a grueling out-of-conference schedule against powerhouse opponents like Ohio State and Missouri provided the Eagles a good tune-up to conference action, or maybe it was the clutch play of star point guard Tywain McKee that helped Coppin get over the hump. His runner in the lane in the closing seconds of the conference tournament championship helped the seventh-seeded Hawks to an upset of top seed Morgan State and a berth in the field of 65. The bucket capped off a stellar night for Tywain, as he finished with a career-high 33 points.

Coppin’s dream season would be short-lived, however, as they struggled to find their rhythm against Northeast Conference champion Mount St. Mary’s in the opening-round game of the NCAA’s. Their nine-point setback ended a run for a team no one picked would qualify for the Big Dance, particularly with the most losses – ever – of any tournament team.

But a new season is here, and for head coach Ron Mitchell, he’ll see most of the 2007-08 championship team returning, including McKee, who led the team in scoring and was sixth in the conference in that category. The early portion of their schedule will once again be brutal, as they face off against a sleuth of college basketball powers in Purdue, Kansas, Dayton, Wisconsin, Syracuse and Oklahoma.

With Coppin’s luck, maybe playing against such stiff competition will be yet another good tune-up to league play and perhaps a repeat of last season’s surprise run to the top of the conference.

Champions of the regular season and tournament runner-ups, Morgan State will be on a mission to get back to the championship game – and beyond. At a recent conference press luncheon in North Carolina, the Bears received 15 first place votes and racked up 443 points to take the league’s top spot. Clinching the regular-season title gave head coach Todd Bozeman’s squad their first-ever postseason appearance in NIT, where they fell to ACC power Virginia Tech in the first round. This season, Bozeman will get back All-MEAC forward Marquise Kately, as well as standout guard Reggie Holmes. Both will be surrounded with a bevy of junior college recruits who are expected to have an immediate impact.

Hampton, picked to finish second, loses top scorer Rashard West, but have junior guard Vincent Simpson returning to a Pirates team that boasts a ton of depth and size at both the forward and center positions. Delaware State, Norfolk State and South Carolina State complete the top five, with the Spartans being another team to watch because with Tony Murphy leading the way, Norfolk found themselves briefly in first place in the conference late last season. Even without him this season, head coach Anthony Evans’ Spartans will remain balanced, with seniors Michael Deloach and Kevin Worsley leading the way.

Rounding out the conference are defending champion Coppin State, followed by Florida A&M, North Carolina A&T, Howard, Bethune-Cookman and Maryland-Eastern Shore.

The season tips on Friday, November 14 with Morgan venturing to the City of Brotherly Love for a matinee at LaSalle. Coppin State begins their title defense the next day against UNC-Wilmington.

All-MEAC First Team (courtesy of MEACSports.com)

G Tywain McKee, Coppin State
G Jason Johnson, South Carolina State
F Marquise Kately, Morgan State
G Lamar Twitty, FAMU, North Carolina A&T
G Corey Lyons, Norfolk State
F John Holmes, Bethune-Cookman

All-MEAC Second Team (courtesy of MEACSports.com)

G Michael Deloach, Norfolk State
G Reggie Holmes, Morgan State
F Michael Freeman, Hampton
G Eugene Myatt, Howard
G Vincent Sampson, Hampton

Preseason Player of the Year: Tywain McKee, Coppin State

Team Outlooks

Bethune-Cookman Wildcats (2007-08: 11-21 overall, 5-11 MEAC, 9th Place)
Projected Starting Five: John Holmes, F; Kevan Creppy, G/F; Tobias Mahone, F; Tyrel Adams, F/C; Dominique Whatley, G

Schedule Highlights:
11/23 – @ Dayton (Chicago Invitational, First-Round)
12/6 – @ Florida A&M
12/22 – @ Jacksonville
3/5 – Florida A&M

Even with four letterwinners returning, the Wildcats were picked to finish a spot below where they ended up last season. Senior and leading scorer John Holmes will carry most of the load, with contributions from fellow seniors Creppy, Mahone and Whatley. Early season tests against Dayton and Auburn should prepare them for league play in January.

Coppin State Eagles (2007-08: 16-21 overall, 7-9 MEAC, 7th Place)
Projected Starting Five: Tywain McKee, PG; Chuka lloegbu, SG; Rigoberto Sargeant, C; Vince Goldsberry, PG; Brian Chesnut, PF

Schedule Highlights:
11/22 – @ Purdue
11/28 – @ Kansas
12/20 – @ Wisconsin
1/3 – @ Oklahoma
3/5 – Morgan State

The defending champions will once again play a grueling non-conference schedule to start the season, and that should serve as some good experience once MEAC play begins in early 2009. McKee and Chesnut are the big two players returning. Sargeant should prove to be a force in the middle with good, solid defensive play.

Delaware State Hornets (2007-08: 14-16 overall, 10-6 MEAC, 4th Place)
Projected Starting Five: Trevor Welcher, G; Donald Johnson, G; Arturo Dubois, F; Jerel Chavis, G; Kris Douse, F.

Schedule Highlights:
11/20 – @ Ohio State
11/22 – vs. Kentucky (Findlay Toyota Las Vegas Invitational)
12/1 – @ UConn
1/19 – @ NCAT

Riding the play of leading scorer and rebounder Roy Bright, the Hornets started last season strong, but struggled down the stretch. Without Bright’s services this season, head coach Greg Jackson looks to his veterans Johnson and Dubois to pick up the pieces. Welcher and Chavis gives Delaware State some good offensive production up front. An early matchup against second-ranked Connecticut highlights the Hornets’ out-of-conference schedule.

Florida A&M Rattlers (2007-08: 15-17 overall, 9-7 MEAC, Tied 5th Place)
Projected Starting Five: Joe Ballard, G; Byron Taylor, G; Lamar Twitty, F; Brandon Bryant, G; Larry Jackson, F.

Schedule Highlights:
12/2 – @ Florida
12/6 – Bethune-Cookman
1/5 – @ Nebraska
2/9 – @ Norfolk State

With the loss of leading scorer Leslie Robinson, second-year coach Eugene Harris gets four letter winners back this season, with Twitty and Ballard expected to lead the Rattler offense. Last season’s improvement also gives FAMU some national TV exposure. They’ll get 2 TV games on ESPNU this year against Hampton and at Norfolk State.

Hampton Pirates (2007-08: 18-12 overall, 11-5 MEAC, Tie 2nd Place)
Projected Starting Five: John Ntoko, G; Michael Freeman, F; Chad Easterling, F; Donte Harrison, F; Vincent Sampson, G

Schedule Highlights:
11/26 – @ Alaska-Anchorage (Great Alaska Shootout)
12/6 – vs. Howard (Big Apple Classic in New York)
2/23 – vs. Morgan State

The loss of leading scorer Rashard West means that Simpson is expected to get the ball more often this season. Mix it up with Freeman and Harrison in the middle, and head coach Kevin Nickelberry’s squad could find themselves near the top of the conference once again. Their out-of-conference schedule doesn’t seem to be difficult to cope with, but their late-season showdown with Morgan State could have tournament seeding implications.

Howard Bison (2007-08: 6-26 overall, 3-13 MEAC, 10th Place)
Projected Starting Five: Eugene Myatt, G; Randy Hampton, F; Calvin Thompson, F; Kandi Mukole, F; Curtis White, G

Schedule Highlights:
11/16 – @ Navy
12/6 – vs. Hampton (Big Apple Classic in New York)
1/26 – vs. Morgan State

The Bison started last season strong, but got bit by the injury bug. However, coach Gil Jackson will see the return of veteran standouts Myatt and Hampton, while a pair of freshmen in Thompson and Chris McHenry should give Howard some solid play at the guard position – and some extra depth. An improvement on last season’s record is possible, that is, if the Bison can simply stay healthy.

Morgan State Bears (2007-08: 22-11 overall, 14-2 MEAC, 1st Place)
Projected Starting Five: Marquise Kately, F; Reggie Holmes, G; Kevin Thompson, F; Jermaine Bolden, G; Troy Smith, G

Schedule Highlights:
11/15 – @ LaSalle
11/22 – vs. Utah (Glen Wilkes Classic)
12/6 – vs. Coppin State
1/24 – vs. Howard

The regular season champions seem determined for a return to the MEAC Tournament Championship game. With several talented JUCO and first-year players coming on-board, Todd Bozeman’s team may prove a force to be reckoned with this year. Virtually every key player from last year’s squad returns for the 08′-’09 campaign, with Kately and Holmes providing a spark. The early part of their schedule features a rematch of the title game against Coppin State. Barring any major collapse, the Bears should find themselves participating in postseason play for the second straight year.

North Carolina A&T Aggies (2007-08: 15-16 overall, 9-7 MEAC, Tie 5th Place)
Projected Starting Five: Ed Jones, F; James Porter, C; Nicholas Wilson, F; Dwane Joshua G; Tavarus Alston, G

Schedule Highlights:
11/24 – @ California
12/28 – @ Georgia
1/10 – @ Morgan State
1/12 – @ Coppin State

Leading scorer Steven Rush is gone, but the Aggies have four seniors returning this year. NCAT should build on their win total from last season, as the veteran leadership will be key for head coach Jerry Eaves’ squad.

Norfolk State Spartans (2007-08: 16-15 overall, 11-5 MEAC, Tie 2nd Place)
Projected Starting Five: Michael Deloach, G; Corey Lyons, G; Kevin Worsley,G/F; Antoine Perry, G; Brandon Monroe, F.

Schedule Highlights:
11/25 – @ Michigan
12/6 – @ North Carolina A&T
1/12 – @ Morgan State

Deloach, Lyons and Worsely are the key components for this year’s Spartans offensive attack. The loss of leading scorer Tony Murphy means that Deloach will have to pick up the load in that area. Worsely and Monroe give Norfolk State a good inside presence below. If all goes as head coach Anthony Evans envisions, the Spartans should find themselves, once again, among the top three in the league.

Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks (2007-08: 4-28 overall, 2-14 MEAC, 11th Place)
Projected Starting Five: Gary Lee, G/F; Aleksandar Popovich, F; Tim Burns, G; Marc Davis, G; Hillary Haley, G

Schedule Highlights:
11/25 – @ Navy
1/3 – @ Nebraska
1/5 – @ Oklahoma
2/7 – @ Howard

The Frankie Allen era begins in Princess Anne, and already the former Howard coach has made his presence felt. With star guard Ed Tyson not returning because he rendered himself academically ineligible, Allen brings in a bevy of JUCO transfers that should give UMES the depth and balance they were missing the last few seasons. Davis and Popovich are the only two returning from last season’s squad, and they’ll provide the leadership needed to give the Eagles some swagger. Allen makes his return to the Nation’s Capital in early February against the Bison in what should be an entertaining matchup and given the storyline involved.

South Carolina State Bulldogs (2007-08: 13-20 overall, 7-9 MEAC, Tie 7th Place)
Projected Starting Five: Jason Johnson G/F, Jessie Burton, G; Julius Carter, F/C; Brandon Smalls, G; Phillip Adams, G

Schedule Highlights:
12/13 – @ Clemson
1/10 – @ Delaware State
1/26 – vs. NCAT

Johnson, last season’s leading scorer, returns to a Bulldog squad that can mix it up on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. Head coach Tim Carter’s squad should make strides as their non-conference portion of the season appears winnable and sets them up for a run at the top five in the MEAC standings.

     

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MEAC Recap

by - Published May 13, 2008 in Conference Notes



Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference 2007-08 Season Recap

by Michael T. Lyle, Jr.

Postseason tournament appearances for Coppin State and Morgan State may have been short-lived, but both schools highlighted a memorable 2007-08 campaign to remember for the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. Six of the eleven teams finished above .500 in the league, but the Eagles, led by All-MEAC First Team guard Tywain McKee, were without question, the surprise team of the season.

It all started at the RBC Center in Raleigh, NC, site of the conference tournament. They edged out Howard in the first round, then surprised both preseason pick Hampton and third-seeded Norfolk State to reach the title game. Against top-seeded and crosstown rival Morgan State, McKee’s game-winning floater in the lane with three seconds left propelled Coach Ron “Fang” Mitchell’s squad into the field of 65, and closed out a record-setting performance (33 points, 6-of-8 three pointers) from the Philadelphia, PA native.

Forget the notion the Eagles (16-21, 7-9 MEAC) became the first school to reach the NCAA Tournament with 20 losses. After all, they found themselves in a position unlike that of powerhouses Virginia Tech and Ohio State, who had to settle for berths in the NIT. In fact, if you ask Mitchell, he wouldn’t hesitate to say that the season was, indeed, a success. Especially considering the Eagles had to overcome some hardships along their unlikely path to the MEAC crown.

“I think they were life-learning lessons”, said Mitchell. “Lessons about how important it is to get along as a group, and to have the persistence and the determination to succeed.”

As for McKee, Mitchell says that, although it took some time, the star guard grew into the role player and team leader he was expected to be.

“(McKee) was one of the guys that never really quit,” said Mitchell. “If anything, he was hurt because of the fact we were losing. He learned the game a lot better to the point where he knew what had to be done to win.”

To no one’s surprise, the Eagles found themselves once again playing on the national stage as one of the 16th seeds, this time in the opening round game of the NCAA Tournament against Mount Saint Mary’s. McKee paced the Coppin State attack with 15 points, but a valiant effort came up short in a nine-point loss to the Northeast Conference champions.

“We ran out of gas,” said Mitchell. “They were very defensive and persistent with their scoring. They made a lot of their shots, and we missed ours.”

With the season in the books, Coppin State now looks towards next season, where they’ll have to replace five seniors, including McKee. But Mitchell says a repeat of what happened this past season is possible, provided they get a deeper bench and a good cast of recruits.

“I look at starting the year, striving to be successful every game, and doing the best we can and grow young people with character,” he said.

“I also think we’ll do really well with the recruiting,” he added. “We just have to get more people to step up and get more balanced scoring. I’m looking forward to solidifying a few really good recruits we have coming in.”

Meanwhile, Morgan State (22-11, 14-2) earned their first National Invitational Tournament appearance by virtue of clinching the regular-season title. Maybe it wasn’t what coach Todd Bozeman and his team worked all season for, but for a conference that usually gets one team in the postseason by winning the conference tournament, he was more than happy to accept the invitation.

“The fact we had set out a goal to take positive steps, to be undefeated at home and to get to the postseason was one thing,” said Bozeman. “Getting the bid is something to be proud of.”

They started the season with a strong performance against national powerhouse Connecticut in the opening-round of the 2K Sports College Hoops Classic, then rode the backs of junior guard Jamar Smith (16.6 ppg) and junior forward Boubacar Coly (10.9 rebounds) to earn its first 20-win season in 32 years. It was enough to earn a spot in the NIT, but they faced a daunting task in the first-round against upstart Virginia Tech.

The Hokies, feeling bitter after being snubbed by the tournament selection committee following an impressive run through the ACC Tournament, took out their frustration on Bozeman’s squad, cruising to a 32-point romp.

“To get 22 wins was a positive and to get the community and campus excited about Morgan State basketball was great,” said Bozeman. “I’m happy with the results and looking forward to next season.”

Elsewhere, the Hampton Pirates (18-12, 11-5) were the preseason pick to represent the MEAC in the NCAA’s, and early on, they seem primed to run away with the conference title. But key losses at Coppin State and Morgan State dropped Hampton into a two-way tie for second with Norfolk State. The Pirates won the tie-breaker and entered the conference tournament as the second seed, earning a first-round bye before seeing their 18-12 season come to a crashing halt against eventual champion Coppin State in the second round.

Behind standout performances from guards Tony Murphy, Corey Lyons and Michael DeLoach, Norfolk State (16-15, 11-5) became one of the mid-season surprises in the league and found themselves briefly in first-place following a 10-2 start. They eventually fell victim to Coppin State’s run to the championship in semi-finals of the conference tourney.

Rounding out the top four is Delaware State (14-16, 10-6). The Hornets had high hopes coming into the season, led by All-MEAC First Team senior guard Roy Bright. A one-man show, Bright tried to keep things as such for DSU, leading the team with a 19.1 points-per-game average. However, it wasn’t enough as the three-time regular season champions stumbled to a fourth-place finish and a 14-16 overall mark.

Now, a final look around the rest of the MEAC in the order of finish:

North Carolina A&T (15-16 overall, 9-7 MEAC)

Notable Victories:
11/24 – won at DePaul, 96-93
1/14 – won vs. Coppin State, 59-56

Perhaps their win at home against eventual conference champion Coppin State didn’t come as much as a surprise for the Aggies. But to say they were one of a few teams that showed they could run with the upstart Eagles has to be a positive going into next season. Without question the win at DePaul in late November, behind Steven Rush’s career-high 40 points, was one of the biggest in their history. 2008-09 promises to be a rebuilding year for head coach Jerry Eaves. He’ll lose seven seniors, including Rush and leading rebounder, Jason Wills.

Florida A&M (15-17, 9-7)

Notable Victories:

1/21 – won at Coppin State, 63-48
2/16 – won vs. Morgan State, 90-89

With a new coach and a new focus, the Rattlers struggled to defend their title from the previous season in one that served the purpose of rebuilding. Wins against the two conference tournament finalists should give Coach Eugene Harris some momentum going into next season, as FAMU continues to revamp their program in the post-Mike Gillespie era. They’ll have to do so without seniors Leslie Robinson and Akini Akini.

South Carolina State (13-20, 7-9)

Notable Victories:

12/4 – won vs. VMI, 89-88
2/23 – won vs. Norfolk State, 97-86

The Bulldogs did all they could to make up for a slow start to conference play, and reached the quarterfinals of the MEAC Tournament, only to see their season end to runner-up Morgan State. South Carolina State could be one of the teams to watch for next season, as they’ll have the majority of their roster returning, including leading scorer and rebounder Jason Johnson. They’ll lose one senior in guard Robert Baker, but will have a full deck stacked with experienced upperclassmen come the 2008-09 campaign.

Bethune-Cookman (5-11, 11-21)

Notable Victories:

1/19 – won at Coppin State, 56-55
2/11 – won vs. NCAT, 54-50

Bethune-Cookman improved on their record this season by a mere two games. At times, the Wildcats were streaky, winning four in a row during a stretch from late November to early December, but closed out the campaign on a four-game skid, including a nine-point setback to South Carolina State in the first round of the tournament. BCC returns leading scorer John Holmes, but will lose four seniors, including John Anderson, who led the team in field-goal percentage.

Howard (6-26, 3-13)

Notable Victories:

11/17 – won at Pennsylvania, 80-65
11/20 – won vs. LaSalle, 69-63
11/27 – won vs. Navy, 75-65
1/28 – won vs. Coppin State, 73-69

The Bison started their season with some strong performances in their out-of-conference portion of the schedule, but the injury bug bit Gil Jackson’s crew as they entered MEAC play. Howard did put up a memorable performance for those watching the ESPNU contest against Coppin State, pulling out a thrilling four-point win. The last time both teams met was in the first round of the tournament, with the Eagles starting their run to the title with a nail-biting one-point win. Provided they stay healthy next season, things should get better for the Bison, with leading scorer Eugene Myatt and leading rebound Adam Walker returning.

Maryland-Eastern Shore (2-14, 4-28)

Notable Victories:

11/15 – won vs. Stony Brook, 53-52
12/11 – won vs. Kennesaw State, 77-72
2/9 – won vs. Howard, 59-56
2/11 – won vs. Hampton, 68-62

Despite finishing another season as the cellar-dweller in the conference, their victory against Hampton was pretty impressive. Still, it was a season to forget for the Hawks. Ed Tyson was the one-man show, leading the team in scoring with a 20.2 average. He’ll be back just as the program seems to be headed in the right direction with the recent hiring of former Howard coach Frankie Allen as their new general, who replaces interim coach Meredith Smith.

UMES athletic director Keith Davidson said the move to hire Allen was not only for his experience in the conference, but because they “needed somebody who knew the enemy.” Allen will have plenty to work with as the Hawks will have a deck stacked with upperclassmen coming back. Perhaps Allen’s experience with the MEAC will be enough to turn the team around in a hurry.

All-MEAC First Team (all are provided by MEACSports.com)

G: Roy Bright, Delaware State
G. Jamar Smith, Morgan State
G: Tywain McKee, Coppin State, Howard
G: Boubacar Coly, Morgan State
G: Tony Murphy, Norfolk State

All-MEAC Second Team

G: Rashard West, Hampton
G: Stephen Rush, NCAT
F: Marquise Kately, Morgan State
G: Jason Johnson, SCSU
G: Ed Tyson, UMES

MEAC Player of the Year: Jamar Smith, Morgan State
Rookie of the Year: Carrio Bennett, South Carolina State
Coach of the Year: Anthony Evans, Norfolk State
Hoopville’s Mike Lyle MEAC MVP: Tywain McKee, Coppin State (he hit the shot that got them to “The Big Dance!” That’s satisfying enough!)

     

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Morgan State Happy To Be In NIT

by - Published March 19, 2008 in Columns



For Morgan State, NIT will suffice

by Michael T. Lyle, Jr.

BLACKSBURG, Va. – So it wasn’t exactly what the Morgan State Bears fought all season for. But despite losing the MEAC Championship game against crosstown rival Coppin State, the Bears are still tournament-bound.

By virtue of winning the conference’s regular-season championship, Morgan State will hit the road again, this time for the 71st annual National Invitational Tournament, which for them begins Wednesday night at top-seeded Virginia Tech in the first round. The NIT appearance will mark the Bears’ first in Division I.

Head coach Todd Bozeman won’t be the first to say that he’d prefer his team be dancing among the field of 65, but to earn an NIT berth as a consolation prize, and especially coming out of league where all 11 teams play every game as if it were their last, he’ll gladly accept the invitation.

“Our goal was to get to the postseason,” said Bozeman. Obviously, we wanted to get to the NCAA’s, but we’re really excited about where we’re at and looking forward to it.”

Without leading scorer Jamar Smith in the lineup, Morgan fell to the MEAC Champion Eagles Saturday night, 62-60, on Tywain Mckee’s game-winning floater with three seconds remaining. Before that heart-breaking loss, the Bears have ridden the combination of sophomore guard Reggie Holmes and junior guard Marquise Kately to help get Bozeman’s squad to the regular-season championship and an NIT trip.

“Not having our leading scorer out there makes a difference, but they’ve stepped up and filled the void,” said Bozeman. “But we’ll need some more help from the other guys to beat (Virginia Tech).”

Needless to say the Hokies (19-13, 9-7 ACC) are bitter after being snubbed from getting into the field of 65. After losing a close contest in the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship game to North Carolina, Virginia Tech will lean on two key guards to show the NCAA Selection Committee they should’ve considered them for an at-large bid.

Junior A.D. Vassallo and senior Deron Washington have put up some impressive numbers for the top-seeded Hokies. Vassallo is averaging a shade over 17 points-per-game, while Washington contributes a 12.4 scoring average. Tech also led the ACC in scoring defense and has been a force on the boards, outrebounding the opposition in 25 of their 32 contests.

“We just want to go in and play to the best of our ability,” said Bozeman. “They’re an outstanding transition team and play extremely hard, and our transition defense has to be huge for us.”

For Morgan, they’re also making a bit of history this week with becoming the second MEAC school to participate in a postseason tournament. To have a pair of teams come from the mid-major conference is satisfying to Bozeman.

Of course, an upset win on Wednesday night would be much sweeter.

“It’s good to have two teams from our league playing in the postseason,” he said. “You want to represent the conference as best as you can.”

Wednesday night’s winner will face the victor of the VCU-UAB contest in the second round.

     

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