Ten of the 11 teams in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference are on hand in Norfolk for the 2020 version of the MEAC Tournament. Florida A&M, who made some big headlines this season by beating Iowa State, is not eligible for the conference tournament due to a self-imposed ban.
This is a one-bid league with the winner likely going to Dayton for a First Four game on either Tuesday or Wednesday before the Round of 64 gets underway. North Carolina Central, North Carolina A&T, and Norfolk State are the top teams in this league, a league that never features quality overall records because these teams need to fill the athletic department budgets in the non-conference by getting beaten around by major conference teams from the ACC and SEC.
With only 10 teams instead of 11, the bottom four teams play in the first round and the other six teams play in the quarterfinals. The Norfolk Scope is once again the site for this tournament, which means that Norfolk State, who does play home games in a different venue, is the de facto home team here. The Spartans have yet to win this conference tournament since it moved to Norfolk full-time in 2013.
Here are the seeds, teams, records, and odds from 5Dimes Sportsbook for the 2020 MEAC Tournament:
- NC Central 17-13 (13-3) +250
- NC A&T 16-15 (12-4) (H2H tiebreaker) +330
- Norfolk State 16-15 (12-4) +255
- Bethune-Cookman 16-14 (10-6) +435
- Morgan State 15-16 (9-7) +1300
- Coppin State 11-20 (7-9) +1300
- South Carolina State 11-17 (6-10) +2500
- Delaware State 5-25 (4-12) (record vs. NC Central) +17500
- Maryland Eastern Shore 5-26 (4-12) +17500
- Howard 3-28 (1-15) +17500
As far as Bart Torvik’s conference rankings go, the MEAC is the worst conference in college basketball. It ranks 31st in adjusted offensive efficiency and 31st in adjusted defensive efficiency. This is a conference with a ton of turnovers, a lot of tempo, and a lot of sloppy basketball. This is the worst conference in the nation as far as three-point shooting goes.
As far as adjusted offensive efficiency per Torvik, South Carolina State is the only team not ranked in the 300s. There are some teams that grade well defensively here, largely because they force a lot of turnovers and play “good” three-point defense, which is a nice way of saying that nobody in this conference can shoot threes. Howard is the only team shooting better than 32% from deep.
Here is the schedule for the 2020 MEAC Tournament:
Tuesday March 10
6 p.m. ET: 9 MD Eastern Shore vs. 8 Delaware State
8 p.m. ET: 10 Howard vs. 7 South Carolina State
Wednesday March 11
6 p.m. ET: 9/8 winner vs. 1 NC Central
8 p.m. ET: 10/7 winner vs. 2 NC A&T
Thursday March 12
6 p.m. ET: 5 Morgan State vs. 4 Bethune-Cookman
8 p.m. ET: 6 Coppin State vs. 3 Norfolk State
Friday March 13
6 p.m. ET: 9/8/1 winner vs. 5/4 winner
8 p.m. ET: 10/7/2 winner vs. 6/3 winner
Saturday March 14
1 p.m. ET: Championship Game
You notice that there is a very, very quick turnaround between Friday’s semifinal games and Saturday’s championship game so that the conference can get its title game on ESPN2.
We really do have to look at these teams on the basis of their conference performances only because the non-conference schedules can be unbalanced and really tough. South Carolina State is the best offensive team in this league, but ranks ninth in adjusted defensive efficiency by virtue of being last in the conference in TO%. Norfolk State is second in both offensive and defensive efficiency. NC A&T is the best defensive team, but NC Central forces the most turnovers and shoots the best from two-point land.
Even though one of the better teams in this league should win it, there can be a higher level of variance in this tournament because none of these teams are very good. If Howard shoots the lights out, as they have in conference play at 35% from deep, they can beat anybody. Keep in mind that one of Delaware State’s five wins came against the best team in this conference. It’s just that sort of league.
NC Central does end up with a pretty favorable draw here. Morgan State is a decent defensive team by MEAC standards, but cannot score and turns the ball over more than anybody else in the conference. Bethune-Cookman just doesn’t do anything overly well. That is in stark contrast to the semifinal that will likely be between NC A&T and Norfolk State. Furthermore, the winner of that likely matchup has the much quicker turnaround from Friday to Saturday.
Those two teams ranked first and second in TO% on offense in conference play. A&T is the best defensive team in the league and Norfolk State is the most balanced team in the league. The Spartans are also at home here.
It didn’t help Norfolk State last year in the 50-47 loss to NC Central in the title game, but this is a conference tournament that used to have more teams, more byes, and a much weirder schedule. Things are simplified a little bit now.
NC Central has won three in a row here and has the best coach in the conference in LeVelle Moton, so it wouldn’t be a total stunner if they won another one, especially after getting the #1 seed from a head-to-head battle with NC A&T to end the regular season. The Eagles are also very deep and quite experienced.
It is a bummer to keep looking at #1 seeds in these things, but NC Central has the best draw, the best coach, and has been proven in this conference tournament. They just seem to turn it up at the right type and look like they will take down a fourth straight by cutting down the nets again.
Pick: NC Central +250