North Carolina Central might be the most dangerous No. 14 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
The champions of the MEAC will ride a 20-game winning streak (the nation’s fifth longest) into their East region matchup against Big 12 champion Iowa State (26-7) Friday in San Antonio.
NCCU (28-5) easily won the MEAC tournament by a combined 78 points on their way to the school’s first NCAA bid.
“It’s been a long process,” head coach LeVelle Moton said. “We were introduced to America in other ways when we first started: on the tail end going across (the scroll on) ESPN. I hope America allows us to reintroduce ourselves.”
The Eagles are led by MEAC Player of the Year Jeremy Ingram, who scored 29 points in the win over Morgan State in the conference championship game.
Ingram has been impressive all season averaging a career-high 20.6 points per game, including scoring 27 points against Cincinnati, 29 in a win over NC State and 37 versus current No. 1 seed Wichita State.
While the Eagles’ RPI is 107, they’ve were competitive against three current NCAA Tournament teams.
NCCU secured an 82-72 overtime victory over NCAA tournament participant North Carolina State, fought with Cincinnati on the road before losing in the late stages of the second half and lost 77-66 at Wichita State in a game that was much closer than the final score indicated.
About the Cyclones
This will be Iowa State’s third consecutive trip to the NCAAs under head coach Fred Hoiberg. The Cyclones won the Big 12 tournament and earned a No. 3 seed in the East region, which is the school’s highest ranking since they drew a No. 2 seed in 2001.
Player to watch:
Iowa State senior Melvin Ejim.
Ejim, a 6-6 forward from Toronto, was voted the Associated Press Big 12 Player of the Year this season. Ejim ranked second in the Big 12 in scoring (18.2) and rebounding (8.6). He also scored in double figures in 25 of 28 games and scored a Big 12 record 48 points in a win over TCU this season.
What they’re saying about the game
“Don’t sleep on North Carolina Central,” said North Carolina assistant coach Bobby Lutz. “I’m confident Iowa State will win the game, but it’s not going to be easy.”
NCCU is going to have to hope that Iowa State has an off-night, but remember: this team won at N.C. State this season. They’re not a pushover.
I don’t have the guts to take NCCU over Iowa State in that 3/14 game, but man do I want to.
Tale of the tape
NORTH CAROLINA CENTRAL
Record: 28-5 overall, 15-1 in the MEAC
KenPom ranking: 78
Sagarin ranking: 84
Best wins: North Carolina St., Winthrop
Worst losses: Florida A&M, IUPUI
Record: 26-7 overall, 11-7 in the Big 12
KenPom ranking: 23
Sagarin ranking: 12
Best wins: Kansas, Michigan
Worst losses: West Va., Texas
NC Central vs. Iowa State (-10.5) (The Linemakers)