The MEAC tournament is set to tip off Wednesday in Norfolk and whether a team is the No.1 or the eighth seed, each squad enters the field with varying degrees of hope and expectation.
Each coach explained what is needed to hoist the MEAC championship trophy come late Saturday afternoon.
Juan Dixon — Coppin State
How the Eagles will win: “We have to be connected on both sides of the floor, play through adversity.”
Scouting report: It has been a struggle for Coppin State (9-22 overall, 4-10 MEAC). The Eagles are in the bottom portion of the conference in both offense — where they rank 6th, scoring 72.5 points per contest, and 7th defensively, allowing 83.5 points per game. Coppin State enters the MEAC tournament as the No.6 seed but ended the season winning three out of their last four games, including a 69-62 win over Norfolk State.
Stan Waterman — Delaware State
How the Hornets will win: “I think for us it comes down to health. If we’re healthy and we have our roster intact and everyone is able to participate. Of course, you have to be able to play well and consistently. You [have] got to win three games so you got to establish some consistency and we’ve demonstrated that this year with a nice little three-game winning streak. So we believe that we can win. We can put three games together and that’s what it’s all about.”
Scouting report: At 6-23 overall and 4-10 in the MEAC, consistency has been hard to come by for the Delaware State Hornets. Since that three-game winning streak, which included wins over South Carolina State, Morgan State, and Coppin State, DSU lost seven of their next nine contests and limps into the conference tournament on a three-game losing skid.
Kenny Blakeney — Howard
How the Bison will win: “I can’t even look past tomorrow so I’m just looking forward to having an opportunity to compete and honor our seniors.”
Scouting report: The Bison are coming into the tournament on a high note, winners of two straight. Blackeney’s team heads to Norfolk as the No.1 seed after a 19-12 overall record and an 11-3 run through the MEAC. Howard is led by Elijah Hawkins, Steve Settle III, and nine-time MEAC Rookie of the Week Shy Odom.
Jason Crafton — University of Maryland Eastern Shore
How the Hawks will win: “Stay true to the process in everything that we put in and not get caught up in a moment and stay true to what we’re doing. Playing with tenacity, playing as a family, and staying together. If we do that, we feel like our culture will put us in a position to hoist the trophy.”
Scouting report: Picked to finish sixth in the MEAC preseason poll, the Hawks raised some eyebrows, finishing 17-12 overall and 9-5 in the MEAC. The Hawks enter the MEAC tournament as the No. 4 seed and will face Morgan State Thursday night.
Kevin Broadus — Morgan State
How the Bears will win: “I can’t answer that, I mean we have to get through the first round and then the next round and then the next round. If we are fortunate enough to get there, with God’s blessing and willingness and everyone’s healthy and doing the right things. If we play smart, hard, and together we’ll have a chance to win.”
Scouting report: The Bears enter the tournament coming off a 77-65 loss to Coppin State, and are 3-4 in their last seven games. At 15-15 overall and 7-7 in the MEAC, the Bears are the quintessential middle-of-the-road team. At their best, they can compete with and beat the cream of the MEAC crop. They secured wins over Howard, N.C. Central and Norfolk State, but they’ve also lost to the conference bottom feeders South Carolina and Delaware State.
Robert Jones — Norfolk State
How the Spartans will win: “A lot of times, it’s not always the best team that wins the championship, it’s the luckiest team. It’s the luck of the draw. The luck of the brackets. The luck of the bounce of the ball. Of course, you have to be good to a certain regard, so don’t shy away from that but you need some luck, too. So hopefully, we can be the best team going into the MEAC tournament and be the luckiest team as well.”
Scouting report: The Spartans enter the 2023 MEAC tournament as the No.3 seed, opening up against Coppin State. If the higher-ranked teams win their games, Norfolk State will have to go through the top two seeded teams, North Carolina Central and Howard, to become the second team since 2000 to win the tournament in three consecutive seasons.
LeVelle Moton –North Carolina Central
How the Eagles will win: “If we continue to defend at a high level, we rebound the basketball and we value the basketball.”
Scouting report: NC. Central is the No .1 ranked defense in the MEAC, allowing 65.9 points per game and second in opponent field goal percentage at 42.8% NCCU leads the conference in margin of victory, winning by an average of 9.6 points. The Eagles are also the top-rated rebounding team in the MEAC, pulling down 35.8 boards per contest, with only seven opponents on the season beating the Eagles on the glass.
Eric Martin — South Carolina State
How the Bulldogs will win: “We make open shots. If we can make open shots, it fuels our defense and gives us more confidence. If you look at our shooting percentages, it is simply because we haven’t made open shots and whether that’s a layup, whether that’s a 15-footer, or a free throw to win games. You go back to two or three games ago we have a free throw to send the game into overtime and we missed the shot. We have to make open shots to continue to believe in what we are trying to accomplish.”
Scouting report: In the five games SCSU has won this season, they have shot 50.9% from the floor. In the games they have lost, the Bulldogs have only connected on 41% of their field goal attempts.