2013 MEAC Tournament Preview

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Quietly, Norfolk State has picked up where it left off last year.

The Spartans shocked Missouri with a second-round (ahem, first round) victory in the NCAA Tournament as a two seed last season. This year, they’re 21-10 with perfect 16-0 conference record.

Now it’s time for someone to earn the automatic bid. Norfolk State has a full roster of players who know how to do it, with eleven returnees on the roster from last year’s MEAC tournament championship team. And when you look at the number of teams that came close to handing the Spartans their first conference loss earlier this season, it’s easy to see that it won’t be easy.

North Carolina Central only suffered one conference loss. Three other teams have double-digit conference wins and the top three teams will finish the season with winning records, overall. There isn’t a shortage of talent in the MEAC Tournament, and it could prove to be one of the most parody-filled tournaments of the second week.

(CLICK HERE to browse through all of our conference tournament previews)

THE BRACKET/SCHEDULE

Where: Norfolk, Va. (Norfolk Scope Arena)

When: March 11-16

Final: March 16, 5:00 p.m. ET (ESPNU)

Favorite: Norfolk State
It’s tough to argue…actually, no, it’s impossible to argue that a team that has a flawless record in-conference isn’t the favorite. Not to mention they’re the defending league tournament champions. Oh, and then there’s that whole “hometown advantage” thing.

And if they lose?: It’s going to be because they can’t stop conference foes from scoring. The Spartans are seventh in the MEAC, giving up 65.3 points per game. North Carolina Central, who finished second in the league at 15-1 and 22-8 overall, leads the conference in offense (67.9 points per game) and is second that category, defensively (56.8). The Eagles and Spartans never played this season (that’s a big #cmonman to the MEAC for that one) so we’re not sure how these two teams match up. They have the best shot at taking the title from Norfolk State.

Sleepers: Savannah State (11-5), Hampton (11-5) and Morgan State (10-6) all finished with 10+ conference wins. The Bears and Pirates have one-possession losses to Norfolk State. The Tigers were North Carolina Central’s lone conference loss.

Studs:

Adrien Coleman, Bethune-Cookman – He’s the MEAC’s leading scorer at 17.6 points per game and fifth-leading rebounder at 7.1 per game.

Michael Murray, Coppin State – The Eagles’ best player leads the conference pulling down nine rebounds per game and tops it off with 12.3 points per game.

Stanton Kidd, North Carolina Central – He’s third in scoring (14.5), eighth in rebounds (6.9), fifth in field goal percentage (56 percent) and 15th in free throw percentage (69.9 percent) in the MEAC.

CBT Prediction: Norfolk State, because experience matters in these one-bid league tournaments, and the Spartans have an undefeated conference record, the afforementioned 11 returnees, and the recent memories of last year’s NCAA tournament. Also, the last four winners of the MEAC tournament have had at least 20 wins.

Follow David Harten on Twitter at @David_Harten 

Swanigan to stay in draft

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Caleb Swanigan is leaving Purdue and staying in the NBA draft.

The Boilermaker big man held as much sway on the college basketball landscape with his decision as nearly any player who declared for the draft without an agent. After a season in which he became a double-double machine and averaged 18.5 points, 12.5 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game, Swanigan would have been one of – if not the – favorites for National Player of the Year while also making Purdue right at the top of the Big Ten with Michigan State.

Instead, he’ll end his collegiate career after a pair of seasons and one Sweet 16 appearance in West Lafayette. As a professional prospect, Swanigan is an interesting case. He was as productive of player as college basketball has seen in recent years as a sophomore, putting up 20-20 games with ridiculous consistency. He’s got some range, but limited quickness and athleticism. The question will be how his game – and frame – will translate into the new NBA that prioritizes versatility, shooting and athleticism. Right now, not many have him pegged as a sure-fire first-round pick.

The loss for Purdue is hard to overstate given just how good “Biggie” was. There’s just no replacing that type of production in the lineup. Still, Matt Painter and the Boilermakers still have an intriguing group, with Isaac Haas and Vince Edwards both electing to return to school after dipping their toes in the NBA waters. There’s some other intriguing young pieces there that will keep Purdue interesting in the Big Ten race.

Florida State picks up late commit from McDonald’s All-American

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The losses sustained by Florida State have been numerous and significant. Three players declared early for the NBA Draft. Another two contributors were lost to graduation. All in all, the Seminoles haven’t had the greatest of springs.

Wednesday, though, they got some good news.

McDonald’s All-American wing M.J. Walker committed Leonard Hamilton’s program to give Florida State a late, and important, addition to its 2017 recruiting class, beating the likes of Ohio State, Georgia Tech and UCLA.

Walker, a 6-foot-5 guard, gives the Seminoles yet another five-star prospect after landing Dwayne Bacon and Jonathan Isaac in the last two recruiting classes. Walker will help Hamilton and Co. reboot after both Bacon and Isaac, along with Xavier Rathan-Mayes, all left school to pursue professional careers after the Seminoles’ 26-9 season that saw them advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Walker becomes the sixth member of Hamilton’s 2017 recruiting class that was previously headlined by four-star 7-footer Ikechukwu Obiagu. That group will be tasked to retool a team losing not only major NBA-level talent, but also major production. The Seminoles won’t return a single player who averaged double-digit points per-game last year and just one who played at least 20 minutes per night.

Michigan returns Mo Wagner, loses D.J. Wilson

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The best-case scenario did not take place for Michigan this week.

The Wolverines waited for four weeks to hear back from their pair of mobile big men, and the news on Mo Wagner was positive. The 6-foot-10 junior from Germany announced on Wednesday that he will return to school after testing the NBA Draft waters.

The news was not as fortunate with D.J. Wilson, who announced less than ten hours before the deadline that he will be signing with an agent and turning pro. Wilson is projected as a late first round or early second round pick.

Without Wilson in the fold, Michigan lacks some front court depth, which will probably be enough to keep them out of the preseason top 25.

Gonzaga to return Johnathan Williams III

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Losing Nigel Williams-Goss and Zach Collins to the professional ranks probably torpedoed Gonzaga’s chance of making another run to the NCAA tournament national title game, but after Johnathan Williams III announced on Wednesday that he will be returning to school and withdrawing from the NBA Draft, Gonzaga does appear to be a favorite to win the WCC title again.

Williams is now Gonzaga’s leading returning scorer and rebounder, anchoring a front court that also loses Przemek Karnowski to graduation. He was expected to go undrafted.

With Williams back in the fold, the Zags should be right there with Saint Mary’s in the race for the WCC title. Josh Perkins, Silas Melson and Killian Tillie all return as well.

ESPN was the first to report the news.

Injured Gamecocks point guard Blanton gives up basketball

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina guard TeMarcus Blanton is giving up basketball after struggling with a serious hip injury he suffered before his freshman season.

Gamecocks coach Frank Martin says Blanton told him he could not get his body to respond to a level that would allow him to continue playing basketball. Blanton is a 6-foot-5 junior from Locust Grove, Georgia, who hurt his hip during preseason for the 2014-15 season. He needed surgery and could not return to the court until his sophomore year.

Blanton played in 29 games, averaging 1.4 points a game.

He said on social media he is grateful to his coaches, teammates and South Carolina fans, “but my journey of basketball has come to an end.”

Blanton received a medical exemption from the Southeastern Conference to remain part of the Gamecocks’ program moving forward.