Rashid Gaston, C.J. Leslie

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 

South Carolina’s Sindarius Thornwell suspended

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 26:  Sindarius Thornwell #0 of the South Carolina Gamecocks drives to the basket defended by Tyler Lydon #20 of the Syracuse Orange in the second half during the Brooklyn Hoops Holiday Invitational at Barclays Center on November 26, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
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South Carolina senior guard Sindarius Thornwell has been suspended indefinitely due to a violation of athletic department policy, the school announced on Sunday.

Thornwell is averaging 18.7 points, 6.7 boards and 4.1 assists for the Gamecocks, who are undefeated and sitting at No. 20 nationally. Thornwell is the reigning SEC Player of the Week.

South Carolina plays FIU in Columbia at 2:00 p.m. ET.

Melo Trimble’s heroics get him a shout-out from Wale in a song

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 26:  Melo Trimble #2 of the Maryland Terrapins celebrates after hitting the game winning shot as they defeated the Kansas State Wildcats 69-68 during the championship game of the Barclays Center Classic at Barclays Center on November 26, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
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For the fourth time in the first three weeks of the college basketball season, Melo Trimble won a game for Maryland.

His two free throws in the final ten seconds gave the Terps a come-from-behind, 71-70 win over Oklahoma State in College Park, and the win not only was the sixth time this season that the Terps have won a game decided by six points or less, it improved Trimble’s record in those games to 26-5.

26-5!

That’s an insane statistic, one that should allow Maryland fans to truly appreciate just how valuable their junior point guard is.

At least one Maryland fan does. Rapper Wale, who hails from Maryland, just outside DC, made sure to name-drop his favorite Terp in a verse in a song he released on Saturday night:

And you better believe that Trimble is aware of it:

"My therapist terrible , I'm uh Terp Melo Trimbling" @wale

A photo posted by Melo Trimble (@olem__) on

Rick Pitino on Grand Canyon: ‘The toughest crowd I’ve ever faced’

Rick Pitino
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Louisville head coach Rick Pitino said after his No. 14 Cardinals struggled to put away a tough Grand Canyon team on the road had some kind – and hyperbolic – words to say about the atmosphere.

“This, in college basketball in my 40 plus year, was the toughest crowd I’ve ever faced,” he said.

Umm, but Rick, you’ve coached in the Big East and the ACC! This was tougher than any of those crowds?

“Whether we go to Duke, Kentucky, nothing was as tough as that crowd tonight,” he said.

Well, now.

That seems like a bit much, but to be fair, the atmosphere there was, shall we say, lit:

POSTERIZED: Charlotte’s Najee Garvin nearly jumpers over defender

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This is what you don’t try to take charges.

Providence beats No. 21 Rhode Island 63-60

RALEIGH, NC - MARCH 19:  Head coach Ed Cooley of the Providence Friars  reacts in the first half against the North Carolina Tar Heels during the second round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at PNC Arena on March 19, 2016 in Raleigh, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) Rhode Island coach Dan Hurley knew the Rams were in for a tough one against Providence, which had won the matchup of cross-state rivals six straight times.

He didn’t see this coming, though.

Kyron Cartwright, who had made four 3-pointers all season, hit four of five from beyond the arc in the first half. The Providence point guard finished with 19 points and eight assists to lead the Friars to a 63-60 victory over No. 21 Rhode Island on Saturday.

“That’s sports, and that’s the type of thing that makes coaches go gray and lose their hair,” Hurley said after his team lost for the third time in four games. “Four 3-pointers in seven games and he made four today – all in the first half.”

Rodney Bullock scored 17 points for the Friars (6-2). Cartwright had 15 in the first half and Jalen Lindsey scored nine of his 13 points in the second, five during a 7-0 run that erased a seven-point deficit.

“My teammates were telling me, `You need to take those shots to open up the defense,”‘ Cartwright said. “(And) we don’t shoot the ball to not make it.”

Hassan Martin had 14 points and 17 rebounds for Rhode Island (5-3), which lost at unranked Valparaiso and Providence a week after falling to No. 1 Duke. E.C. Matthews scored nine points and went 1 for 8 from 3-point range, airballing a 3 with 2 seconds left with a chance for the Rams to tie it.

“Games like this might help us down the stretch,” Martin said. `’So you just tell everybody to keep their head up.”

The Rams led 47-40 with 12:15 left when Cartwright’s arm appeared to catch Christion Thompson in the left eye. Thompson went to the court, flailing his arms in the air looking for a call, but the teams played on until Lindsey hit a 3-pointer to make it a four-point game at 11:00.

Lindsey’s free throws brought the Friars within two points, and Ryan Fazekas scored on a fast-break goaltending call to tie it. From there, there were three more ties and kept the game within one possession until Lindsey hit a fallaway jumper with 43 seconds left to give Providence a 59-55 lead.

“We beat a tournament team today,” Providence coach Ed Cooley said.

POLL IMPLICATONS

It will be difficult for Rhode Island to stay in The Associated Press Top 25 after its stumbles.

Hurley said he isn’t concerned.

The goal at the beginning of the season was to win the Atlantic 10 and play in the NCAA Tournament.

That’s all still in play.

“We expect to have a long and great season. Nothing’s changed for us,” he said. “We lost two tough road games in a long season.”

BULLOCK’S BOUNCE-BACK

Bullock scored a career-high 36 points against New Hampshire on Wednesday, but he missed all three shots from the field in the first half and had only three points on six free throws at the break.

Cooley told him not to worry about the shooting and to try to make something happen with rebounding or defense.

“Somebody coming of a great scoring game like he did there’s going to be a lot of attention on him,” Cooley said. “I thought he showed some definite grit in the second half.”

TIP-INS

Rhode Island: Martin hit all three of his 3-point attempts in the first half. … Martin surpassed the 1,000-point milestone against Valparaiso on Tuesday. … The Rams have lost nine straight to Big East teams.

Providence: The Friars lead the all-time series 73-56, including a buzzer-beating victory last year in Kingston. … They are 1-1 against ranked teams this season, having lost to then-No. 7 Virginia on Nov. 26.

UP NEXT

Rhode Island: Hosts Old Dominion on Tuesday.

Providence: Hosts Brown on Tuesday.

More AP college basketball: http://www.collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25.