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)


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.


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 

No. 1 Kentucky survives without Tyler Ulis in lineup

Tyler Ulis
AP Photo/Chuck Burton
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Less than a week after giving No. 2 Maryland all they could handle, Illinois State went into Lexington and gave No. 1 Kentucky fits.

The Redbirds never really threatened UK in the second half, but they went into the break tied and were within single digits down the stretch, eventually losing 75-63.

Kentucky was flustered. They turned the ball over 15 times compared to just eight assists, they shot 2-for-12 from three and just 29-for-46 (63 percent) from the charity stripe. They simply did not handle Illinois State’s pressure all that well.

And there was a reason for that.

Tyler Ulis didn’t play.

Sometimes it’s difficult to appreciate just what a player brings to a team until that player is not in the lineup, and that was precisely the case with Ulis on Monday night. It was crystal clear what he provides Kentucky. Beyond leadership and the ability to break a press without throwing the ball to the other team, he’s a calming presence. He doesn’t get rattled when a defender is harassing him and he doesn’t get overwhelmed by a situation like a mid-major threatening the No. 1 team in the country in their own gym.

He’s everything you look for in a pure point guard, and for as good as Jamal Murray and Isaiah Briscoe have looked at times this season, it should be crystal clear who the most important player on this Kentucky team is.

LSU loses to Charleston, eliminates at-large bid margin for error

Ben Simmons
AP Photo/Kathy Willens
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Ben Simmons scored 15 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, the second time in his six-game career that the LSU freshman has collected that many caroms, but that wasn’t enough for the Tigers to avoid dropping a game on the road to the College of Charleston, 70-58. It was the third straight loss for Simmons’ crew, as they fell to Marquette and N.C. State at the Legends Classic last week.

But here’s the thing: LSU didn’t just lose.

The game really wasn’t close.

LSU was down by as many as 23 points. It was 39-17 at the half, and that was after Charleston had a shot at the buzzer called off upon review. They made a bit of a run in the second half but never got closer than seven. When LSU would cut into the lead, the Cougars would respond with a run of their own, killing LSU’s spirit while keeping them at arm’s length.

[RELATED: Ben Simmons’ one college year a waste?]

Now, there are quite a few things here to discuss. For starters, LSU’s effort was, at best, apathetic, and, at worst, regular old pathetic. The team has a serious lack of leadership that was plainly evident on Monday night; would Fred VanVleet let his team fold against a program picked to finish at the bottom of the SoCon? Would Tyler Ulis? For that matter, would Tom Izzo or Mike Krzyzewski or John Calipari?

Perhaps more importantly, does any of that change when Keith Hornsby and Craig Victor get back?

Simmons did show off his potential — 18 boards, four assists, he even made his first three of the year — but he also showed precisely why there are scouts that are trying to curtail the LeBron James comparisons. Simmons was 4-for-15 from the floor with seven turnovers against a mediocre mid-major team. There are so many things that Simmons does well, but scoring efficiently — particularly in half court setting — and shooting the ball consistently are not on that list.

But here’s the biggest issue: LSU may have put themselves in a situation where they aren’t a tournament team. As of today, they’re 3-3 on the season with losses to a pair of teams that, at best, seem destined to be in the bubble conversation on Selection Sunday in addition to this loss to Charleston. The rest of their non-conference schedule is ugly. The only game worth noting is at home against No. 6 Oklahoma at the end of January.

The NCAA factors in non-conference schedule strength when determining at-large teams. You need to at least try, and LSU didn’t try; they have one of the worst non-conference schedules in the country.

The great thing about being in the SEC — as opposed to, say, the Missouri Valley — is that the Tigers will have plenty of chances to earn marquee wins. Six, by my court: Kentucky twice, Texas A&M twice, Vanderbilt on the road and Oklahoma at home. They probably need to win at least two or three of those games to have a real chance, and that’s assuming they can avoid anymore horrid losses in the process.

The season isn’t over six games in, not by any stretch of the imagination.

But LSU has done a hell of a job eliminating their margin for error.