Dates: March 8 – 12
Site: Winston-Salem, NC
Let’s not sugar-coat this, the winner of this year’s MEAC Conference Tournament will likely be on the next flight to Dayton, Ohio to participate in the inaugural First Four. While the quality of play won’t be exceptional, the competition may be, as #1 seed Bethune-Cookman posted losses to the three teams trailing them in the regular season standings. Also present in Winston-Salem will be old friend Todd Boezman. The former Cal Golden Bears head coach has taken the Morgan State Bears to the last two NCAA Tournaments, and could play spoiler as the tournament’s #4 seed.
Championship game: March 12, 2 p.m. ET on ESPN2
Player to watch: C.J. Reed (Bethune-Cookman)
Coached by his father Clifford, the father-son duo were recently named conference Coach of the Year and Player of the Year, respectively. Reed is an 80 percent free-throw shooter, has logged the second most floor time in the nation, and is the MEAC’s leading scorer. As the conference’s top returning player, Reed has upheld his distinction as a true go-to guy, and his team’s success depends greatly on whether he can both score and get easy buckets for teammates (note: junior forward Dion Holloman is pictured to the right. He’s also important, bringing versatility to the Wildcats rotation).
If the favorite prevails (and they were undefeated in MEAC games away from Moore Gym this season), it would be the Wildcats first ever NCAA Tournament bid. That’s highly contingent on the team’s ability to control tempo and keep games in the low 60s. Bethune-Cookman is one of the nation’s worst three-point shooting teams, but shoot nearly 60 percent from the floor. I may sound a bit skeptical of this team, but it’s hard to bet against a regular season champ from a lower-tiered conference.