MEAC conference tournament preview

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I’m not sure you would actually believe me if I told you how bad Savannah State was just a short six seasons ago.

They went 2-28. One of those two wins came against something called Wilberforce. They lost to Oregon 83-23. They lost to Pacific 82-37. Yale beat them by 29. Texas A&M-Corpus Christ beat them by 45. Hampton dropped 100 on them. It took them until the fourth game of the season to break 40 points against a Division I opponent. When they finally did win a Division I game, it was against Longwood. Who was 3-16 at the time.

Want to hear something scarier? The year before that 2-28 season? Savannah State went 0-28. The year before that they won just five games. And before that it was three games. And before that it was two games. And … you get the point.

I’m telling you all of this so you understand just how impressive it is that Savannah State won the MEAC going away. They won 13 straight games to close out the year. They won the regular season conference title outright. They won 21 games in a single season. That is an impressive turnaround.

The Bracket

Where: Winston-Salem, NC

When: March 5th-March 10th

Final: March 10th, 1 p.m. ESPN2

Favorite: Savannah State

Savannah State is a defensive juggernaut. Given the level of competition they play against in the MEAC, the fact that the Tigers are top 50 team defensively according to Kenpom is impressive. Why? Because Kenpom adjusts those numbers for strength of schedule, which means that Horace Broadnax has him team playing so well on that end of the floor that computers can overlook the fact his team plays in the MEAC. Whether or not they score enough points to win may be an issue; SSU is 284th in the country in offensive efficiency.

And if they lose?: Norfolk State

NSU finished second in the conference this season riding the coattails of big man Kyle O’Quinn, who may just be the best player in the conference. The 6’9″ big man averaged 15.9 ppg, 10.7 rpg and 2.8 bpg and has a professional career in his future at some level of the game.

Sleepers: Delaware State is the team you want to keep an eye on. They control tempo and have a talented back court, but what’s most impressive has been their ability to win close games this year. NC Central is also a team to look out for as Ray Willis and Dominique Sutton are transfers from the Big 12.

Studs:

Kyle O’Quinn, Norfolk State: A double-double machine, his size and athleticism is too much for anyone in the league.

Ray Willis and Dominique Sutton, NC Central: The athletic forwards have been difference makers this season for NCCU.

Darrion Pellum, Hampton: Pellum leads the conference at 18.1 ppg.

Jay Threatt and Tahj Tate, Delaware State: That talented back court I was telling you about? Tate is fifth in the league in scoring and Threatt is first is steals and assists.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.