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Kyle O’Quinn and the Norfolk State Spartans took the country by storm last season, ruining brackets everywhere with their stunning upset of No.2-seed Missouri in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. With O’Quinn now in the NBA, programs in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference are back to where they usually are: A college basketball afterthought serving as non-conference filler for programs looking to pad their records.
Delaware State and Savannah State are the two teams most likely to contend for the MEAC championship in 2012-2013. Delaware State returns two of the conference’s top players, sophomore guard Tahj Tate and sophomore center Kendall Gray. Tate was the team’s leading scorer last season despite missing five games, averaging 16.1ppg. He is unquestionably the most dynamic player in the conference, and can single handedly take over the game. Gray is one of the nation’s premier shot-blocker, but was limited to just 17 games last season because of a knee injury. No other team in the MEAC boasts a inside-outside combination like Delaware State, and these two players will ultimately be the reason why the Hornets finish atop the standings.
But the Savannah State should not be left out of the discussion. The Tigers had the MEAC’s best record a season ago and return their top two scorers, senior forward Rashad Hassan (13.1ppg) and senior guard Deric Rudolph (10.7ppg). After the top two teams, the conference starts to get dicey. Bethune-Cookman and North Carolina Central could sneak in to one of the top two spots, and Howard has the talent to cause an upset or two. But inconsistent play and a lack of talent depth will restrict the success of many of the conference’s programs.
The most interesting component of Delaware State and Savannah State sitting atop the league is that the two programs won’t face each other in conference-play. So we may not see the two best teams in the MEAC play each other until the conference tournament. But it’s not a given. Both teams stumbled in the conference tournament a year ago despite playing the best basketball in the conference up to that point. So while we have a good idea of who should win it all in 2012-2013, in the MEAC, nothing is certain.
All-Conference Team (* denotes Player of the Year)
G Pendarvis Williams (Norfolk State)
G Tahj Tate (Delaware State)*
G Deric Rudolph (Savannah State)
G Adrien Coleman (Bethune-Cookman)
F Rashad Hasasan (Savannah State)
1. Delaware State
2. Savannah State
4. North Carolina Central
5. North Carolina A&T
7. Norfolk State
8. Morgan State
9. Florida A&M
11. Coppin State
12. South Carolina State
13. Maryland-Eastern Shore
Troy Machir is the managing editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @TroyMachir.