After running the numbers on the MEAC, I think I owe apologies to any other conference I called “bad” this March season. Without going into the boring details of my rankings, three of the four worst teams I’ve looked at so far can be found here. Also they have the “lowest-ranked top team” in both KenPom and NET rankings. Their best team, Norfolk State is ranked 254th and 252nd out of 353, respectively. This is another perennial “sixteen seed” conference, and has a record of 3-28 in the Big Dance since 1985.
When and Where: March 11th-16th at the Norfolk Scope in Norfolk, Virginia.
Defending Champ: NC Central Eagles
Who’s Good: Norfolk State
Who’s Sneaky: NC Central, NC A&T, Bethune Cookman, Howard
Who Stinks Out Loud: Delaware State. Even though the Fightin’ Bees have a special place in my heart for covering a few games this season, they are atrocious and finished 5-24 this season
Coolest Team Nickname: Weakest conference for nicknames so far. All the boilerplate overused classics: Wildcats, Eagles, Hawks, Aggies, Tigers, Bulldogs, Ealges (again). Gonna have to give it to Florida A&M for the Rattlers. I don’t like snakes, but it’s a pretty cool logo as well.
Seeding and rules: Every team gets in (except the ones that are currently serving postseason bans for APR infractions, sorry FAMU). The top five teams get first round byes. While they will not have to leave town, this the arena is not Norfolk State’s home court.
Multi-Bid League: No. Winner gets in as a 16 seed/sacrifice.
Breakdown: Norfolk has only lost two home games, and only two conference games. One of those being the same regular season finale in which they already had the league title and #1 seed locked up. They have a very easy path to start, with a bye and then their quarterfinal opponent being an eight-win team. It does get a little squirrelly from there. I think we can expect another close match-up in the semis if Howard and Norfolk meet up for the third time this season. As for the bottom half: I don’t have a ton of opinions on either of the “NC” teams, but my numbers would make NC A&T a -3.5 point favorite on a neutral, so use that how ever you see fit.
My Pick(s): Despite their dominance, I don’t love Norfolk as a cheap favorite in this one. Howard’s price is going to be forcing my hand here. Even if the final game didn’t mean much to NSU, Howard hung tough with them twice and my metrics love everything about them. Looking at the other side of the bracket, I don’t have a ton of love for either of the high seeds or their prices. Funnily enough, my model loves the ten seed, Morgan State. Their record looks pretty bad, but taking out their one really bad, blowout loss, they had a point differential of only -4.5 points in their other 11 conference losses. They’re very close to being a half-decent team and will be getting a couple bucks as a long shot.
Howard +700 (0.4x)
Morgan State +4000 (0.05x)