Yahoo! Sports is breaking down each league for the upcoming college basketball season working backward from No. 31 to No. 1. Here's a look at our No. 30 league, the MEAC.
Norfolk State's stunning win over Missouri in the NCAA tournament was so memorable that it's easy to forget the Spartans didn't win last year's regular season MEAC crown.
The team that edged them was Savannah State.
A Tigers team that went 0-28 the year before Horace Broadnax took over as coach in 2005 and 2-28 in his first season on the job won 21 games last season and went 14-2 in the MEAC. Falling to Hampton in the MEAC quarterfinals prevented Savannah State from making its first NCAA tournament appearance, but the Tigers will have a great chance to avenge that loss this March.
All five starters return for Savannah State this season including three of the MEAC's best players: forward Rashad Hassan and guards Preston Blackman and Deric Rudolph. Hassan is a skilled interior scorer, Blackman is the league's most efficient playmaker and Rudolph is a dangerous outside shooter.
Savannah State enters the season as a clear favorite to repeat as MEAC champs, but the teams with the best chance to unseat the Tigers are some of the same ones that finished near the top of the standings last year.
Delaware State, which returns four starters from a team that went 12-4 in league play last season, will again contend if it can successfully replace point guard Jay Threatt, the conference's leader in assists. Norfolk State will turn to guard Pendarvis Williams as its go-to scorer after the graduation of center Kyle O'Quinn. And North Carolina Central has the talent to be dangerous if its returners can collectively replace Dominique Sutton's scoring and rebounding.
MAKING A LIST
Best shooter: Pendarvis Williams, Norfolk State
Best playmaker: Preston Blackman, Savannah State
Best defender: Marques Oliver, Delaware State
Coach on the rise: Horace Broadnax, Savannah State
Coach on the hot seat: Frankie Allen, Maryland Eastern Shore
Three must-see games: 1. Norfolk State at Savannah State, Dec. 1 (Early conference showdown); 2. Middle Tennessee State at Savannah State, Nov 13 (Rare quality home game for MEAC team) 3. Delaware State at Delaware, Dec. 8 (Both in-state programs are unusually strong next year)
FACTS AND FIGURES
New coaches: Cy Alexander, North Carolina A&T (Fired at Tennessee State in 2009)
Regular-season winner last season: Savannah State
Tourney winner last season: Norfolk State
League RPI rank in each of past 3 seasons: 2011-12: 30th; 2010-11: 30th, 2009-10: 30th
Last NCAA tourney win by a league team: 2012, No. 15 seed Norfolk State upset second-seeded Missouri
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