The first weekend of the NCAA Tournament is the best weekend of the calendar year (this is fact, not an opinion). Dozens of college basketball games with teams and players trying to make themselves a household name, even if for just the weekend. This continues our series looking at conferences and schools are most likely to represent them in the NCAA Tournament. Consider this early bracket research to find that Cinderella team that busts everyone’s bracket...except yours.
Last Year’s NCAA Participant: North Carolina Central
Prior Years Upset Team: 1997, 2001 and 2012 a MEAC school seeded 15th managed to pull off an upset over a 2-seed. Coppin State, Hampton and Norfolk State were the three teams, respectively.
15 seeds have taken down a 2-seed exactly 7 times in NCAA Tournament history. The MEAC is responsible for three of them. So the question is, do they have a team capable of pulling of a major, bracket-busting upset again this year?
This conference has about 4 teams vying to get the league’s top seed in the conference tournament and then a sneaky-good team lagging in the standings. This preview could get lengthy.
KenPom Rank: 301
Off Efficiency: 104.7 (189)
Def Efficiency: 117.3 (337)
eFG%: 48.6% (271)
Why are the dangerous: Sitting in 1st place with a 2-game lead after just beating second place, North Carolina A&T and rattling off 9 consecutive wins. The Tigers, according to KenPom are more like the 4th best team in the conference but they are winning it. Should be interesting for them in the MEAC Tourney. Should they make it out with the auto-bid, can they be the first 16-seed to beat a 1?
Unlikely, very unlikely. In the non-conference portion of the season they played six ranked teams. They lost by an average of 40.3 points with the closest game being a 30-point loss to Cincinnati. Not playing any of six ranked teams to within 30 points does not give me confidence they can beat a 1-seed in the tourney’s opening weekend. Excellent offense that leads the MEAC in several categories, pretty poor defense if they don’t generate a turnover.
What may make them dangerous is that they are the fastest paced team in the country. They score quickly, they force turnovers and they move. But they don’t exactly excel in the half-court on defense. They’ll struggle against a 1-seed.
KenPom Rank: 296
Off Efficiency: 99.1 (281)
Def Efficiency: 111.09 (280)
eFG%: 48.5% (277)
Why are the dangerous: And interesting team with some offensive firepower. The Wildcats have 3 players averaging 15 points per game or more (one of them is at 14.8, but close enough). But the thing that can break your back and propel you to a win is the fact that this team dominates the glass, especially on offensive rebounding. They also rank 51st nationally in getting to the free throw line. Hitting the boards and getting the other team in foul trouble while
Is it enough to get them a dramatic first round upset? This team played Georgia Tech to within 3 points but then lost to Washington by 51. Seems pretty safe to assume that against the likes of Duke or Michigan State, the result would be more similar to the Washington loss.
North Carolina A&T
KenPom Rank: 292
Off Efficiency: 99.8 (273)
Def Efficiency: 111.3 (285)
eFG%: 51.6% (145)
Why are the dangerous: They aren’t particularly dangerous. But the Aggies are currently tied for 2nd place. They had a nice run of winning 8 out of 9 before dropping their two most recent games. This program was 3-29 last season in coach Jay Joyner’s first year. So being in position to potentially win the MEAC Tourney this year is quite an impressive turnaround. Getting into the NCAA Tourney and very likely playing in Dayton to start would be remarkable. I do not expect they’ll stay within 30 of whichever 1-seed they would eventually face.
KenPom Rank: 250
Off Efficiency: 102.9 (222)
Def Efficiency: 110.7 (273)
eFG%: 49.2% (242)
Why are the dangerous: Well this is a more balanced team in that they are one of top 4 offenses and top 4 defenses in the conference. And their 2nd leading scorer, Malique Trent-Street is now fully utilized after missing the first 11 games of the season due to his transfer from TCU.
This team struggled early but has won 6 of 7. They are 2 1⁄2 out of 1st with 4 games left so garnering the top seed seems out of reach without a lot of help, but watch this team make a MEAC Tourney run. If they do, can they get an NCAA Tourney win? Not likely. No competitive non-conference game against a high-major opponent and nothing stands out in their KenPom profile to suggest they do one or two things well enough to steal a win.
In closing...this league tends to play at a faster pace and perhaps that is why it has a history of knocking off 2-seeds. Maybe one of these teams will be the first to knock off a 1-seed in the first round. On paper, it seems very unlikely but it has to happen sometime doesn’t it?