(SportsNetwork.com) - The 2015 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Tournament is set to begin with first round games being played on Monday, March 9 and Tuesday, March 10, while the top four seeds await the winners of those games on Wednesday and Thursday.
The semifinals will occur on Friday with the title game being nationally televised on Saturday. All games will be played at Scope Arena in Norfolk, VA.
The NC Central Eagles (24-6) clinched the top seed and regular season title for the second year in a row as they were undefeated (16-0) in league play this season. The Eagles closed their 2014-15 campaign on an eight-game win streak which included a 69-58 victory over North Carolina A&T (9-22, 6-10 MEAC) on Thursday, sealing their undefeated MEAC record. With the No. 1 overall seed, N.C. Central will host either No. 8 Bethune-Cookman (11-20, 7-9 MEAC) or No. 9 Coppin State (7-22, 6-10 MEAC) on Wednesday.
The Bethune-Cookman Wildcats struggled down the strech as they lost three straight before securing a win over South Carolina State (10-21, 7-9 MEAC) last Thursday. The Coppin State Eagles started their season 1-16 but have shown improvement as they've gone 6-6 in their last 12, contests including a victory at the No. 5 seed, Delaware State (15-16, 9-7 MEAC), on Feb. 16.
The Norfolk State Spartans (19-12) secured the second seed by finishing 12-4 in conference play. The Spartans closed out their season winning three of four, which included victories over Coppin State, Deleware State, and Hampton (12-17, 8-8 MEAC). Norfolk State will host either no. 7 South Carolina State or no. 10 North Carolina A&T (9-22, 6-10 MEAC) on Wednesday.
The SC State Bulldogs have not played well recently, as they've lost six of their last seven, including a Feb. 28 home loss to the tournament's lowest seed, the Savannah State Tigers (9-21, 5-11 MEAC). The NC A&T Aggies opened the season 1-12 but went 3-1 in their final four games, including a 17 point victory over Bethune-Cookman on Mar. 2.
Along with NC Central and Norfolk State, both the Maryland Eastern Shore Hawks (18-13, 11-5 MEAC) and Howard Bison (16-15, 10-6 MEAC) earned byes by finishing with the third and fourth seed, respectively.
The Hawks finished their 2014-15 regular season with four straight victories, three of which were double-digit wins. Maryland Eastern Shore's Ryan Andino was named MEAC Rookie of the Year, while Hawks coach Bobby Collins was named as the MEAC Coach of the Year. The Hawks will play either No. 6 Hampton or No. 11 Morgan State (7-23, 5-11 MEAC) on Thursday.
The Hampton Pirates closed out 2014-15 with three losses in their final four contests, all of which came against higher seeded teams. The Morgan State Bears started their season with a mark of 2-14 and have lost five straight heading into the tournament, four of which were by double figures.
Howard won three of its final five games to clinch the tournament's fourth seed, including an overtime victory over Norfolk State on Mar. 2. The Bison will play either No. 5 Deleware State or No. 12 Savannah State on Thursday.
The Delaware State Hornets won two of four to close out their regular season, with both losses coming against higher seeds. The Hornets did however lose to top seeded NC Central by just one point back in January. Deleware State's Kendall Gray was named MEAC Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year. Gray averaged 12.4 ppg and 12.4 rpg and leads the nation in total rebounds with a total of 371. Savannah State ended the season going 3-2, including a loss to Florida A&M (2-27), which is noteligble for the MEAC Tournament due to NCAA sanctions.
Although NC Central faced some close calls in January, the Eagles have been flawless in February, winning all of their games by double digits. Expect NC Central to cruise through this tourney and on to a spot in the Big Dance.
Sports Network Predicted Champion: NC Central