Friday , Nov , 04 , 2005 C.Y. Ellis

College Basketball Preview – Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference

*** College Basketball Preview – Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference ***

The Sports Network

By John Agovino, College Basketball Staff Writer

OUTLOOK: As far as the Hornets of Delaware State are concerned, this is still
their league and the only way that’s going to change is if one of the few
competitive teams in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference can dethrone them.
First on that short list are the Bulldogs of South Carolina State which have
all the tools to make a run at the title. Another team that has a shot at the
conference championship is Hampton, thanks to its strong frontcourt. The
Pirates were upended by Delaware State in the title game last season and would
love nothing more then a rematch with the Hornets. A team that could surprise
some people this year is Norfolk State which could have the best backcourt in
the conference. If the Spartans can get some quality minutes from their bench
they will be tough to handle. As for teams such as Coppin State, Morgan State,
Florida A&M and Bethune-Cookman, they will most likely land somewhere in the
middle of the standings, largely because of a lack of experience and depth.
For the rest of the programs in the conference, North Carolina A&T, Maryland-
Eastern Shore and Howard, all three teams have numerous issues and will spend
the entire season battling each other to stay out of last place.


PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH: 1. South Carolina State; 2. Delaware State; 3.
Norfolk State; 4. Hampton; 5. Florida A&M; 6. Coppin State; 7. Morgan State;
8. Bethune-Cookman; 9. North Carolina A&T; 10. Maryland-Eastern Shore; 11.


SOUTH CAROLINA STATE: Last season the Bulldogs posted an impressive 19-12
ledger, but there is reason to believe that South Carolina State will do even
better in 2005-06 mainly because Thurman Zimmerman, former MEAC Player of the
Year, was given one more year of eligibility. Last year the 6’6 forward was
virtually unstoppable, averaging 14.7 ppg along with 7.3 rpg. With Zimmerman
underneath, along with Brian Mason and Chris Lee, the Bulldogs have probably
the most talented frontcourt in the conference. As for the backcourt, the
Bulldogs will have sophomore Derrick Davis back running the point. Before
suffering a separated shoulder, the guard was having a solid season for the
Bulldogs. South Carolina State has a strong starting group and with a little
help from the bench, this team will be very tough to beat inside conference

DELAWARE STATE: The Hornets enjoyed a tremendous season last year, winning
both the regular season and tournament championship. The team posted a solid
14-4 mark in conference play and with the return of starters Jahsha Bluntt,
Darrin Shine and Troy Roundtree, Delaware State is very capable of duplicating
those numbers. Last season Bluntt averaged 13.6 ppg for the Hornets, while his
backcourt partner Shine dished out 108 assists on the season, while averaging
6.0 ppg. Although the Hornets do have Roundtree back underneath, the team will
need to find support for the junior. Most likely that help will come from
Aaron Fleetwood who was a valuable asset off the bench for the squad last
season. If Delaware State can put a solid frontcourt on the floor this season,
the other teams in the conference will definitely have a tough time trying to
catch up to the Hornets.

NORFOLK STATE: The Spartans posted just a 13-14 overall record last year and
with last season’s MEAC Player of the Year, Chakowby Hicks gone, coach Dwight
Freeman will have to find other sources of offense. Fortunately for coach
Freeman he will have to look no further then Tony Murphy and Calvin Brown.
Last season Murphy averaged 10.8 ppg, while shooting 42.6 percent from long
range. As for Brown, he posted 9.8 ppg a year ago to go along with his 6.5
rpg. Another key contributor to the Spartans this season will definitely be
Karandick Ogunride. Last year the 6’8 forward averaged 9.9 ppg along with 7.2
rpg, however he was more known for his defensive ability, leading the MEAC
with 41 blocks. While these three players are extremely talented the Spartans
will need solid help from the bench if they want a crack at the conference

HAMPTON: Last year the Pirates season ended in heartbreak, falling to Delaware
State in the conference championship, 55-53 on a last-second shot. This season
Hampton will look to avenge that setback by returning to the conference title
game and with center Bruce Brown, the MEAC preseason favorite to win Player of
the Year, that is definitely possible. Last year the 6’11 center averaged 14.3
ppg along with 6.8 rpg and at times he was simply unstoppable. Although Brown
is probably good enough to carry the Pirates on his back, he will receive a
lot of help from guard Jeff Granger and forward Adrian Woodard. Last season
Granger averaged 10.0 ppg, but shot a mere 31.8 percent from the field, which
certainly leaves room for improvement. As for Woodard, he only posted 5.8 ppg
for the Pirates, but that number should drastically increase this season with
most of the attention going to Brown. The problem with Hampton this season is
the depth of its bench. If the team can get solid production from the
supporting cast then Hampton could have a very impressive season.

FLORIDA A&M: The Rattlers posted just a 10-8 record in conference action
last season, but with four starters returning for Florida A&M there is little
question that the team will do much better in 2005-06. Guards Tony Tate and
Jonathan Kelly form one of the better backcourt duos in the conference. Last
season, Tate averaged an impressive 15.4 ppg along with 4.2 apg, while Kelly
posted 8.1 ppg while shooting 44.2 percent from the floor. The other two
starters returning are Darius Glover and James Pattman. Glover had a solid
season at the forward position for FAM, scoring 11 ppg, while pulling down 5.3
rpg. As for Pattman, he averaged just 5.5 ppg, but he showed signs of
improvement in each and every game. With these four starters and an impressive
recruiting class that should contribute instantly, the Rattlers will be one of
the better teams in the conference. Unfortunately for this group they are
under a one-year postseason band, so no matter how well they play it will not
get them where they really want to go.

COPPIN STATE: Last year the Eagles were an impressive 13-5 against the rest of
the conference, but the losses of Nicholas King and Raheem Scott could be
detrimental to the team’s progress this season. King and Scott combined to
average 22.0 ppg last season which was a little over one-third of the teams
average (60.9 ppg). The MEAC’s reigning Rookie of the Year, Darryl Proctor,
will need to be the go-to guy this season, along with Darryl Roberts. Last
season Proctor was sensational, averaging 13.7 ppg, while shooting an
impressive 47.9 percent from the field. The sophomore also recorded a team-
high 49 steals, while pulling a team-best 6.9 rpg. As for Roberts, he posted
8.0 ppg, but shot just 38.1 percent from the floor, which is something he
needs to improve if he wants to help the Eagles fly higher this season. Even
if Proctor and Roberts have incredible seasons, Coppin State is far too
inexperienced to play with the big dogs of the conference.

MORGAN STATE: The Bears played well last year against their conference
opponents and finished the season with an 11-7 record in the MEAC.
Unfortunately for Morgan State fans, a duplication of last season is not
likely, especially since four of the team’s top five scorers were lost to
graduation. Karanvir Aujla was fifth on the team in scoring last season,
averaging 6.0 ppg. Aujla, who shot 41.4 percent from long range, started only
six games for the Bears a year ago. Two other players that will need to step
up their production are Joseph McLean and Timothy Mathis. Mathis started 17
games a season ago, but shot just 32.4 percent from the floor, while averaging
only 4.6 ppg. As for McLean he saw action in all 30 games, but only started in
five of them. The junior guard only averaged 15.2 minutes per game, but
averaged 4.2 ppg. Last season all three players came off the bench to
contribute, now they will have to be the main factors, which could spell
trouble for Morgan State, especially if they can not handle the extra

BETHUNE-COOKMAN: Antonio Webb was tremendous in his first season with the
Wildcats last season, averaging 14.9 ppg, while dishing out 3.0 assists per
contest. While there is no doubt Webb will have another strong season, he will
still need help from some type of supporting cast and that is where Michael
Williams and Kory Crumbley come into play. Williams averaged 10.9 ppg a year
ago and wasn’t bad on the glass either, pulling down 6.6 rpg. As for Crumbly,
he only tallied 5.5 ppg for the Wildcats, a number which definitely needs to
improve this season. Even if all three players produce to the best of their
ability, Bethune-Cookman will still need help from its younger, more
inexperienced players. If they can not come through it is going to be a long
season for the squad.

NORTH CAROLINA A&T: Last year’s Aggies squad was young and clearly showed
signs of inconsistent which would explain the team’s 5-13 ledger inside
conference action. Guard Sean Booker is back and by far the best player on the
Aggies. The sophomore averaged an impressive 16.1 ppg last year, while also
grabbing 3.8 rpg. Booker did have some problem handling the ball at times and
finished the season with 107 turnovers, which hopefully he will improve on as
he matures. Fellow sophomore Demetrius Guions will try and help take some of
the offensive burden off of Booker’s shoulders, but to do that he is going to
have to average more then 6.2 ppg. If the Aggies want to finish this season
with a respectable record they will need help from the bench and the young
recruits. The Aggies are far too young and still going through a
rebuilding phase to pose any threat to opposing conference teams.

MARYLAND-EASTERN SHORE: Why did the Hawks only win two games last season? Well
the answer is simple, a complete lack of offense. Maryland-Eastern Shore
averaged a mere 56.5 ppg last season while shooting while shooting just 37.7
percent from the field as a team. The Hawks committed just over 22 turnovers a
game and collected just 33.7 rpg. If the squad wants to produce more then
two victories this season they will have to show vast improvement in every
aspect of the game. The team does return big man Tim Parham this season.
Parham went to a few NBA camps during the off-season, but return to the Hawks,
which is great news considering he averaged 11.4 ppg last year along with 8.6
rpg. Also returning to the court is senior guard Corey Brown who led the Hawks
with 12.7 ppg, but his 119 turnovers continue to be a concern. If the team can
not find some sort of offensive consistency it is going to be another long
season for Hawk fans.

HOWARD: Last season was a rough ride for the Bison, especially late in the
year when the team dropped 17 straight contests to finish the campaign. Guard
Will Gant is back and will attempt to build on his 14.0 ppg he averaged last
year. A big boost for the Bison will be the return of Louis Ford who
played just 10 games a year ago. Also back this season is junior Cliffone
Ault who picked up his game in the absence of Ford, scoring 13.8 ppg for
the Bison. Ault averaged 3.5 rpg for Howard last season, but must improve on
his 33.7 percent shooting percentage from the field. Despite the return of all
three players the Bison are going to have to play strong defense and more
consistent offensively if they are to make any improvement from last season.