Monday’s in the MEAC: Teams face tough non-conference slates, North Carolina Central reloads, and more

LeVelle Moton has reloaded the North Carolina Central Eagles for 2017-18, as they aim to defend their MEAC title. (Source: Alchetron)

CALGARY, Alta. — Another Monday has arrived, and with it comes more news from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.

The 2017-18 season is another week closer, and things are slowly starting to fall into place for teams all across the country. Schedules are coming out, and we are getting a clearer picture as to how things will play out as the road to March Madness gets underway on November 10th.

A quiet week on the recruiting trail for the MEAC doesn’t mean there’s nothing to talk about.

From an intriguing home-and-home series to the defending champions reloading their roster, here’s how things are shaping up for the 2017-18 campaign.

Power conference teams decorate non-conference play for all MEAC teams

Buy games for teams across the power conferences are commonplace in non-conference play. Teams are looking for ways to pad their records before conference play begins to build a buzz around their program and gets fans excited.

This season is no different. Teams from the MEAC have decorated non-conference schedules for several big-time programs across the country. As of July 31st, here are the teams who are featured across non-conference schedules for power conference teams:

Bethune-Cookman Wildcats: Georgia Tech, Washington State, South Florida

Coppin State Eagles: East Carolina, Cincinnati, Houston, Rutgers, Connecticut, West Virginia, Georgia Tech, Penn State

Delaware State Hornets: Pittsburgh, East Carolina

Florida A&M Rattlers: UNLV, Miami (FL), Texas, Georgia Tech

Hampton Pirates: Xavier

Howard Bison: Indiana, Gonzaga, South Florida, 

Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks: Virginia Tech, Creighton, Iowa State

Morgan State Bears: West Virginia, South Florida

North Carolina A&T Aggies: Virginia Tech

North Carolina Central Eagles: Illinois

Savannah State Tigers: Texas A&M

South Carolina State Bulldogs: UCLA

The big question around these games: can a MEAC team win any of them?

Coppin State, Howard, and Maryland-Eastern Shore have the toughest non-conference slates of the teams in the conference so far. The teams in the conference have talent to contend with teams from the power conferences, but it’s unlikely that many of them can hang with the big boys for a full 40 minutes.

*Coppin State opens the season with six straight games away from home, with their home opener coming on December 6th against the Navy Midshipmen. Head coach Juan Dixon has only scheduled two home non-conference games in his first season at the helm.

The teams with the best chances of pulling off an upset or two are Morgan State and North Carolina Central. The Bears, with Tiwian Kendley and Phillip Carr, will give the South Florida Bulls all they can handle.

On the flip side, the Eagles will bring the fight to the Illinois Fighting Illini on the road, with their loaded back court rotation.

North Carolina Central and Southeast Missouri State to play a home-and-home series in 2017-18

Back on Friday morning, the Southeast Missouri State Redhawks released their 2017-18 non-conference schedule on Twitter, and it featured a home-and-home series with the reigning MEAC champion North Carolina Central Eagles.

The Redhawks will welcome the Eagles to town on November 26th, and then head on the road to close out the series a week later on December 2nd.

It would have been great to have the home-and-home series take place during the 2016-17 season. Having Antonius Cleveland and the Redhawks square off against Pat ColeDajuan Graf, and the Eagles would have made for some exciting basketball that featured two of the top guards outside of the power conferences.

However, we won’t complain in the slightest about this year’s series.

Home-and-home games add some extra excitement to the schedules for smaller programs, and this one will do just that for both fan bases.

Sophomore guard Denzel Mahoney will be the go-to guy for the Redhawks this season. The 6’4” guard from Oviedo, FL averaged 14.9 points and 4.2 rebounds per game, while being one of just two players to appear in all 33 games last season (Cleveland).

The back court rotation will be strong for the Redhawks, but the forward core is where the questions lie. Lone returnee Milos Vranic averaged 5.8 points and 3.3 rebounds last season. Several newcomers will be tasked with playing big minutes from the outset.

As for North Carolina Central…

…the Eagles have reloaded and are aiming for another MEAC Tournament title

Despite losing Cole and Graf, among others, from last year’s MEAC championship team, head coach LeVelle Moton and his staff have reloaded the Eagles’ roster for another run at the crown.

Moton added several key players who can help the team both this season and next. He added several players with Division I experience, while also adding some of the top JUCO transfers on the market.

Most notably, he added Alston Jones from Daytona State, Larry McKnight from Palm Beach State, and Dominique Reed from Polk State. All three players had impressive seasons at the JUCO level last season, and will add a ton of talent to the roster over the coming couple of seasons.

Then, the Eagles added Jibril Blount, who transferred from the Cleveland State Vikings after last season. He will sit out a season due to the NCAA’s transfer regulations, and become eligible for the 2018-19 campaign.

Instead of rebuilding, the Eagles reloaded their roster with a ton of talent. While they aren’t the clear favourite in the MEAC heading into the season, they are once again a team to watch in the conference.

ICYMI: Preseason MEAC Player of the Year Power Rankings

10. Dom Reid – North Carolina Central
9. Desmond Williams – Florida A&M
8. Phillip Carr – Morgan State
7. Logan McIntosh – Maryland-Eastern Shore
6. Alston Jones – North Carolina Central
5 – 1. ……Click here!

– T. Bennett