2024 MEAC Conference Tournament Preview, Picks and Best Bets

2024 MEAC Conference Tournament Preview, Picks and Best Bets

A conference near and dear to my heart will be kicking off on Wednesday. Although my beloved NCA&T Aggies are no longer in the MEAC, I still love it. The tournament will be played in Norfolk, VA, at the Norfolk Scope. That is not where the Spartans play, but obviously, they have the homecourt advantage. Here are my 2024 MEAC Conference Tournament preview, picks, and best bets.

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2024 MEAC Conference Tournament Preview, Picks and Best Bets

Top seeds have dominated this tournament. Howard, Norfolk St, and NCCU have the last six tournament titles. The last team to win this tournament that is still in the conference was Morgan State in 2010.

There is still intrigue despite the top seeds always being dominant in this setting. Although Norfolk St had only three conference losses, the conference as a whole was highly competitive, which is evident by two of Norfolk St’s losses coming from two of the bottom three teams. The MEAC ranked first in close game percentage, and only 4% of their conference games ended in blowouts, per Kenpom.

Be ready to see most of the games come down to the wire, as only one team can go dancing. Can Norfolk St make it three titles in four years? Or is there a sleeper team waiting to dethrone them? Let’s run through it with the best bet at the end.

P.S. – North Carolina A&T University still has the record for most MEAC conference tournament championships (16) despite leaving the conference in 2021.

2024 MEAC Conference Tournament Preview, Picks and Best Bets

Favorite: Norfolk State +185

The Spartans clinched their fourth regular-season title in the past six years. Their 11-3 conference record looks good, but they were in wars throughout their MEAC schedule. A top-three offensive and defensive efficiency team is hard to bet against, especially in their backyard. 

Their depth is the best in the conference, and when you have a scorer like Jamarii Thomas, he can carry you for stretches. As improved as the MEAC is, there are not many players like Thomas inside an offense as potent as the Spartans. 

Howard and Morgan State each present different issues for the Spartans, but their championship DNA could outlast both teams. The Spartans’ staff should prioritize starting off the game better, as they came out flat several times versus the other elite teams. 

At almost +200, I can’t fault you for taking Norfolk State. After all, they have proven time after time that they are the class of the conference. I’m concerned with some of the things either of their opponent in the semis can do to prevent them from getting to the free-throw line and make them score in other ways. An upset is in the air and hopefully, it is by . . . 

Darkhorse: Morgan State +2100

The path is not easy with two of the top three teams on your side, but at these odds, the Bears are worth some pizza money. When they stepped up to play the top three teams, they performed. They swept NCCU, split with Howard, and were swept by Norfolk St.

Even in a sweep, they were extremely competitive and nearly pulled off the upset at home. They play at the fastest tempo in the conference and force teams to run, which leads to turnovers. In four games versus Howard and Norfolk St, the Bears forced 68 turnovers. 

The downside to them playing at that pace and forcing turnovers is that their offense is prone to doing the same. When they are at their best, the turnovers are in the low teens. Along with limiting turnovers, they need to prevent teams from getting to the line.

Their defense is among the worst in the conference, but they do a good job defending the two-point area. Shooting is not their best asset, but they do have the best two-point offense in the conference. 

With a dark horse, I want them not to be heavily reliant on the three because if they don’t fall, it’s over. The Bears have shot the ball sub 33% in several games and either won or were in the game to the end. That is a testament to them always fighting and battling. These are all great qualities I look for in a dark horse.

Do not be afraid to bet the Bears against the spread when they are playing these games against elite teams. Although they are 3-3 straight up against the top three teams, they have covered all six and won three outright.

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Best Bet: North Carolina Central +220

The Eagles soared from fourth place to second after their regular season finale win against South Carolina State. Ironically, this is their best roster since they last won the conference tournament in 2019. They faired well against the top of the conference, splitting with Howard and Norfolk St.

The good news is that they only have to beat one of them to win this tournament. They are 5-1 against the bottom of the bracket and the only team to sweep them the entire year was Morgan State, who just so happens to be at the top of the bracket. 

There is no offense better than the Eagles have. They are first in offensive efficiency by almost four points. They are second in three-point offense while also preventing teams (1st three-point defense) from making threes.

Three of the top eight scorers in the conference are on the Eagles’ roster, and they all score in different ways. Offensively, they take care of the ball at the best rate in the conference, but they have been prone to turning it over in several key games. 

They match up well with Norfolk St, who is likely to be the opponent in the championship. Despite allowing 62 combined free throw attempts and not shooting the ball well against Norfolk, they won one game and were leading in their house before allowing a big half from the Spartans. 

In the trilogy, I favor the Eagles to win despite the road game. If they can stay at single-digit turnovers and keep aggressive teams like Norfolk State off the free-throw line, I love their chances to cut down the nets and get to the dance.

 

Even More College Basketball Content

SGPN has you covered with all the best college basketball content. Our team of degens, experts, and handicappers have been diving deep to know all the teams in advance of March Madness.

So, who are you going to roll with as we get into the Conference and NCAA Tournaments? Some Johnny-Come-Lately Corporate Gambling Shill, or the Degens.

We are LIVE every night at midnight Eastern, breaking down EVERY SINGLE GAME. Ride with Degen Nation, and SGPN will not let you down. Find out what’s next after our 2024 MEAC Conference Tournament preview, picks, and best bets.

 

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