The Bulldogs received great news during the offseason when former MEAC Player of the Year Thurman Zimmerman (14.7 ppg, 7.3 rpg) was granted one more year of eligibility. He’ll combine with forward Brian Mason and Chris Lee to give the Bulldogs a powerful frontcourt. Sophomore point guard Derrick Davis returns after a separated shoulder cost him a big part of last year and slowed the Bulldogs after early-season wins over Miami and Penn State.
2. Hampton (17–13, 13–5)
The Pirates are trying to rebound from a heartbreaking 55–53 loss to Delaware State in last year’s MEAC final. Center Bruce Brown (6-11, 280) is the top big man in the league; he averaged 14.3 points and 6.8 rebounds per game a year ago. He is unstoppable at times on the low block. Guard Jeff Granger (10.0 ppg) and forward Adrian Woodard should give the Pirates a strong inside-outside punch. The biggest question will likely be the strength of Hampton’s bench and whether it can provide enough scoring to help the starters.
3. Delaware State (19–14, 14–4)
The defending MEAC regular-season and tournament champion Hornets have a good recruiting class plus some key players returning from last year’s team. Tournament MVP Jahsha Bluntt (13.6 ppg) returns along with point guard Darrin Shine (108 assists). Both shined in the MEAC Tournament. They’ll have to combine with the new players to help replace Aaron Williams, who tipped in the game-winning shot in the title game against Hampton. Delaware State has been building a solid program for the last few seasons.
4. Coppin State (14–15, 13–5)
Where do the Eagles go from here? Top senior starters Nicholas King (14.1 ppg) and Raheem Scott (7.9 ppg) have left the program, moves that could prove costly to Coppin State this season. The Eagles still have talented players like MEAC Rookie of the Year Darryl Proctor (13.7 ppg) and Darryl Roberts (8.0 ppg). Proctor was named MEAC Rookie of the Week six times last year, while Roberts gave the team valuable minutes at point guard. Coppin State has talent but lacks experienced depth.
5. Norfolk State (13–14, 11–7)
The Spartans must make up for the loss of MEAC Player of the Year Chakowby Hicks. But they’ve got a good group of players that should lead the way to another strong season. Sophomore Tony Murphy (10.8 ppg), junior Calvin Brown (9.8 ppg) and senior Karandick Ogunride (9.9 ppg, 7.2 rpg and leader in MEAC in blocks) give the Spartans an impressive group of athletes to build around. The main question is whether this trio will be enough to carry Norfolk State to a higher level.
6. Florida A&M (14–15, 10–8)
The return of four starters plus a strong group of recruits should make the Rattlers tough again this season. Seniors Tony Tate (15.4 ppg), Darius Glover (11.0), Jonathan Kelly (8.1) and James Pattman all are back. Tate was a second-team All-MEAC pick who often carried Florida A&M last year. The Rattlers hope to use the momentum from a season-ending 7–2 run to carry over into this season. However, no matter how well they play, a trip to the NCAA tournament is not possible due to a self-imposed one-year postseason ban.
7. Morgan State (14–16, 11–7)
Trying to make up for the loss of seniors like Sam Brand and Aaron Andrews could prove a daunting task for the Bears, who lost their top four scorers to graduation. Karanvir Aujla (6.0 ppg), Timothy Mathis (4.6) and Joseph McLean (4.2) each started at times and got plenty of minutes, but they’ll all have to step up their offensive production this season. The biggest question here is how quickly last year’s role players can adjust to being this year’s starters.
8. Bethune-Cookman (13–17, 8–10)
Antonio Webb should be a big part of the team’s offense again, but the Wildcats will need to find help from more places. Webb was the team’s top scorer (14.9 ppg) last year with help from Diondre Larmond (12.2). However, Larmond is gone now, and senior forward Michael Williams II (10.9 ppg) needs to pitch in. Bethune-Cookman has several younger players who have to help out more this season.
9. North Carolina A&T (6–24, 5–13)
Last year was a growing process for the Aggies, who lost 11 games by 10 points or less. Top scorer Sean Booker, who led the MEAC in scoring in conference games with a 14.1-point average, will carry the Aggies again, but he needs help from others. They lost second-leading scorer Steven Koger from last year but return team Rookie of the Year Demetrius Guions and at least nine other underclassmen. Rebounding was a big problem last year as no one on the team averaged more than 4.1 rebounds per game.
10. Maryland-Eastern Shore (2–26, 1–17)
Things looked bleak for awhile earlier this spring when Tim Parham went to the NBA workout camps, but he’ll be back this season. The 6-9, 240-pound Parham (11.4 ppg, 8.6 rpg) had 13 double-doubles last year and averaged 13.2 points and 9.9 boards in MEAC games. Senior guard Corey Brown was the team’s top scorer (12.7 ppg), but the young Hawks desperately need to find more offensive punch, as they scored under 50 points six times last year.
11. Howard (5–23, 2–16)
New coach Gil Jackson faces a tough building task after replacing Frankie Allen. The Bison are a very young team that’s trying to rebound after losing their final 17 games in a 5–23 season. Juniors Will Gant (14.0 ppg) and Cliffone Ault (13.8) picked up the slack after the loss of top scorer Louis Ford following the 10th game. But the Bison didn’t have much help after Gant and Ault, and they will need more scoring punch and muscle inside to be competitive this season.