Joe Bryant, Norfolk State Spartans, MEAC Tournament Preview

CBB Review prepares you for every conference tournament leading up to Selection Sunday. Up next: The MEAC Tournament.


It’s time for some MEACtion in the second week of March. The traditional conference powers, Norfolk State and North Carolina Central, have played well this year, but it was Howard who ended up with the regular season crown. In the postseason, however, anything can happen. 

2023 MEAC Awards

Player of the Year: Sam Sessoms, Coppin State

Freshman of the Year: Kamron Hobbs, Morgan State

Transfer of the Year: Sam Sessoms, Coppin State 

Coach of the Year: Jason Crafton, Maryland-Eastern Shore

First Team:

  • G: Sam Sessoms, Coppin State (20.7 PPG, 5.0 APG, 4.2 RPG, 2.0 SPG, 51.3 FG%)
  • G: Isaiah Burke, Morgan State (18.7 PPG, 2.7 APG, 2.4 RPG, 1.4 SPG, 42.9 3P%)
  • G: Joe Bryant, Norfolk State (17.3 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 3.3 APG, 1.7 SPG, 84.2 FT%)
  • G: Justin Wright, North Carolina Central (16.0 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.4 SPG, 40.0 3PT%)
  • F: Kris Bankston, Norfolk State (14.3 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 1.0 APG, 1.6 BPG, 1,0 SPG, 69.7 FG%)

Second Team:

  • G: Elijah Hawkins, Howard (13.4 PPG, 5.9 APG, 3.6 RPG, 1.7 SPG, 48.5 3P%)
  • G: Martaz Robinson, Delaware State (11.8 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 2.7 APG, 1.6 SPG)
  • G: Nendah Tarke, Coppin State (12.6 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.7 SPG)
  • F: Nathaniel Pollard, Maryland-Eastern Shore (9.9 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.4 SPG)
  • C: Brendan Medley-Bacon, North Carolina Central (12.1 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 0.8 APG, 2.0 BPG, 69.1 FG%)

MEAC Tournament Simulation

Quarterfinals Day 1 – Wednesday, Mar. 8

1. Howard (19-12, 11-3) vs. 8. South Carolina State (5-25, 2-12) – 6 p.m. on ESPN+

Howard and South Carolina State have already met twice this season, with Howard sweeping the season series. Elijah Hawkins has averaged 16 PPG and 8.5 APG for the Bison against the Bulldogs in those meetings, and Rakeim Gary will have to have a career game if South Carolina State wants to pull off the upset. Howard and coach Kenny Blakeney know that, and will make the needed adjustments on defense to win for the third time this year. 

George’s Pick: 1. Howard

2. North Carolina Central (17-11, 10-4) vs. 7. Delaware State (6-23, 4-10) – 8 p.m. on ESPN+

Delaware State is only averaging 64.8 PPG, a full 5 PPG less than the next-worst offense in the MEAC. North Carolina Central, however, has the best defense in the conference, holding their opponents to an average of just 65.9 PPG this year. This is the best matchup the Eagles could have hoped for in the first round, and they swept the Hornets in the regular season series too. This game should be no different. 

George’s Pick: 2. North Carolina Central

Quarterfinals Day 2 – Thursday, Mar. 9

4. Maryland-Eastern Shore (17-12, 9-5) vs. 5. Morgan State (15-15, 7-7) – 6 p.m. on ESPN+

UMES is one of the best stories of the year in the MEAC, starting the season off 6-1 in conference play. Since, they’ve cooled off and gone 3-4 in their last 7, while Morgan State has won 3 of their last 4 games to end the season, including a win over UMES. Morgan State has an all-conference guard in Isaiah Burke, but it was Will Thomas who stepped up in their victory over the Hawks. However, the duo of Zion Styles up top and Nathaniel Pollard Jr. down low for UMES should be enough for the Hawks to hold off the Bears.

George’s Pick: 4. Maryland-Eastern Shore

3. Norfolk State (20-10, 9-5) vs. 6. Coppin State (9-22, 4-10) – 8 p.m. on ESPN+

Traditional MEAC power Norfolk State might not be #1 in the conference this year, but they’re still very good. They get a beneficial matchup against Coppin State in the first round. Even though the Eagles beat Norfolk last time out, and make the most threes out of any team in the MEAC, it’s never a good time to count out Joe Bryant in the MEAC tournament. Spartans roll. 

George’s Pick: 3. Norfolk State

Semifinals – Friday, Mar. 10

1. Howard (19-12, 11-3) vs. 4. Maryland-Eastern Shore (17-12, 9-5) – 6 p.m. on ESPN+

These two have played twice this year, and they split the season series in two close games. It’s a good matchup for UMES, as Howard commits a league-high 16.4 TOPG. The stingy UMES defense can easily upset the Bison if they can force turnovers and score off of them to get their offense going. Elijah Hawkins could have trouble replicating his average of almost 6 APG against a UMES defense that’s only giving up 66.1 PPG. Maryland-Eastern Shore should win, but it’ll be close. 

George’s Pick: 4. Maryland-Eastern Shore

2. North Carolina Central (17-11, 10-4) vs. 3. Norfolk State (20-10, 9-5) – 8 p.m. on ESPN+

Norfolk State is a very good basketball team. It’s not just MEAC legend Joe Bryant, as Kris Bankston is also a CBB Review All-MEAC selection while averaging 14.3 PPG. Their adjusted offensive rating ranks 112th in the country. But NC Central has the upper hand in this matchup because of their defense and Brendan Medley-Bacon on the inside, who’s averaging 2.0 BPG. The season series was split 1-1, with the Eagles winning most recently. This is an even matchup as one could come up with, as the two teams rank 1 and 2 in the conference in several stat categories. But in a semifinal pairing that could be mistaken for a championship game, NC Central will clutch up. 

George’s Pick: 2. North Carolina Central

Championship – Saturday, Mar. 11

2. North Carolina Central (17-11, 10-4) vs. 4. Maryland-Eastern Shore (17-12, 9-5) – 1 p.m. on ESPN2

This matchup should be a good one between two of the better teams in the conference this year. However, historically, it’s a matchup between a program that’s been to March Madness four times in the last ten years versus a program that has *never* made the tournament before. Despite historical precedent, this game may favor UMES. The season series was split, but this Hawks’ defense is wildly underrated. With a defensive efficiency that ranks 9th in the nation, they can prevent any team from scoring. However, NC Central ranks 12th in that same stat, and has already beat UNC-Asheville and Gardner-Webb this year. This championship game is a toss-up, and when it comes to toss-ups, it’s hard to count out UMES. The Hawks should win a close one and go dancing for the first time ever.

George’s Pick: 4. Maryland-Eastern Shore

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