MEAC tournaments

March 04, 2002|By Bill Free

What: Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference men's and women's tournaments.

Site: Arthur Ashe Center and Richmond Coliseum, Richmond, Va.

When: Today through Saturday

Men

2001 champion: Hampton

2002 favorite: Hampton. The Pirates are in a class by themselves, shooting 48 percent from the field, which is easily the best in league. Hampton has replaced South Carolina State and Coppin State as the conference power.

Dark horse: South Carolina State. If anybody but Hampton or possibly Howard can win, it's the Bulldogs, who have won five MEAC tournament titles.

Player to watch: Bruce Jenkins, North Carolina A&T. Jenkins, a 6-foot-6 senior forward, is second in the nation in rebounding with a 12.0 average. He also averages 18.9 points.

Outlook: Hampton has the league's Player of the Year (Tommy Adams), Coach of the Year (Steve Merfeld) and Rookie of the Year (Devin Green). The Pirates rolled to a 16-0 start in the MEAC before losing to Howard on Tuesday, 82-81, on Ron Williamson's tip-in in the last second. Williamson had 41 points in that upset, and teammate Kyle Williams has scored 40 points in a game this season. UMES, Coppin State and Howard are seeded ninth, 10th and 11th, respectively (the lowest three teams), in the tournament.

Women

2001 champion: Howard.

2002 favorite: Howard. The Bison just has too much talent for the rest of the league (17-1 record in MEAC), as it continues to dominate. Howard also has too much size for its conference opponents.

Dark horse: Hampton. The guard-oriented Pirates have the quickness to cause trouble for anyone, forcing Howard to overtime Tuesday night before losing, 84-79.

Player to watch: Andrea Gardner, Howard. Gardner, a 6-foot-3 senior, has repeated as Player of the Year in the MEAC, leading the league in rebounding and averaging 15.8 points.

Outlook: Howard should dominate as long as Gardner stays out of foul trouble. Maybe the other 10 teams will have a chance next season with Gardner gone. Fifth-seeded Coppin State has been labeled a "dangerous team," but the young Eagles are considered a year away from seriously contending. Coppin does have the league's Rookie of the Year, Lakesha Wills. Seventh-seeded UMES is a long shot, and Morgan State has no shot.

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