Tournament Previews

March 07, 2006

TOURNAMENT PREVIEWS

MEAC Men

WHAT -- Mid-Eastern Athletic Con ference men's basketball tourna ment

WHERE -- RBC Center, Raleigh, N.C.

WHEN -- Today through Saturday

2005 Champion -- Delaware State

2006 Favorite -- Delaware State. This is the team to dislodge after a 16-2 MEAC season that set a school record for league victories. The Horn ets are not fancy or particularly artis tic. They grind it out with tough de fense (57.6 ppg allowance led the MEAC) and specialize in winning the close ones. Swingman Jahsha Bluntt (14.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg) is the pacesetter of a well-balanced offense.

Dark horse -- South Carolina State. The preseason favorite started slowly, going 3-5 in its first eight MEAC games, then came roaring through the stretch with eight of 10 triumphs to gain the No. 4 seed. Two-time Player of the Year Thurman Zimmerman (11.3 ppg, 8.2 rpg) pick ed up the pace in the second half to complement leading scorer Brian Mason (14.9 ppg, 6.2 rpg).

Player to watch -- Antonio Webb, Bethune-Cookman. An All-MEAC guard, Webb topped the con ference with 16.6 ppg and 2.62 three-pointers per start. He is the mainspr ing of a team that likes to get up and down the floor in transition.

Outlook -- Although it is generally believed that anything can happen in tournament play, the regular-sea son titlist has won five of the past six tourneys, so Delaware State is the team to beat after never permitting more than 77 points in any game all season. Coppin State gained the No. 2 seed by outlasting crosstown rival Morgan State in overtime in the regu lar-season finale, but labored in late February with three straight losses. UMES and Morgan, the bottom two seeds, face long odds.

Kent Baker

MEAC WOMEN

What -- Mid-Eastern Athletic Con ference women's basketball tourna ment

WHERE -- RBC Center, Raleigh, N. C.

WHEN -- Today through Saturday

2005 CHAMPION -- Coppin State

2006 FAVORITE -- / Coppin State. The Eagles have stretched their MEAC league winning streak to 26, refusing to live off a 2005 season in which they earned their first NCAA tournament berth. Coppin just com pleted the best regular season (18-0) in school history, thanks in part to the MEAC's top scoring defense. The top-seeded Eagles (18-0, 19-8) allow 53.1 points a game while scoring just 57.6 points, which ranks 10th best in the 11-team league. Although last season's MEAC Player of the Year Sherrie Tucker has watched her scor ing average drop three points to 13.0 this season, she still leads the team in scoring.

DARK HORSE -- South Carolina State. The Bulldogs (10-8, 13-14) could be a factor because they finished strong Friday night with a victory over North Carolina A&T to earn the No. 5 spot. They are second in the MEAC in three-point shooting per centage (.308) and second in free-throw percentage (.678).

PLAYERS TO WATCH -- Tucker and Toni Kennedy, UMES. Tucker didn't repeat her stats of last season when she was the MEAC Player of the Year, but she was the leader behind Cop pin's current 26-game conference winning streak. Kennedy ended her regular season with a career-high 28 points Saturday in a 97-78 victory over Howard. UMES is the No. 3 seed.

OUTLOOK -- Second-seeded Dela ware State (13-5, 19-8) and third-seed ed UMES (12-6, 15-11) could steal some thunder from Coppin. Dela ware State is strong inside with 6-foot-1 senior F/C Najmah Fauntle roy (Arundel). UMES also features 6-3 sophomore C Kristi Veltkamp, who has 65 blocks, and is second on the team in scoring (12.1) and rebound ing (6.7). Morgan State (5-13, 5-22) is seeded 10th and meets seventh-seed ed Florida A&M at 11 a.m. today.

Bill Free

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