Howard Faces Pivotal Test in MEAC Race
TALLAHASSEE, FLA. - As the regular season winds down and the tournament approaches in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, the Howard University men's basketball is among several teams still jockeying for one of the top four seeds.
Morgan State (12-1 in the MEAC) has already clinched its third straight regular season title and the top seed in the tournament which gets underway March 9 in Winston-Salem, NC at the Lawrence Joel Coliseum. That leaves four remaining slots for the Top 5 seeds, who get a bye in the first round of the tournament while the remaining six teams have to play their way into the tournament.
Delaware State (9-4), the surprise team in the conference this season, appears in good shape for one of those coveted slots. The Hornets can finish no worse than 9-7 which would assure them of a first round bye.
But from there, it gets interesting. South Carolina State (8-5) appeared in good shape after it handed Morgan State its first conference defeat since February 9, 2009 last Monday. But the Bulldogs quickly came back to reality two days later when they ran into a hot-shooting North Carolina A&T team on Wednesday and suffered a setback that put them in a tight race for one of the three remaining slots.
With eight conference wins, SC State has a two-game lead in the victory column over Bethune-Cookman, Maryland Eastern Shore, Norfolk State and the Bison, who are all 6-6 with four games remaining in the regular season.
After stepping out of MEAC play for a Bracketbuster game at Georgia State on Saturday, the Bulldogs control their own destiny as they host BCU and FAMU and close out the regular season at Norfolk State. The worst that they could finish is 8-8 which could create a number of scenarios for the tie-breaking process.
Howard plays at Florida A&M today, then travels to Bethune-Cookman for a Monday night game against the Wildcats in Daytona Beach, FL. The Bison close out the home season with a game against UMES next Saturday and will end the regular season at rival Hampton on March 4.
Howard dropped a home decision to the Rattlers in January, defeated Bethune-Cookman at home, lost to UMES on the road and defeated the Pirates in December in the Big Apple Classic at Madison Square Garden. The best that they could finish is 10-6 and the worst is a 6-10, which would guarantee a play-in slot.
Bethune-Cookman hosts Hampton on Saturday, the Bison on Monday and then close out the season at SC State and at their rival, FAMU.
UMES hosts Coppin State and Morgan State before finishing at Howard and at Delaware State.
Norfolk State, which split with the Bison on the season, entertains SC State and then closes out the season at Morgan State, at Coppin State and at NC A&T.
The Aggies (6-7), who have played well of late but were swept by the Bison, are at Coppin, at Morgan before closing out with Norfolk State at home. The best they can finish is 9-7 or at worse, 6-10.
For Howard Coach Gil Jackson, the approach is simple: "We will take it one game at a time. In this conference, anything can happen. What we have to do is win; the rest will take care of itself."