A ridiculous slew of upsets led to two underdogs squaring off for the MEAC Championship, as No. 5 Morgan State and No. 7 North Carolina A&T will fight for the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Probably the most important thing to realize about the MEAC championship is that not one of the top four seeds made it out of the quarterfinals. Although the 13-team league, considered No. 30 out of 31 conferences with automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament by Ken Pomeroy's numbers, stacks its bracket so the top three seeds received byes to the quarterfinals while other teams duke it out, those three teams all lost - including No. 1 Norfolk State, who went 16-0 in the MEAC regular season after knocking off No. 2 Missouri in last year's NCAA Tournament. No. 4 Savannah State also lost in overtime to Morgan State, leaving the No. 5, 6, 7, and 8 seeds alive with just two games to go. The odds of that happening were slim to none, but it happened, and now we have the No. 5 and No. 7 seeds fighting for the title.
This played out perfectly for Morgan State and North Carolina A&T. Bethune-Cookman's overtime upset of Norfolk State got rid of the top team in the field, and Morgan State easily dispatched Bethune-Cookman in the semifinals, 81-72, behind 17 points from Shaquille Duncan. The Bears have won 11 of 12 heading into Saturday's finals match-up, and won the regular season match-up against NC A&T thanks to double-doubles by DeWayne Jackson and Ian Chiles.
Meanwhile, NC A&T also got the benefit of some luck. They destroyed Florida A&M in their first round game, and then surprised by beating second-seeded North Carolina Central, stunting their offense in a 55-42 win. Since No. 3 Hampton was eliminated by Delaware State, they only had to beat the No. 6 seed from there, as Adrian Powell's 23 points powered the Aggies to a 84-78 win.
Although this game is for an NCAA Tournament bid, the winner will have to do some work to make the 64-team-field. A team like Norfolk State might have had an opportunity to make the regular bracket, but each of these teams would likely have to play in the First Four in Dayton.
As for the match-up itself, its offense vs. defense. Morgan State has the No. 2 offense in the MEAC thanks to strong rebounders Chiles and Anthony Hubbard grabbing 37.8 percent of their misses, the No. 16 figure in the country. Meanwhile, NC A&T has the No. 2 defense in the league, with Austin Witter blocking 11.9 percent of opponents' shots while he's on the floor.
Here's the info on Saturday's game:
No. 5 Morgan State (17-14, 10-6 MEAC, Kenpom ranking 198) vs. No. 7 North Carolina A&T (18-16, 10-8, Kenpom ranking 228)
Time: 5 p.m. ET