The MEAC isn't the best league, and its bracket isn't the prettiest, but an NCAA Tournament team will emerge from its tournament next week. And in the right situation, that team can do some damage -- just ask Missouri if it remembers who Norfolk State is.
The bracket is set after the conclusion of league play Thursday night, when Norfolk State sealed the No. 1 bid in the conference -- as well as an undefeated season -- by beating North Carolina A&T 55-48. The Spartans no longer have Kyle O'Quinn, but they're still the team to beat.
North Carolina Central finished 15-1 with a win over Hampton, and is the top-ranked team per Ken Pomeroy's numbers, so it will have a chance to knock off Norfolk. It'll be tough, though -- the tournament is hosted in Norfolk after four years at Winston-Salem, so the Spartans will have somewhat of a home-court advantage. Those two teams are head-and-shoulders ahead of the competition: no other team did better than 11-5, and NC Central's only loss came against Norfolk State.
The league is the definition of a one-bid conference -- of the 31 conferences that have automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament, Pomeroy's numbers rank it 30th -- so nobody's getting into the NCAA Tournament unless they win here.
The bracket's a little bit convoluted, thanks to the 13-team setup of the league. Instead of having a play-in game for the 12th spot or leaving any teams out of the bracket, the top three seeds have byes until the quarterfinal while bypassing a five-game first-round between the fourth through 13th seeds.
Here's a full look at how the tournament will unfold (MEAC bracket available here):
Monday, March 11
6:30 p.m. ET, No. 4 Savannah State vs. No. 13 Maryland-Eastern Shore
9 p.m., No. 5 Morgan State vs. No. 12 South Carolina State
Tuesday, March 12
4 p.m., No. 8 Bethune-Cookman vs. No. 9 Coppin State
6:30 p.m., No. 7 North Carolina A&T vs. No. 10 Florida A&M
9 p.m., No. 6 Delaware State vs. No. 11 Howard
Wednesday, March 13
6 p.m., No. 1 Norfolk State vs. Bethune Cookman/Coppin State
8 p.m., No. 2 North Carolina Central vs. North Carolina A&T/Florida A&M
Thursday, March 14
6 p.m., No. 3 Hampton vs. Delaware State/Howard
8 p.m., Savannah State/Maryland-Eastern Shore vs. Morgan State/South Carolina State
Friday, March 15
6 p.m., 8 p.m., semifinals
Saturday, March 16
5 p.m., Championship game