After taking a look at what to expect from the lesser-known programs of California, it's time to head back to the Eastern seaboard for our next "30 In 30" profile. On the menu this morning: The Mideastern Athletic Conference, or MEAC for short.
1) Morgan State - Head coach Todd Bozeman (yes, that Todd Bozeman, best known of course for coaching Cal back in the mid-'90s when the Golden Bears had some guy named Jason Kidd running the point) has put his disgraced past in Berkeley behind him since taking over the helm of the Bears, and will enter this season looking to return Morgan State to the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years. What makes the outlook even brighter for Bozeman this season is that most of his team is still around after that 2010 appearance in which the Bears opened on a 10-0 run before falling to West Virginia in what is now the round of 64. DeWayne Jackson and Kevin Thompson will provide a strong inside presence for Morgan State as they enter their junior and senior seasons, respectively.
2) Hampton - If you're a fan of somewhat obscure NCAA Tournament nuggets, you'll immediately recognize the fact that the MEAC possesses two of the four No. 15 seeds that have won a game in the "Big Dance;" and Hampton is the most recent in that elite group. Still enjoying the fruits of their epic 2001 upset against Larry Eustachy and Iowa State, the Pirates look to defend their MEAC crown by bringing back the core of last year's squad, namely senior guards Darrion Pellum and Kwame Morgan.
3) North Carolina A&T - Do not adjust the brightness on your screen. Yes, North Carolina A&T could be that good in the MEAC this season. Nic Simpson will lead the Aggies from the backcourt, while 5-8 sharpshooter Marc Hall mans the point from his senior season for a team that finished just two games under .500 a year ago.
4) Florida A&M - If nothing else, the MEAC will definitely be wide open this time around, as the Rattlers also look to strike the top half of the conference standings this season. Amin Stevens returns as the swingman for FAMU, and 5-10 sophomore Avery Moore should get the first crack at replacing Rasheem Jenkins as the starting point guard.
5) Norfolk State - Head coach Anthony Evans has a strong New York presence on this Spartans team, and Jamaica, Queens native Kyle O'Quinn leads the charge from the Big Apple. The 6-10 senior averaged a double-double per game on the way to being the Spartans' leading scorer and rebounder a season ago, and should get help from fellow Queens resident Marcos Tamares, who returns for another season after transferring from UMBC.
6) Coppin State - The other of the two 15 seeds to win an NCAA Tournament game, (doing so back in 1997) the Eagles get their lethal weapon of the backcourt for one more season; that being 6-4 senior Michael Harper. At first glance, the Milwaukee native's stats are reminiscent to a player who played his college ball in the brewery capital of the U.S.; and that is Jerel McNeal, the all-time leading scorer in Marquette history. Harper averaged just over fifteen points per contest for the Eagles last season while shooting 47 percent from the field, 88 from the free throw line; and an eye-popping 44 percent from three-point range. Harper could be a runaway player of the year choice if he keeps his sharpshooting form.
7) Delaware State - Sophomore guard Casey Walker continues to come into his own, and will get more opportunities to do just that for the Hornets. Delaware State also offers a strong supporting cast led by twins Marques and Brandon Oliver; the former being a 6-7 swingman who led the team in rebounding last season.
8) Bethune-Cookman - Last year's regular season MEAC champions unexpectedly parted ways with coach Clifford Reed this offseason, and Reed's son C.J.; who had been the catalyst for the Wildcats, has since graduated. As a result, the pressure is now on 6-6 forward Garrius Holloman to carry the team in his senior season. Stanley Elliott may have the hardest act to follow as a result of him having to step into the role vacated by Reed.
9) North Carolina Central - This MEAC newcomer possesses a name that educated fans of the Big East will recognize immediately in former USF guard Justin Leemow, who came to Stan Heath several years ago from the Mount Zion Christian Academy in North Carolina, which is the prep school that gave us Tracy McGrady. Leemow will be the starting point guard; but in order for the Eagles to remain competitive, he needs to develop more of a scorer's touch in addition to creating opportunities for shooting guard Landon Clement, the team's top returning scorer.
10) Maryland-Eastern Shore - UMES comes in off a nine-win 2010-11 campaign, and returns leading scorer Hillary Haley, once a transfer from St. Bonaventure. Senior center Tyler Hines may be just a little undersized at 6-6, but was the Hawks' leading rebounder last season.
11) Savannah State - A former Division II institution, Savannah State will be led by junior point guard Preston Blackmon, who averaged just over four assists in his sophomore campaign last year. Jyles Smith, who at 6-8 is the tallest player on the team despite being only a sophomore, is the top returning rebounder.
12) South Carolina State - Known to die-hard football fans for being the school that produced Hall of Fame linebacker Harry Carson and potential Hall of Fame defensive end Robert Porcher, the Bulldogs will have shooting guard Brandon Riley as their anchor. The senior is the top returning scorer, and shot 38 percent from long range last season. Atlantic City native Khalif Toombs will reprise his role as the starting point guard as he enters his junior campaign.
13) Howard - Kevin Nickelberry didn't inherit the greatest of situations when replacing Gus Jackson last year as head coach of the Bison, and it will take some more time for him to get things on the right track in the nation's capital. Swingman Mike Phillips is the top returning scorer and rebounder as he prepares for his junior season, while Brooklyn guard Anton Dickerson should see most of his playing time off the ball.