First of all, this is just going to be a lot of text. I will make it prettier in the future, with more information, but I wanted to get this started while it was still October.
|1||Kayla Roberts, Sr||Norfolk State||11.53||5.00||4.44||892|
|2||Ashanti Hunt, Jr||Bethune-Cookman||10.91||4.68||4.67||919|
|3||Imani Bryant, So||Howard||17.45||5.84||0.69||277|
|4||Najai Pollard, Jr||Delaware State||20.71||3.40||4.02||1012|
|5||Jordan Strode, Sr||Norfolk State||13.37||3.86||2.61||727|
|6||Ciani Byrom, Jr||Maryland Eastern Shore||18.11||4.27||0.71||385|
|7||Monnaz Finney-Smith, Jr||Hampton||13.80||2.48||3.77||1040|
|8||Kanesha Battle, So||Bethune-Cookman||19.70||2.68||0.95||295|
|9||Braennan Farrar, Sr||Morgan State||13.23||1.98||3.02||1033|
|10||Shakerrya Morrison, Sr||Florida A&M||9.16||1.22||1.99||817|
The MEAC had the 31st best conference RPI of the 32 Division I conferences.
Kayla Roberts is a 6’1” wing for the Spartans. She made last year’s All-Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference first team and won the Defensive Player of the Week five times during last season. She is a defensive stalwart, with a 6.25% block percentage and a 2.52% steal percentage. She’s also a fantastic defensive rebounder. She turns the ball over too much to really be called a great ball handler, but she still finds teammates for assists on a fairly regular basis. She did lead last year’s team in scoring with 12.8 PPG but her true shooting of 44.4% and effective field goal percentage of 41.1% are not very strong at all. She is willing to take threes, but she only made 20.6% on 68 tries. She still managed to be a very positive player overall, though, which speaks to her defensive attributes. It’s hard to say that she’ll be able to be the lead player on a good team with her offensive deficiencies. The potential loss of Gabrielle Swinson – who was arrested on assault charges, though those were dropped on October 2nd, and who would have likely been number one on this list – will compound those weaknesses.
Ashanti Hunt is a 5’11” guard who returns for Bethune-Cookman. She was on All-Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference second team last season. She’s a reliable scorer, with 54.1% true shooting. She is truly reluctant to take 3s, only making one of nine last year, but she displayed an otherworldly ability to get to the free throw line, taking 176 tries from there compared with her 196 field goal attempts. She did only shoot 65.3% from the charity stripe, though, which is a bit of a disappointment. Her other most notable strengths are an ability to get offensive rebounds, particularly for her size, and being able to get some steals fairly regularly. She’s young enough to show promise where if she improves on these weaknesses should could be a future league MVP.
Imani Bryant is a 6’1” forward for Howard. She only played 277 minutes for the Bison, but she had a fantastic impact for the team. Her BPM of 5.84 in that time put her fifth in the league last season. She was a very efficient scorer, with a 57.6% effective field goal percentage. She also had an impressive 7.12% block percentage and a 16.19% offensive rebounding percentage, numbers which would have put her in the top 10% of the country if she had played 300 minutes. Her defensive rebounding was also very impressive. If these numbers carry over to expanded playing time and she can get to the free throw line more often, she’ll be able to make a huge impact in the conference.
Delaware State’s Najai Pollard was the youngest selection for last year’s first team All-Conference. The 5’11” forward was one of the best players in the MEAC at getting blocks and finished in the top 10% nationally. She was also a strong rebounder on both ends of the court and a very efficient scorer. She shot well on the inside and did really well at getting to the free throw line, though she only made 65.2% of them. One of the best post players in the league, she’s in a good position to lead the league in scoring again.
Jordan Strode is a 5’8” guard for Norfolk State. I’ll start with the weaknesses here first: she has a moderate impact on defense (1.1 steals per and 0.7 blocks per), isn’t a very efficient scorer (43.8% TS%, 38.2% eFG%), takes too many threes (26 for 106), and doesn’t get to the free throw line as much as you would like (70 for 93 vs. 304 field goal tries). With that out of the way, she does shoot from the free throw line very well, she displays solid ball movement with a 20.3% assist percentage, and she avoids turnovers well enough to keep her assist-to-turnover ratio above one. If she can improve on those weaknesses, she’ll jump up the list.
Ciani Byrom is a 5’5” guard for Maryland Eastern-Shore. She was the leading Hawk in BPM last year in a season cut short by injury. Her importance to the team is clear by their 7-5 record before her injury and 6-11 injury after. Her greatest asset for the team was her ability to create for others, with a 37.1% assist percentage and a 4 assist to 3 turnover ratio. She was so-so in scoring efficiency, hurt by only shooting 65.1% on the free throw line. If she can improve her free throws and make more of an impact on defense, she’ll be able to help UMES improve on their performance in the 16-17 season.
Monnaz Finney-Smith is a 6’1” wing for the Hampton Pirates. Hampton’s second leading scorer and top returning scorer, she had a decent all-around season last year. She was a fine defensive rebounder, pretty good at getting steals, and okay at avoiding turnovers. Her biggest weakness was her inefficiency as a scorer – she took a lot of 3s, but only made 28% of her 243 tries. She also only shot 37.5% on her twos. She did shoot a quality 78.8% on her free throws, but only had 99 tries.
Kanesha Battle is a 5’4” guard for Bethune-Cookman. She played just 295 minutes last year as a frosh, but she showed an ability to make an outsized impact in that time that holds promise for her future. Her shooting is very efficient, with a TS% of 58.6% and an eFG of 53.5%. These numbers were lifted by shooting 19 of 48 from 3 for a very solid 39.6%. She also had a decent 2.11% steal percentage. We’re at a point in this list where that’s enough to outweigh her weaknesses on the floor – she unsurprisingly doesn’t rebound much, she isn’t a regular at the free throw line, and most importantly she turns the ball over just too much with nearly a 2:1 ratio of turnovers to assists. If she can flip that ratio and diversify her offensive game some more by drawing fouls, she could be a true offensive dynamo that BC would need.
Braennan Farrar is Morgan State’s sole representative for my top player MEAC players list, despite their being my preseason favorite. For this to pan out, she’ll need to expand her offensive game. She’s already a competent playmaker, with a 21.7% assist percentage (though her assist to turnover ratio is under 1). She also was in the top ten percent by steal percentage. Unfortunately, she really is a terribly inefficient scorer, with a true shooting percent of 40% and an effective field goal percent of 32.3%. She shot 35-164 from 3, putting her at 21.3% from deep. If she can improve this part of her game to even being average, she’d be one of the best point guards in the conference.
Shakerrya Morrison is the only Rattler to make this list. A 6’0” wing, her greatest impact came on defense. She was one of the nation’s best in getting steals. She was also in the top 10% of offensive and defensive rebounders last year. Her biggest shortfall as a player is an inefficiency as a scorer – she only shot 40.1% on field goals and 55.2% on free throws. She already excels at getting to the free throw line, so if she can just put the ball in the basket, she’ll be closer to being an elite two-way player.
Projected standings based off the team’s returning raw BPM pro-rated to MP.
- Morgan State (last year’s conference record: 7-9) – they return every single player, which gives them a huge advantage in this projection.
- Delaware State (2-14) – everyone from 2 to 11 could easily shuffle to any spot.
- Florida A&M (9-7)
- Hampton (11-5)
- Norfolk State (9-7)
- Coppin State (8-8)
- North Carolina Central (7-9)
- South Carolina State (2-14)
- Maryland Eastern Shore (6-10)
- Bethune-Cookman (15-1)
- Howard (12-4)
- North Carolina A&T (8-8)
- Savannah State (8-8)
|A’Lexus “Ace” Harrison, Sr||Saint Francis (PA)||22.47||8.53||5.51||762|
|Megan Smith, Sr||Robert Morris||19.00||6.69||5.75||877|
|Mikalah Mulrain, Sr||Robert Morris||12.30||5.05||3.83||698|
|Jessica Kovatch, Jr||Saint Francis (PA)||22.15||3.68||4.39||986|
|Naomi Ashley, Sr||Bryant||8.19||3.84||4.09||899|
|Katherine Haines, Jr||Sacred Heart||18.66||2.64||3.25||934|
|Alex Delaney, Sr||St. Francis Brooklyn||14.60||2.44||3.15||973|
|Maria Palarino, Jr||St. Francis Brooklyn||12.27||2.36||3.02||948|
|Madelynn Comly, Jr||Fairleigh Dickinson||12.51||2.27||2.76||915|
|Amina Markovic, Sr||Fairleigh Dickinson||11.51||2.17||1.94||684|
Ace Harrison and Megan Smith are pretty clearly the best of the bunch in the Northeast, and should be playing professionally next year if they want to. I expect them both to be going for the league’s MVP. Harrison is a 6’2” forward who is in her last year as a grad student. She transferred in from Maryland before the 2016-17 season. Harrison was an efficient scorer and good defensive rebounder who also has shown great passing skills for her possession and a huge impact on defense. She has some three point range as well.
Smith is a great 6’1” scoring forward. The Canadian is a very efficient scorer who shoots some from 3 (46.5% on 71 tries), who should probably shoot more from there. Solid rebounder who also gets blocks and steals and a good number of assists for a forward.
Mikalah Mulrain is a 6’3” center who’s also from Ontario. More of a defensive player than an offensive star, she’s an efficient interior scorer who can get to the free throw line. She’d be even better if she shot better than 57.5% from there. Gets a lot of blocks. Not quite the dominant rebounder you would expect given the rest of her skill set. Decent passer.
Jessica Kovatch is a very solid number two in this year’s one-two punch for the Saint Francis squad; she’ll be carrying the offensive load. The 5’9” guard took 319 three pointers, making 34.5% of them. Decent vision, though she could stand to avoid more turnovers. Not much of a rebounder. She does get a solid number of steals. When she plays without Harrison next season, she’ll need to develop more all-around skills, because it’ll be hard to find a replacement for Ace.
Naomi Ashley breaks up the RMU/SFU dominance. A 5’8” guard, the Ontario native (what’s with the NEC and good Ontarians?) is not a valuable scorer. Her value comes from her ability to get steals, her rebounding numbers being higher than expected, and a good ability to get to the free throw line. She also gets some assists, though hopefully she cuts down on her turnovers.
Katherine Haines is a 6’2” forward redshirt junior. An efficient scorer who gets some free throw tries out of it, she completely lacks three point range. She’s also not much of a passer. Then why is she here? Defense – a 4.77 block percentage – and a strong rebounder are the hallmarks of her game. If she can turn the ball over less, up her prowess at scoring around the hoop, and get more steals, she’ll be a conference MVP candidate next year.
Alex Delaney is a 6’0” forward for St. Francis Brooklyn. The Aussie was decently efficient at scoring last year, but wasn’t any great shakes. She can stretch the floor, going 53-157 from 3. A strong defensive rebounder that can get some steals and a rare block, she really excels in ball movement – she avoids turnovers and gets a lot of assists for a forward.
5’10” guard Maria Palarino is SFC’s other inclusion on this list. A notably more efficient scorer than Delaney, she shoots a bit from 3, making 32.1% of them. She had a good assist % (19.2), but had a sub-1 A:TO ratio. She also was a solid defensive rebounder. Her defensive impact was otherwise minimal.
Madelynn Comly is a 5’9” guard for Fairleigh Dickinson. Okay at scoring, she does a little bit of everything – okay at rebounding for a guard, can get some assists, and a strong free throw shooter (even if it’d be preferable if she got to the line more often). She also does okay at getting steals. Needs to cut down on turnovers.
Amina Markovic is the other Knight that will close out this list. Like Comly, the 6’1” forward Markovic is okay at scoring efficiency – not great, but decent. She’s a fantastic rebounder on both ends of the court. She also gets a good number of blocks and steals. She gets an above average number of assists, though that’s accompanied by more turnovers than is desirable.
A’Lexus “Ace” Harrison, Sr, Saint Francis (PA), 22.47 PER, 8.53 BPM, 5.51 VORP, 762 MP
Megan Smith, Sr, Robert Morris, 19.00 PER, 6.69 BPM, 5.75 VORP, 877 MP
Mikalah Mulrain, Sr, Robert Morris, 12.30 PER, 5.05 BPM, 3.83 VORP, 698 MP
Jessiva Kovatch, Jr, Saint Francis (PA), 22.15 PER, 3.68 BPM, 4.39 VORP, 986 MP
Naomi Ashley, Sr, Bryant, 8.19 PER, 3.84 BPM, 4.09 VORP, 899 MP
Katherine Haines, Jr, Sacred Heart, 18.66 PER, 2.64 BPM, 3.25 VORP, 934 MP
Alex Delaney, Sr, St. Francis Brooklyn, 14.60 PER, 2.44 BPM, 3.15 VORP, 973 MP
Maria Palarino, Jr, St. Francis Brooklyn, 12.27 PER, 2.36 BPM, 3.02 VORP, 948 MP
Madelynn Comly, Jr, Fairleigh Dickinson, 12.51 PER, 2.27 BPM, 2.76 VORP, 915 MP
Amina Markovic, Sr, Fairleigh Dickinson, 11.51 PER, 2.17 BPM, 1.94 VORP, 684 MP
Other teams’ best players:
Mount St. Mary’s: Caroline Hummell, Sr.
Central Connecticut State: Andi Lydon, Jr.
LIU Brooklyn: Seneca Richards, So. Of the 12 players who played minutes last year for LIU Brooklyn, only 5 return per their current online roster. Three freshman who played heavy minutes – Victoria Powell, Aja Boyd, and Gabrielle Caponegro are gone.
Wagner: Tanasia Russell, Sr. They had 9 players log minutes last year; their current online roster only has 3 returning. Only 1085 of 5825 possible minutes return.
- Saint Francis (PA) (last year’s conference record: 13-5)
- Fairleigh Dickinson (6-12)
- Robert Morris (14-4)
- St. Francis Brooklyn (6-12)
- Bryant (11-7)
- Mount St. Mary’s (10-8)
- Central Connecticut State (9-9) – this team is hurt by the transfer of talented frosh Cebria Outlaw to Tennessee State. Outlaw would have been among the top 10 to 15 returning players in the league.
- Sacred Heart (13-5)
- LIU Brooklyn (5-13)
- Wagner (3-15)
While Florida Gulf Coast skated to a perfect regular season record last season, Jacksonville pulled off an upset on the road to win the championship game.
Florida Gulf Coast (33-6, 14-0, WNIT runner up) had the highest offensive rating last season at 98.8, narrowly edging out Stetson’s 98.5, and the best defensive rating at 77 (Jacksonville was second in that category at 77.9). The loss of senior Whitney Knight will weaken the D – her 99 blocks easily lead the conference, and her 13.2 PPG was second on the team. FGCU also loses leading scorer Kaneisha Atwater (14.6 PPG) and top playmaker Dytiesha Dunson (4.8 APG, 5.5 PPG). Sapped on both ends, the Eagles are only returning two players who averaged double digits minutes last season – redshirt junior guard, Taylor Gradinjan, who scored 9.6 PPG while starting 39 games, and Haley Laughter, a redshirt junior forward who mainly came off the bench. Both had reasonably reliable shots and three point range, but it’s a big question if they’ll be able to pick up the slack.
Jacksonville (22-10, 11-3 conference, lost in first round of NCAA) returns leading scorer Sherranda Reddick (12.2 PPG) who also lead the team in steals. Three other players who averaged at least 8 PPG are returning, with the only starter that’s gone being Briona Brown. This team was narrowly fourth in the Atlantic Sun in offensive rating at 93.0, but their standout defense was where they really shined. Kimberly Dawkins is the returning player with the highest block percentage from last season. With their coaching staff unchanged, there’s little reason to suspect a sudden drop in this area.
South Carolina Upstate (20-11, 10-4 conference, semifinalist in WBI) had five players average over 26 minutes per game last season, and four of them graduated. The returning player, senior Raven Jefferson (9.4 PPG, 44 steals) will be tasked with growing fast. Only one other Spartan averaged more than 10 minutes per game last year: sixth woman Tamera Thorpe, who as a frosh scored 5.6 PPG. Both Jefferson and Thorpe need to improve their efficiency offensively – 35.3% and 33.7% field goal percentages won’t set the world on fire. This could be a year filled with growing pains.
Stetson (19-11, 9-5 conference, WBI quarterfinalist) was a young team last year, with no seniors on their roster. Despite this youth, they reached the semifinals of the conference championship tournament, was fourth in the regular season and even won a WBI game. Brianti Saunders was the conference’s second highest scorer last season at 17.8 PPG, and she also lead the conference in true shooting percentage. This was the team with the best field goal percentage in the league, and one can only expect them to improve with so many pieces returning.
Kennesaw State (11-19, 6-8 conference) loses lead scorer Jasmine McAllister (10.4 PPG), but returns the next four lead scorers. McAllister’s departure will hurt more on the boards – she had the best defensive rebounding percentage in the league last year at 29.2% and was fifth in offensive rebounding percentage at 12.1%. Kelly Dulkoski should be able to take the reins on offense, but will there be help on D and on the boards?
North Florida (7-23, 3-11 conference) keeps their #1 scorer, Claire Ioannidis (15.1 PPG) and could have a great offensive pairing with her and Sierra Shepherd (12.4 PPG, 109 assists). Shepherd needs to cut down on turnovers, and the team as a whole needs a significant improvement on defense to threaten the upper echelon of the league.
Lipscomb (5-25, 2-12 conference) was the worst team in the Atlantic Sun in defensive rating last year, finishing with a D that allowed 102 points per 100 possessions. Their offense was fifth best in conference, but the loss of Ashley Southern’s 18.1 PPG raises some concerns. Chandler Cooper was effective offensively, with a 56.2% true shooting percentage – the biggest question will be if she can handle a bigger piece of the offensive load. Loren Cagle should continue to be an effective point guard.
NJIT (4-26, 1-13 conference) had the third worst D and the worst offense in the Atlantic Sun last year. While there’s not a lot to love about this team, Kelly Guarino did average 8.2 PPG on a 50.8% true shooting percentage as a frosh. Maria Ruban might be a very good interior defender with more playing time. But there’s a lot more questions here then there are answers right now. I hope they can answer some during the season.
Predicted season standings:
- Florida Gulf Coast
- North Florida
- Kennesaw State
- South Carolina Upstate
Brianti Saunders, Stetson
Claire Ioannidis, North Florida
Sherranda Reddick, Jacksonville
Loren Cagle, Lipscomb
Sierra Shepherd, North Florida
Pace: Estimation of possessions per 40 minutes for a team.
Offensive rating: number of points produced per 100 points
Defensive rating: number of points allowed per 100 points
Rating difference = offensive rating – defensive rating
|Team||Pace||Offensive rating||Defensive rating||Rating difference|
|Florida Gulf Coast||64.8||98.8||77||+21.8|