|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)