N.C. Central streaks toward history

Mar. 11, 2014 @ 10:06 PM

The N.C. Central men’s basketball team grabbed seats in the Norfolk Scope Arena and took in part of the opening round of the women’s portion of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Tournament on Tuesday.

They watched the season end for NCCU’s Lady Eagles, who fell to Howard 74-59.

The NCCU men will go after a more favorable outcome Wednesday when they play their first game of the tournament against Howard’s men (6 p.m., 99.9 HD-3 The Ticket).

No. 8 Howard beat No. 9 N.C. A&T on Tuesday to set up today’s matchup with No. 1 NCCU.

NCCU beat Howard 79-65 on February 1, but the stakes are much higher now.

The team that wins the MEAC Tournament gets the league’s automatic — and historically only — berth into the NCAA Tournament, a place NCCU has never been.

NCCU began playing Division I basketball in the 2007-08 season but has been eligible for the NCAA Tournament only since the 2011-12 season.

This season is NCCU's third opportunity to compete for a MEAC Tournament championship. NCCU, a founding member of the MEAC when it was a Division II conference, rejoined the league in 2011.

The Eagles are on a run that has created a serious buzz.

NCCU, the regular-season MEAC champion, is on a 17-game winning streak. That championship is NCCU’s first Division I conference title.

The Eagles (25-5) lost just one game in the MEAC this season.

Of course, the Eagles had only one conference loss a year ago when they showed up here for the MEAC Tournament and got sent home by archrival A&T.

“I’ve played this game, man, for 35 years as an amateur and as a pro, and I just know, man, all it takes is one slip  — that’s all it takes is one slip,” Moton said.

But this is not last year’s NCCU team, Bethune-Cookman coach Gravelle Craig said. This edition of the Eagles has no shortage of seasoned seniors who’ve been there and done that, he said.

“They’ve been through it, and they’ve been through it a couple of times, so they’re ready to make that change,” Craig said. “It’s going to be hard to beat them. I don’t want to be in the bracket (with them).”