Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports
Based on the cover photo, you probably thought we'd be promoting Iowa State as a dark horse to win it all.
Quite the opposite.
The MEAC has some tournament history in its veins, and it's mostly thanks to the Big 12.
In the 2001 NCAA tournament, Hampton shocked the world by knocking off No. 2 seed Iowa State in the opening round. Two years ago—when Missouri was still in the Big 12—Norfolk State did the same thing to the Tigers.
Of course, that has nothing whatsoever to do with this year's North Carolina Central team, but I thought you might need to be eased into the idea of picking a team from the lowly MEAC to win a game.
As the kids are saying these days, the Eagles are legit.
They have won 20 consecutive games. Jeremy Ingram has averaged 25.2 points per game since Feb. 15 and is one of the best in the entire country at getting to the free-throw line. He ranks ninth in the nation in free-throw attempts.
As CBS Sports' Jeff Borzello notes: "Ingram also hit the 30-point plateau five times this season, finishing the season averaging 20.3 points. He scored 37 points against Wichita State, 29 points against NC State and 27 points against Cincinnati."
On defense, they rank fifth in the country both in effective field-goal percentage and in turnover percentage, according to KenPom.com (subscription required).
Go ahead and discount their success because of the conference they are in, but the Eagles sure did hold their own against quality teams early in the season. In true road games against Cincinnati, North Carolina State and Wichita State, the Eagles held their opponents to an effective field-goal percentage of 47.5 and a three-point percentage of 26.6.
They beat North Carolina State in overtime and were within seven points of beating Wichita State in the final two minutes before losing by 11.
It's a bold prediction—especially considering Iowa State ranks top 10 in the nation in avoiding turnovers and in two-point field-goal percentage on offense. But if you want to pick any No. 14 or No. 15 seed to pull off an upset this year, you could do much worse than North Carolina Central.
I'm not the type to blindly follow Ken Pomeroy into a black hole, but it's worth noting that his formulas give N.C. Central a 27 percent chance of beating Iowa State, while no other No. 14 or No. 15 seed has a better than 18 percent chance of winning.