Many mid-major teams could cause the next biggest NCAA Tournament upset if they’re able to emerge out of their one-bid conferences. This season, one team with the ability to make some noise — assuming they win out in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Tournament — is North Carolina A&T.
With prior appearances in the NCAA Tournament and WNIT, the Aggies’ experience on the big stage makes them a dangerous team to face. Here’s why:
Building the veteran presence
In 2018, the Aggies took on the South Carolina Gamecocks in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. While the Gamecocks were the favorites in the matchup, the Aggies provided a challenge for the defending national champions.
The Gamecocks dominated the Aggies for most of the game, but the Aggies would go on a run in the fourth quarter, battling back by clogging the passing lanes, forcing turnovers and converting a few clutch buckets.
Despite the eventual loss, the NC A&T players on last season’s team benefited from that crucial tournament experience. With four returning starters from that South Carolina meeting, the leadership of C’Coreia Foy, Cinia McCray, Alexus Lessears and Shantell Bostick will aid the Aggies greatly down the line.
Building off experience
Prior to last season, the Aggies had been in the NCAA Tournament three other times, but all of their appearances resulted in losses.
Because of their status in a one-bid conference, teams in the MEAC and other smaller conferences who clinch a tourney bid are well-coached, hungry and fundamentally sound as a unit. Each year, NC A&T schedules tough matchups with teams in larger conferences. Last season, the team faced Auburn and only lost by 10 points.
This season, the Aggies took on UVA and again lost by 10. Although losing to bigger schools doesn’t help from a momentum standpoint, every team receives a new life when it comes to conference play and their respective tournaments and can use non-conference experience to fuel their success.
The battle in the MEAC
Right now, North Carolina is 9-10 on the season, but they are first in the MEAC with a perfect 6-0 record. The fact that this team is perfect in conference play speaks volumes, especially having already shown they can take down another of the conference’s top teams in Maryland Eastern Shore.
Both Foy and McCray are instrumental pieces to this year’s roster. Foy is averaging 12.4 points and 2.7 assists per game. The junior is quick and does an excellent job of running the offense. In addition to her quickness, she can expertly drive and draw two defenders in order to kick the ball out.
McCray provides another punch on the offensive end with 11.9 points. but she plays solid defense along with Foy. The two guards in the backcourt can stick their hands in the passing lane and stay in front of their player.
As a unit, the Aggies are averaging 11.2 assists per game and are holding teams to 11.1 assists per game, moving the ball well and using the shot clock effectively.
Come March, this seasoned team has a good chance to clinch their fifth MEAC title and secure a spot in their fifth NCAA Tournament.
All stats for this article are from ESPN.com, ncataggies.com and meacsports.com.