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Adam Gold

One more hurdle

Posted March 14, 2014

NC Central head coach LeVelle Moton sits down with his team during their game against NC State at the PNC Arena, Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013.

Friday in Greensboro, North Carolina and Syracuse lost quarterfinal games and left town after just one night's stay. Here's hoping they didn't have the same four-night minimum as those of us in the media. Hate to waste all that money. In the grand scheme of things, however, it doesn't really matter all that much because the Tar Heels and Orange are both headed for the NCAA Tournament. Selection Sunday is a formality, apart from the travel arrangements, because what they've done between November 8 and Friday is enough.

Completely different story in Norfolk, Virginia where North Carolina Central is getting ready to play the most important game of their season. At 6:00, at the Scope, LeVelle Moton's Eagles will play Morgan State for the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference title. Never mind that Central is 27-5 on the season. Forget about the fact that the Eagles have won 19 straight games since January 11 -- a 3-point loss at Florida A & M. Ignore the fact that NCCU has a win at NC State, and very competitive losses at Cincinnati, Maryland and Wichita State, the last of which is 34-0 and headed for a number 1 NCAA Tournament seed on Sunday.

What happened over the last four and half months doesn't matter for Moton's team. "They don't care about our body of work", Moton said about the tournament selection committee. "We have to win our conference tournament, or we know what that means."

Such is life at the lower level of division 1 basketball.

That doesn't mean the Eagles aren't a good basketball team. You don't win 19 straight games in any conference without being good. I'm not arguing that they deserve a spot in the field should they lose to the Bears on Saturday night. And, I'm certainly not going down the rabbit hole of questioning why the smaller conferences choose to reward what you do on one weekend over what you did during an entire season. Those conversations are separate from what the Eagles face a few hours from now.

For Moton's team, the NCAA Tournament began on Wednesday, when they faced Howard. Then, following their 92-46 (yes, you read that score correctly) destruction of the Bison, the NCAA tournament continued with Friday's game against Norfolk State. For the second time in eight days Central took on the Spartans, in their city, and for the second time they had their way. Such is the mission of the Eagles.

It was a similar mission a year ago when Central rolled through the MEAC with a 15-1 record, earning the number 2 seed in the conference tournament. Unfortunately, the road to Selection Sunday had a pothole as their arch rival, the Aggies of N.C. A&T stunned the Eagles in their conference tournament opener sending them home for good.

This year, there's a bit of a safety net. Since the NCAA took over running the National Invitation Tournament a few years ago, they instituted a rule that says regular season champions who fail to win their league's post season tournament will receive automatic bids into the NIT.

Sweet.

With all due respect, no one cares.

Sure, if it doesn't go well against Morgan State, Moton will get his team ready for the consolation tournament. And, because Moton is one of the elite motivators in coaching, he'll have his team ready in the event that such is their fate.

But, Jeremy Ingram, the league's player of the year, deserves to play in the NCAA Tournament. Emanuel Chapman, the senior point guard from Raleigh does as well. But, I don't want to single out players here, because there are a lot of guys, regardless of class who have given their sweat to help the Eagles get to the precipice of their goal.

Ingram is the first Central player in almost 20 years to be named conference player of the year. The last? LeVelle Moton. In 1996, he was the best that the division-2 CIAA had to offer. Five years ago, with his Alma Mater struggling with the shift back up to the highest level of college ball, Moton took over a program that had won a total of 8 games in their first two transitional seasons.

In year one, Moton guided the Eagles to a 7-22 record, a very modest improvement, but a step up nonetheless. Then it was 15 wins. Then 17. Last year's team finished 22-9, but as I pointed out earlier, the end was tainted with the bad taste of a disappointing loss. Saturday, Moton's team stands 40 minutes from realizing a dream. As a player, Moton didn't have the chance to play in the NCAA tournament. Last year, as a coach, he brought the team close, so close.

Close enough that the sting is still fresh in their minds. "You never want to feel that pain", Moton says, "but it's also a great motivator to make sure that you don't leave anything to chance." With back to back wins by a total of 69 points, it certainly seems like nothing is being left to chance.

Now, Central just needs to do it all over again. Because unlike North Carolina and Syracuse, Central's 27-5 body of work is meaningless. The only thing that matters is Saturday night in Norfolk.

5 Comments

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  • Jeanne Gunn Mar 15, 2014

    View quoted thread



    Ha ha ha. I think the fat lady and the Swoff are singing - there's NO WAY Carolina gets to play in the PNC. If that happens, I'll change my screen name to "Gunny loves 903" :)

  • 903 Hail Providence Mar 15, 2014

    View quoted thread



    when Carolina lost their opening ACCT game, they lost their chance to play in Raleigh in the NCAAT, and that does matter

    It ain't over the the fat swoff says it's over... UNC may have lost, but that doesn't change the most important factor in all of this - that UNC will fill more seats in PNC than UVA and Duke combined...

  • JPack Mar 15, 2014

    The entire triangle (and state) is pulling for you. Do us all a favor... Blow these guys out of the water and silence all these media jokers making excuses as to why you won't get in. State fan to the Eagles... Go get em! We are proud of you.

  • Jeanne Gunn Mar 15, 2014

    Adam, when Carolina lost their opening ACCT game, they lost their chance to play in Raleigh in the NCAAT, and that does matter.

    More importantly, I really hope Central does punch their ticket to the Dance today. Moton has done a remarkable job and it would be such a shame if they lose ONE game and get left out. Again. Central beat State, and they could beat plenty of other teams in the ACC as well. They deserve to eat at the adult's table, not the kid's table. Good luck, Eagles!

  • Toddler10-21 Mar 15, 2014

    It would be a shame if the eagles don't make the dance. This program has come along way. Although I like watching the conference tournaments, the NCAA seem to forget what teams did in the regular season. What NCCU has done the last two years mean nothing if you don't win your conference tournament. If you handle your business in the regular season then the tournament doesn't matter. NCCU has one vote for the top twenty five. They should be a lock. Go Eagles!

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Scoreboard
NBA
Final
CLE 110
GSW 99
2nd
PHO 33
OKC 23
 
Final
KNST 53
NKENTUCKY 78
 
Final
CITA 74
ETST 73
 
Final
GWEBB 91
CSOU 81
 
Final
VMI 82
CHAT 86
 
Final
BRY 77
CCST 69
 
Final
PBY 80
CCAR 69
 
Final
DREX 44
DEL 58
 
Final
UNCA 71
HIGH 75
 
Final
TEMPL 66
HOU 54
Final
EKENT 63
JVST 57
 
Final
WRST 58
UWMIL 61
 
Final
MSU 90
MINN 96
Final
RFLSH 63
MNTER 60
 
Final
OSU 81
NEB 57
Final
MAST 67
NEOM 73
 
Final
ELON 72
NE 65
 
Final
LIB 80
RAD 69
 
Final
FD 85
SHU 90
 
Final
UNCG 81
SAMF 67
 
Final
LIU 69
Terriers 74
 
Final
TENN 65
VANDY 73
Final
RMU 91
WAGN 59
 
Final
FUR 53
WCU 49
 
Final
IUPUI 71
WILL 66
 
Final
CAMP 65
WINT 50
 
Final
MERC 72
WOFF 76
 
Final
APP 58
GSOUT 77
 
Final
UNT 81
CHAR 65
Final
MURST 65
EILL 57
 
Final
MARS 87
FIU 69
Final
WKENT 71
FATL 68
Final
ILLCH 67
UWGB 72
 
Final
ORU 74
NDST 58
 
Final
NDAK 75
NARZ 85
 
Final
RICE 54
ODU 63
Final
MON 60
RIDE 63
 
Final
PEAY 64
SIUE 61
 
Final
LATU 77
UTEP 60
Final
SMISS 70
TXSA 66
Final
TENST 52
TENNM 69
 
Final
CHIST 74
GRCN 70
 
Final
UMKC 69
WLVRN 50
 
Final
SALA 57
LAMON 75
 
Final
ARKST 81
TXARL 80
 
Final
ARKLR 92
UGST 83
 
Final
TXST 67
TROY 61
 
Final
COL 54
ARZ 82
 
Final
PURD 92
RUTG 85
 
Final
MEM 57
SMU 66
 
Final
NCOL 77
SUTAH 67
 
Final
MORE 86
TENT 73
 
Final
EWASH 92
MNTST 68
 
2nd
PORT 48
BYU 52
 
2nd
CSNO 54
CSFU 55
 
2nd
IDAHO 35
MONT 39
 
2nd
SCU 38
PAC 45
 
2nd
UCSB 57
UCD 49
 
2nd
CPSL 43
UCI 57
 
Half
UTAH 41
ARST 9
 
1st
STAN 12
ORST 13
 
1st
GONZ 9
SDU 9
 
1st
USF 15
GAELS 28
 
11:59pm Tonight
HAW
LBSU
 
Final
NYR 4
ARI 3
Final
CLB 2
MON 5
Final
BUF 6
VAN 3
Final
FLA 0
CHI 3
Final
TOR 3
PHI 2
Final
WIN 1
STL 2
Final
NAS 2
MIN 4
 
1st Intermission
SJS 1
DET 0
 
2nd
LOS 0
OTT 0