College Basketball Preview: Moton has NC Central poised to return to top of MEAC

Top scorer Justin Wright returns for the Eagles

North Carolina Central coach LeVelle Moton is looking to lead the Eagles back to the top of the MEAC and a return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2019. (Karen Pulfer Focht / AP Photo)

Coach LaVelle Moton enters his 14th season at NCCU with a 228-172 record. Following a rough start to last season, the Eagles won 10 of their final 16 games and finished in third place in the MEAC.

2021-22 record: 16-15 (8-5 MEAC)

Top players: Junior guard Justin Wright returns after averaging team bests in points (13.7) and 3-point shooting (40.7%). The Greenville, N.C., native was named to the preseason All-MEAC first-team, while redshirt senior forward Eric Boone and senior forward Kris Monroe received second-team honors.

Key additions: Seven-foot-1 center Brendan Medley-Bacon will transfer back to the MEAC after stints at Coppin State, VCU and McNeese State. The third-team MEAC preseason pick averaged 9.6 points and 6.1 rebounds per game with 39 blocks last season with the Cowboys.

Departed players: The biggest loss will be guard Randy Miller Jr, who appeared in 73 games and started 71, the fifth most all-time at NCCU. Last season, Miller averaged 10.8 points and played in the HBCU All-Star Game in New Orleans.

Expectations: The league’s coaches and media picked the Eagles to finish in second place in the conference. With NCCU’s roster largely intact from last season, the team has a shot to return to the top of the conference and fight for an NCAA berth.