Rattlers look to repeat in MEAC tourney

Every team in the MEAC will now have the opportunity to claim what the Rattlers already have – a conference tournament championship.

Each will get their chance when the men’s basketball MEAC Tournament kicks off Monday afternoon at the Arthur Ashe Center in Richmond, Va.

To close out its season, FAMU snuck by with a 67-65 win at Bethune-Cookman College Thursday night to finish the season with a 10-8 MEAC record.

The possible scenarios surrounding the seeding of the teams for the tournament run long. FAMU can take its seeding situation into its own hands, but not without the help of Morgan State.

With the win at B-CC, the Rattlers can clinch the sixth seed with an MSU loss to Coppin State Saturday.

The Rattlers could also get the sixth seed with a 10-8 conference record if a three-way tie occurs between FAMU, MSU and South Carolina State. MSU and SCSU each have 10-7 records going into their games Saturday.

The Rattlers, however, could claim the seventh seed if MSU wins Saturday.

A loss to B-CC and an MSU win would have dropped the Rattlers to the eighth seed.

“It would certainly do us better if we were seeded seventh,” said head coach Mike Gillespie. “That would give us a better chance to win the tournament because we would play Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday as opposed to playing back-to-back-to-back-to-back (Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday as an eighth seed).”

A win as the eighth seed against the ninth seed would have set them up to play the No. 1 seed a day later without a day of preparation.

Gillespie, nonetheless, said he is confident about their chances in the tournament . He said he feels that along with the Rattlers, there are five to six legitimate contenders for the championship.

“I think this team is capable of stringing together four straight good ball games,” Gillespie said. “We’ve got to get a little lucky but we’re going to be OK.”

“I think the luck Coach is talking about is for us to come out with the same intensity we had against (North Carolina) A&T,” said guard Tony Tate. He was referring to the 89-85 double overtime win Feb. 26 in which they came back from a 19-point deficit.

“We need to come out focused, put everything else to the side and come ready to ball,” Tate said.

The Rattlers are returning to the tournament looking to repeat as champions.

Tate said he believes everyone will come at their heads with more than just a victory in mind, but to snatch away their crown as well.

“For one, we’re the defending champs and we still have players on this team that are champs (from last year),” he said. “We started out like those teams last year. Some of the top seeded teams were falling and we were still playing. They want to be in our shoes.”

FAMU Center O.J. Sumter said the outcome of the tournament could go anybody’s way because the teams are much more even this season.

“There’s a lot of parody this year through the whole league,” Sumter said. “It’s really no standout team like in years past, so we’re not really scared of nobody. We just have to hit some shots and play some ‘D’.”

As reported in the Feb. 18 issue of The Famuan, the Rattlers have yet to receive their championship rings from last season.

Gillespie clearly expressed his frustration over the issue but he continues not to dwell on it.

“I’m extremely disappointed in that,” he said. “I don’t know if there’s not enough money to pay for them, but hopefully, God willing, one day we’ll have them.”

Contact LeMont Calloway at la_calloway@hotmail.com