Tiny Dancers: Hampton goes to the Dance with a sub-.500 record

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Deron Powers led Hampton to the Big Dance Saturday. (USATSI)
Deron Powers led Hampton to the Big Dance Saturday. (USATSI)

Hampton showed us why you play the games on Saturday as the Pirates won the MEAC Championship to go to the NCAA Tournament despite a 16-17 record.

The No. 6 seed Pirates beat No. 5 seed Delaware State 82-61 to win the MEAC’s automatic bid the NCAA Tournament. This comes after the Pirates upset Maryland-Eastern Shore and Norfolk State to get to the championship game after the Hornets had ousted clear favorite North Carolina Central in the semifinals.

After a tight first half that saw the teams tied 32-32, it simply looked like Delaware State ran out of gas. Hampton — a 30 percent 3-point shooting team — knocked down four 3s in the first 11 minutes of the second half. Then the Hornets’ legs went, and all of their shots seemingly ended up hitting the front of the rim. And the 64 percent foul-shooting Pirates knocked down 13-16 free throws late to put it out of reach. Just a tremendous performance by this team throughout the game to get to their fifth NCAA Tournament.

By beating UMES and Norfolk State in the semis, the Pirates doubled their KenPom top-200 wins from two to four. So yeah, not necessarily the best resume in the field. However, it’s always pretty fun to see teams with losing records not give up on their season, and that’s what happened here. Plus, they did it without their leading scorer and rebounder Dwight Meikle in the MEAC Tourney (who was injured with an ankle injury), which makes it even more incredible. So now, coach Edward Joyner Jr. will head back to the NCAA Tournament for the second time in his six years at Hampton.

The Pirates will absolutely be in the First Four given their record, but hey, the MEAC has pulled upsets before, such as Hampton’s 15-seed upset over a No. 2 Iowa State in 2001.

Player to know: Meikle’s status for the NCAA Tournament is certainly still up in the air. He’s a 6-foot-7 forward that can do a lot of different things both from the midrange and in near the rim. But if he doesn’t play, look for Deron Powers to lead the way for the Pirates. Powers was a third-team All-MEAC selection, and he’s the lead guard for the Pirates. He’ll be important to their hopes regardless of what happens.

The Vitals:

  • Record: 16-17 overall, 8-8 in the MEAC
  • Most recent tournament appearance: 2011, when they lost as a 16-seed to Duke 87-45.
  • Jerry Palm predicts: 16 seed — First Four
  • RPI: 268
  • KenPom ranking: 263
  • Sagarin ranking: 283
  • Best wins: vs. Northern Arizona, vs. Maryland-Eastern Shore
  • Notable stat: 95.1. The Pirates have a 95.1 offensive efficiency, which is seven points below the national average this season. They really struggle to shoot it from deep, and also go through bouts of turnovers.
  • Closing quip: A great story, but one that will likely end early next week. Hampton will be the worst team in the field, and will play in the First Four when it’s announced on Sunday. Still, Joyner and company deserve credit for running through the MEAC without their best player and never giving up on their season.

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