NCAA pairings didn’t do MEAC’s Cinderella any favors this year

If there was ever a No. 16-seed that was ready to shock the world, it should have been MEAC champion Hampton.

Back in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2006, the Pirates are battle tested. And, trust, it was a battle to get into that bracket. Hampton finished second in the MEAC regular season, behind Bethune-Cookman, and then had to gut out a victory over two-time defending Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champion Morgan State to claim the year’s league title and NCAA berth. The Bears, remember, hadn’t lost a MEAC tournament game since 2008.

Meanwhile, Hampton’s 24-8 record includes wins over three top-150 RPI programs, Colorado State, Boston University and at George Washington. They’re in the tournament for a reason.

But take a closer look at the bracket: Hampton has been paired with top-seeded Duke (30-4) for a Friday match at the NBA Bobcats’ home in Charlotte, Time Warner Cable Arena. Yes, Duke, reigning national champion. The Blue Devils earned a top seed after besting North Carolina on Sunday in the ACC tournament championship game.

Can the Pirates add another thrilling upset to go with 2001’s win over No. 2 Iowa State as a 15th seed? Or, will this year be replay of their most recent tournament appearance, the 2006 play-in game when Hampton lost to Monmouth?

The pairings didn’t do this particular Cinderella any favors this year.


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