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.