One In A Billion Shot Hampton Sets Sights On Manhattan

DAYTON, Ohio – Unlike their opponent Tuesday night, Hampton had a pretty good idea it would be headed to the First Four at UD Arena after winning the MEAC tournament title as a No. 6 seed last weekend.

The Pirates (16-17) are the only team in the NCAA Tournament field with a losing record, and according to KenPom robots are only a 932,000,000:1 long shot to cut down the nets in Indianapolis in three weeks.

The First Four court is ready to be played on. @marchmadness

A photo posted by Ray Curren (@goldenbally) on

// it’s not zero.

“We got one shot,” Hampton coach Edward Joyner Jr., who is coaching the Pirates in his second NCAA tournament, said. “We got that one in that billion. Too bad we can’t bet. But right now I feel good because we got a team full of juniors. And I’m happy we get this experience to play in the NCAA tournament. Because if I’ve got one in a billion then I’m here. I’m happy to be here to get at least that one in a billion chance.”

So it will likely be a loose bunch of Pirates that Manhattan will see Tuesday, with those same KenPom algorithms making the Jaspers (19-13) a six-point favorite for the contest. Hampton will also likely be without leading scorer and rebounder Dwight Meikle (13.0 ppg, 7.5 rpg), who has an ankle injury. But Meikle missed the MEAC tournament as well, and the Pirates were not only able to prevail, but won their last two games handily (over rival Norfolk State and Delaware State).

Hampton is a poor offensive team, at least they were for most of the season (302nd nationally), but managed to score above 1 point per possession in all four MEAC tournament contests, including 1.17 ppp in an 82-61 rout of Delaware St. in the final. The Pirates have also been turnover prone (20.5%, 273rd), but had fewer turnovers in their final two games (12.5% rate), and that may be a huge factor in Tuesday’s game, as the Jaspers are currently eighth nationally in taking the ball away (24.1%).

Most of that burden will fall on the MEAC tournament MVP, junior Deron Powers, who was 10th in the MEAC in assist rate, but was also able to keep his turnovers at a manageable level (15.8%) and did not have a game with more than two turnovers in MEAC play (and just four in four games in the MEAC tourney). He is not a prolific shooter, but did hit 5-7 from beyond the arc in an upset of feel-good story Maryland-Eastern Shore in the conference quarterfinals.

“We watched a lot of film since yesterday,” Powers said. “We’ll probably watch more later. We know they have a big rebounder in No. 13 (Emmy Andujar). But him and their defense is kind of wild. We’ll have to use some ball fakes and stuff like that to get them out of their rhythm on defense.”

Hampton also features a pair of transfers in the starting lineup, graduate student Quinton Chievous (Tennessee) and junior Reginald Johnson (Miami-Ohio), who will also be counted on to take care of the ball. But, like Manhattan, Hampton is playing their best basketball at the right time and were picked second in the preseason MEAC poll before stumbling through a six-game losing streak in late January.

“I think sometimes when you’re at the level we’re at and when you get a lot of transfers and you get a lot of kids that the teams in our conference get, a lot of the kids come with the wrong idea. Instead of being told that you gotta come to work. I saw some kids put, for those four days, they put winning above themselves. And as a coach, that’s a beautiful thing, because that’s what you bring them in for. So I saw boys become young men over those four days.”

The winner obviously gets Kentucky, to which Joyner said his strategy might be “probably have Jesus or somebody on speed dial”. Manhattan might be a little more confident against Kentucky, but Steve Masiello knows it never happens if they don’t take care of business Tuesday night.

“We’re eating, sleeping, breathing Hampton,” Masiello said. “That’s all we know. At dinner, it’s Hampton, at breakfast it’s Hampton. When we go to bed, it’s Hampton. That’s where we are.”

As Masiello said yesterday, he was a bit taken aback by being placed in the First Four, the first MAAC automatic bid since Niagara in 2007 to do so. In fact, Manhattan ended up No. 67 of 68 teams (ahead of only Hampton) on the NCAA selection sheet, which is public record these days, behind the likes of Robert Morris. But at this point, there’s nothing Masiello and the Jaspers can do but play the hand they’ve dealt, just as they did when Masiello himself left and came back, then the team started 2-7 before turning things around.

“I’m not happy with how they (the Selection Committee) view us,” Masiello said. “That doesn’t mean I’m angry about it. There’s a big difference. It doesn’t mean I dislike them. But I want feedback why so then we can change that and move forward. What I told my guys is the only way you can change their opinion is by what they do on the basketball court. If you come out and perform like the 67th team, they’re right. If you come out and, perform like the 45th team, that’s your best argument. There’s no other argument to do.”

Tipoff should be about 6:40 p.m. on TruTV. The winner will meet Kentucky in Louisville in the final game Thursday night at approximately 9:40 p.m.

The @GoJaspers signing autographs for the fans after their open practice on Monday in Dayton. A photo posted by Ray Curren (@goldenbally) on


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