As part of its preview of the 2015 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, SI.com is taking a look at all 68 teams in the field. RPI and SOS data from realtimerpi.com. Adjusted offense and defense are from kenpom.com and measure the number of points scored and allowed per 100 possessions, and the team’s national rank. All stats are through Monday, March 16.
Record: 16-17 (8-8 in Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference)
Adjusted offensive/defensive efficiency: 95.6 (301st)/102.3 (168th)
Seed: No. 16 seed in Midwest
Impact player: Dwight Meikle, junior forward, 13.1 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 97.5 offensive rating.
The Case For: At 16-17, Hampton is the only team in the tournament field with a losing record. The Pirates will face fellow 16-seed Manhattan on Tuesday in the First Four, giving them an excellent shot at winning just their second NCAA tournament game ever. Hampton plays fast, averaging nearly 70 possessions per game, but unlike a lot of smaller-school teams that push the ball, it is not a three-point threat. The team barely makes 30% its shots from deep. To win games, the Pirates rely on their defense as well as their ability to draw quick fouls and convert at the line. If they can limit their opponent’s two-point field goals and use transition possessions to get their opponent in foul trouble early, anything can happen. Plus, Hampton has already pulled off a tournament miracle before, beating No. 2 seed Iowa State in the first-round in 2001. If Hampton makes it past the Jaspers, fans will be rooting hard for the upstart Pirates to pull off what would be a historic upset of Kentucky.
The Case Against: Based on their strength of schedule listed above, the Pirates aren’t exactly battle-tested. Their top win this year is against Northern Arizona (No. 170 in RPI) and they lost each of the three contests they had against top 100, Power Five conference teams (Illinois, Iowa and Syracuse) by an average of 23 points. Furthermore, their most recent NCAA tournament memories are not pleasant: In 2011 the school made its third-ever appearance in the Big Dance and lost to Duke by 42 points.
Hampton's interior defense will be crucial because it isn't very big. The team's tallest players are seldom used 6'9" freshman Charlie Wilson-Fisher and 6'10" sophomore Phillip Reed. While those two might be pressed into untested minutes, the onus is on Meikle (6'7"), senior forward Quentin Chevious (6'6") and junior forward Jervon Pressley (6'8") to limit opponents’ second chance points. The first test for Hampton, though, is getting past the play-in game. The Pirates have bad losses this year to the 338th and 332nd ranked teams (North Carolina A&T and Savannah State) in the country, according to RPI. Manhattan (No. 163) is far more formidable than that.
SI prediction: Lose to Manhattan in First Four