Pirates Looking To Defy The Odds

The Hampton Pirates return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in five years today. Their reward? A date with the defending National Champions.

When Hampton makes its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2006, it will be a David trying to slay Goliath.

The Pirates drew Duke, the top seed in the West Region, for a second-round game to be played Friday in Charlotte.

Hampton will try to do what no No. 16 seed has done in the history of the men's NCAA Tournament, and that's eliminate a No. 1 seed.

Regardless of what happens, it's been a phenomenal season for the Pirates. Coach Edward Joyner Jr. had the interim tag removed from his job title after leading Hampton to a 14-18 record during the 2009-10 campaign. After bringing back eight players who averaged 10 or more minutes per game from that group, Hampton used its depth and experience to get off to a 10-2 start this season, including a seven-game winning streak.

The Pirates get double-digit scoring from three players, and their depth and experience were key factors during a second-place run in the MEAC regular-season race and a three-game run through the conference tournament. Hampton denied defending league champ Morgan State in the MEAC title game.

Memories of Theo Smalling continue to drive the Pirates. Smalling was the senior team captain of the 2009-10 Hampton team who died in an accidental shooting just before the season began. The Pirates dedicated that season to him but endured a slew of close losses in the first two months of their schedule on the way to a losing record.

"I don't think we handled that the right way, so this was for him," Joyner said after Hampton cut down the nets after winning the MEAC tournament.

--Hampton played just one team from one of the major conferences -- SEC, Pac-10, Big Ten, Big 12, Big East and ACC -- during the regular season. That game came against Wake Forest, the worst team in the ACC, in the mutual opener for both sides. The Demon Deacons prevailed by a 63-56 margin.

Hampton also beat Boston University, another NCAA Tournament team that took the automatic bid from the America East Conference.

--Though Hampton finished second in the MEAC regular-season race, the Pirates' 24 victories comprised the highest win total in the league. It's the first 20-win season for the Pirates since the 2001-02 campaign.

COACH: Edward Joyner Jr., second year at Hampton, first postseason appearance

KEYS TO VICTORY: Defense drives the bus for Hampton. The Pirates led the MEAC in scoring defense, field-goal percentage allowed and 3-point percentage allowed. Only two opponents shot better than 50 percent from the field against the Pirates this season. Continuity also helped. Kwame Morgan II, Charles Funches, Brandon Tunnell and Danny Agbelese started all 32 games for Hampton this season, and Darrion Pellum logged 31 starts.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I tell everybody, and I'm not ashamed to say it, I'm historically black college born and bred. So if anybody deserves this and there's anything for me to be selfish about, it's that I wanted to take an historically black college to the NCAA Tournament. At that point, I didn't care what division. It could have been Division 12. I wanted to do it." -- Coach Edward Joyner Jr., to the Daily Press.

vs. Duke, March 18, NCAA Tournament second round

KEY MATCHUPS: Duke, the defending national champion, enters the Big Dance after rolling to the ACC tournament title -- the 19th ACC crown in team history, the most by any program in the history of the conference. It's going to be strength against strength; Duke ranks 10th in the nation in scoring, but Hampton led the MEAC in fewest points allowed.

SCOUTING REPORT: Darrion Pellum and Kwame Morgan II are the go-to guys for Hampton. They have taken 916 shots between them this season. Charles Funches, a senior in his second season with the program, leads the Pirates in rebounding and tallied five double-doubles. Funches snared 10 or more rebounds eight times during the regular season. He, Pellum and Morgan each average more than 30 minutes per game. Danny Agbelese is the prime shot blocker for Hampton. Three-point shooting is the Kryptonite for the Pirates. They allowed five or more makes beyond the arc in four of their five losses in conference play.

--Junior post Danny Agbelese totaled 101 blocked shots through the end of the MEAC tournament. His 3.2 deflections per game ranked second in the conference.

--Junior G Kwame Morgan II led the MEAC in 3-pointers made per game, averaging 3.1 makes beyond the arc.

--Senior G Brandon Tunnell, the only four-year player on the Hampton roster, came up big in the Pirates' victory over Morgan State in the championship game of the MEAC tournament. Tunnell posted a season-high 20 points in Hampton's 60-55 win.

Blue Devil Digest Top Stories