The No. 16 seed in the West Region of the NCAA Tournament is the Hampton Pirates, who are back in the NCAA Tournament bracket for the first time since 2006 after outlasting two-time MEAC defending champion Morgan State in the 2011 MEAC Tournament championship game. Hampton actually has a relatively accomplished resume for a team in the MEAC, with a 24-8 record and three top-150 RPI wins (Colorado State, Boston University and at George Washington).
This isn't to say the Pirates are going to shock the world and win a first-round game like they did in the 2001 NCAA Tournament, but they aren't as much a pushover as people think. Hampton finished second in the MEAC regular season, behind Bethune-Cookman, and had to win a really tough MEAC final against a Morgan State team that hadn't lost a MEAC Tournament game since 2008.
Junior guards Darrion Pellum and Kwame Morgan lead the way, averaging 17.7 and 16.5 points, respectively. Big man Brandon Tunnell lords the paint, averaging a team-high 7.8 rebounds. The Pirates are a tough defensive club as well, leading the MEAC in fewest points allowed per 100 possessions. Head coach Edward Joyner has improved Hampton tremendously in his two years on the job, going from 14-18 last season to 24-8 this year.
Record: 24-8, 11-5 in the MEAC
Key win: 77-75 vs. Colorado State on Jan. 1. Morgan's game-winning three-pointer with 0.8 seconds left carried Hampton to the upset win in the first round of the Hilltop Challenge.
Key loss: 58-55 to Florida A&M on February 21: This was one of two losses to the Rattlers, the No. 329 team in the RPI. Hampton led by nine in the second half, but Florida A&M rallied to win at Hampton's place.
Player to watch: Morgan is the second-leading scorer, but he's also the big-shot maker for Hampton. If the Pirates are somehow involved in an upset, it'll be because Morgan has a huge game.