Here’s the good news for Hampton University’s basketball team: The Pirates scored a big win in the opening round of the NCAA tournament by beating Manhattan, 74-64, Tuesday in the so-called play-in game and moving into the 64-team bracket. More good news: The Pirates evened their record at 17-17 (that mediocre record was a big reason they were in the play-in game in the first place) and continued a season-high five-game winning streak.
Hampton is hot and appears to be peaking at the exact right time of the year. Only six-more straight wins, and the Pirates would be celebrating their first NCAA tournament title.
OK, here’s the (extremely) bad news: Hampton has to play Kentucky in the next round. The same Kentucky that hasn’t lost a game this season and that’s bidding to become the first team since 1976 to finish a season and win a national championship while remaining undefeated.
It stands to reason that the Pirates will be a tiny speed-bump on the Wildcats’ journey to glory (and the adjective “tiny” is probably overstating it a bit) and considering a No. 16 seed has never beaten a No. 1 seed, Hampton’s goal to upend Kentucky will be a near impossibility.
Asked at his postgame press conference Tuesday how Hampton could pull off one of the biggest upsets in sports history, coach Edward Joyner, Jr.—who had said before the game vs. Manhattan that he’d need Jesus on speed-dial if his team got the chance to face Kentucky—actually tried to give Jesus a ring.
A couple of things.
1) Ah, the Jesus-hanging-up-on-you bit. Classic play by Joyner. But perhaps it would have been helpful if Joyner had actually turned around his phone like a normal person. Maybe then he would have heard Jesus’ answer. Unless, Joyner’s speed-dial to Jesus is actually accomplished by talking on his phone backward. Maybe that’s how we all should be using our special speed-dials. If that’s the case, well done to Joyner for finding this portal into the unknown.
2) Joyner is a dreamer. And he’s got a good sense of the stock market apparently, if only it weren’t against NCAA rules.
Hampton coach Edward Joyner on being ~ 1 billion to 1 shots to win national title per @kenpomeroy: "Too bad we can't bet"— Ray Curren (@currenrr) March 16, 2015
Anyway, Joyner might be a dreamer, but he’s certainly not the only one. I can’t take credit for the above line, by the way. I heard it in a song once.
3) The Hampton bench is awesome. Check out what it did after a made free throw Tuesday.
Crossing and uncrossing their legs like the players are on the set of Major League. Just fantastic. And in case you don’t remember that scene…
4) Hampton actually owns one of the biggest upsets in NCAA tournament history when, as a No. 15 seed, the Pirates upended No. 2 Iowa State in 2001. And it’s where this iconic moment occurred.
5) So, what are the actual odds for Hampton to pull off the upset vs. the Wildcats?
Seems low. RT @KySportsRadio: Kentucky is a 300-1 favorite over Hampton— Matt Norlander (@MattNorlander) March 18, 2015
Perhaps Joyner should give Jesus another call. But it seems to me that unless heaven AND hell freeze over, Hampton has no shot vs. Kentucky.
Screengrab via NCAA March Madness/YouTube