As we all know, a No. 16 seed has never defeated a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, but could this be the year. The top-seeded Virginia Cavaliers have underachieved in the tournament each of the past two seasons, so are they vulnerable in their first-round matchup against the Hampton Pirates?
The Pirates do possess traits that could make one think they’re capable of pulling off the upset. Hampton has five seniors who play prominent roles on the team, meaning they bring back plenty of experience from the group that beat the Manhattan Jaspers in an NCAA tournament play-in game last season before losing to the top-seeded Kentucky Wildcats. The Pirates will not be in awe of a team like Virginia.
Three of Hampton’s seniors, Reginald Johnson Jr., Quinton Chievous and Brian Darden, average double digits, giving the Pirates a balanced offense that can put points on the board. Of course, they have not seen a defense of Virginia’s caliber, as the Cavaliers are one of the top defensive teams in the country.
Despite scoring 75 points per game this season, Hampton shot a mere 31 percent from three-point range, so they are not an exceptional shooting team. This means it will need to shoot well above its average from beyond the arc against an exceptional defensive team in order to pull off the upset. The Pirates do not have the size to score inside against Virginia’s frontcourt players.
Of course, Virginia has a good group of seniors as well, including Malcolm Brogdon, Mike Tobey and Anthony Gill. The combination of size and skill from players like Tobey and Gill, as well as the athleticism and versatility of a player like Brogdon, may be too much for Hampton to contend with. That doesn’t take into account the efficient play of point guard London Perrantes or the depth the Cavaliers have with role players like Devon Hall and Marial Shayok.
With disappointing endings to their season in recent years and a strong contingent of seniors, the Cavs are unlikely to sleepwalk through their first-round game against Hampton. The Pirates will be prepared and will certainly put up a fight, and the game may even remain close at halftime. But over the course of 40 minutes, Hampton does not have what it takes to consistently score against Virginia’s defense. Eventually, the Cavaliers will pull away and win comfortably.