Hampton and Manhattan open NCAA Tournament

Mar 17, 2015 - 2:31 PM Dayton, OH (SportsNetwork.com) - The very first game of the 2015 NCAA Tournament takes place on Tuesday evening at University of Dayton Arena, as the Hampton Pirates take on the Manhattan Jaspers in first-round action in the Midwest Regional.

Hampton is one of those rare teams that has managed to make it into the Big Dance despite having an overall record that is below .500. The Pirates stunned more than a few people when they upset Delaware State in the title game of the MEAC Tournament over the weekend, by a landslide score of 82-61. It is the fifth tournament title for a Hampton squad that was just 8-8 in league play during the regular season.

However, on a more positive note, the Pirates did perform well on neutral floors during 2014-15, winning five of six such outings.

Meanwhile, the Jaspers are representing the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, sporting a regular-season mark of 13-7 versus the rest of the league members. The squad marched through the MAAC Tournament by defeating three opponents in a span of three days, all by double figures. The last on that list was top-seed Iona that went down in a 79-69 final on March 9.

Hampton has played in the tournament four times previously and has just a single win to show for its efforts. Manhattan, taking part in the event for the eighth time, has produced a 3-8 mark to date and last won a game in the tourney back in 2004, a 75-60 romp over Florida.

From a historical perspective, the Jaspers won both previous meetings between the programs (since Hampton joined Division I in 1995), the most recent of those taking place during the 1996-97 campaign as Manhattan captured a 73-61 win at home.

Unfortunately, the reward for winning this game will be a date with top- ranked, undefeated and top-seeded Kentucky in the second round later this week in the Blue Grass State.

The Pirates have a quartet of players averaging double digits in scoring heading into the tournament, led by Dwight Meikle with his 13.0 ppg. He is also the leader on the glass with 7.5 rpg and has blocked a team-best 43 shots, but having four times as many turnovers (79) as assists (19) does not bode well for when he decides not to shoot the ball.

Reginald Johnson has played in just 24 of the team's 33 games and has converted only 37.9 percent of his field goal tries, but still he is second in scoring with 11.9 ppg, followed by Deron Powers and Quinton Chievous with 10.5 and 10.1 ppg, respectively. Powers leads the way in the passing department with 119 assists, so even though he is hitting just 39.3 percent of his shots from the floor, it is still crucial that he be in the action whenever possible.

Taking charge of the offense for the Jaspers this season was Emmy Andujar, a 51.5 percent shooter from the floor who not only paced the program with 16.5 ppg and 7.6 rpg, he was also tops on the assists list with 110 and first in steals with 65, a rarity among college players these days. Perhaps the only knock on Andujar was the fact that he suffered more turnovers (125) than he had assists.

Ashton Pankey accounted for another 13.5 ppg as he too shot the ball well from the field (.540), pitching in with 6.7 rpg and a team-best 46 blocked shots. However, the drawback in having Pankey on the floor was that he seem to be in foul trouble more often than not, picking up his limit six times. Shane Richards, the one player who started every single game, was the 3-point specialist with 88 conversions on the perimeter, contributing to his 13.1 ppg, as the team knocked down a satisfactory 34.0 percent from the outside.

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