One was expected; one was not. One repeated; one did not. But regardless of how they got their, both Texas Southern and Hampton will be going to the NCAA Tournament with the hopes and dreams of HBCU fans waiting for the next big-time upset.
Texas Southern actually clinched its bid to The Big Dance Friday night when it beat Prairie View 90-77 as Southern is ineligible for the NCAA Tournament due to old APR issues. TSU won the regular season title, and came into the tournament with 19 wins,including wins at Michigan State and Kansas State. Still, TSU laid it on the line and won its bid fair-and-square, escaping with a controversial 62-58 win over its rivals from Baton Rogue.
When the MEAC Tournament started on Monday, few would have predicted Hampton would come out on top. The team finished sixth in the conference in regular season play, and looked disjointed many times during the season.
“That’s the thing that we struggled with all year.We struggled with coming together,” Hampton coach Ed Joyner Jr. said. “Over these four days, I saw everybody come together, I saw everyone understand their role.”
And so, with their seat at the table sealed, both teams will spend the next couple of hours anxiously awaiting their NCAA Tournament fates. Hampton will almost certainly be a no. 16 seed and play in a First Four game. Texas Southern has a shot at a no. 15 seed thanks to 22 wins, including those over Michigan State and Kansas State. That 15 seed has been the lucky number for three HBCU teams, who pulled off upsets over 2 seeds, including Hampton in 2001.
That Hampton game is still talked about to this day. But the players on this team were just learning to color inside the lines when Steve Mansfield’s Pirates upset Iowa State. For Joyner, it’s all about seizing the moment.”
“We don’t have to be the best team, we just have to be the best team for 40 minutes,” he said. “We gotta go play hard, play smart for 40 minutes, then we’ll roll the dice where they may.”