Last season, the NCAA women's tournament selection committee surprised Hampton coach David Six, giving the Lady Pirates a 13th seed, the highest ever earned by a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference team and a spot higher than the 14th seed Six expected.
On Monday, the committee surprised Six again — but not in a good way.
HU, which bettered last year's 25-7 mark with a school Division I-record 26 wins and won the MEAC tournament title for the third straight season, learned it will face No. 1-seeded Stanford (31-1) in Norfolk on Saturday as a 16 seed.
"You're telling me we're worse than last year?" Six said. " … I don't feel disappointed. I feel disrespected."
Hampton (26-4) ranks second in the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 46.8 points per game, and is first in 3-point field goal defense, holding opponents to 20.3 shooting from long range. The Lady Pirates also rank third in field-goal defense (32.3 percent) and are ninth in turnover margin at plus-6.4.
"We're better this year than we were the last two years," said senior point guard and MEAC tournament MVP Jericka Jenkins, ranked second in the nation with 7.2 assists per game. "We got a 15 seed my sophomore year and a 13 seed last year, and I just feel like a 16 seed this year, after winning the MEAC three years in a row — it just doesn't add up to me."
The Lady Pirates, making their third straight NCAA tournament appearance, took fourth seed Kentucky to overtime last season before falling 66-62.
"It's just motivation," said Jenkins, who had 14 points in that game. "We can play with any team, no matter what the name on the jersey is. We're going to give it all we have."
Players and coaches from the HU women's and men's teams joined fans, athletic administrators and the Pirate mascot to watch Monday night's selection show on ESPN. The crowd didn't have to wait long, as the Stanford-Hampton matchup, to be televised on ESPN2 at 1:30 p.m., was the first flashed on the screen.
The Norfolk section of the Fresno regional also includes No. 8 Texas vs. No. 9 West Virginia, which will tip at 11 a.m.
"Of course I'm disappointed in the seeding, but I feel motivated to go out there and play hard," said sophomore forward Alyssa Bennett, who averaged 7.8 points and 5.8 rebounds in her first season at HU and will play in her first NCAA tournament game. "We've got to let that motivate us."
Stanford, the Pac 12 champion, is led by the Ogwumike sisters. Six-foot-2 senior forward Nnemkadi (Nneka) averages 21.8 points and 10.5 rebounds, while 6-3 sophomore forward Chiney averages 15.8 points and 10.3 rebounds.
The Cardinal is making its 25th straight NCAA appearance and is a No. 1 seed for the ninth time. Stanford, the 1990 and 1992 national champion, has 10 Final Four appearances and is 65-23 all-time in the NCAA tournament.
HU is looking for its first NCAA victory in its sixth appearance.
"Each game is its own separate entity," Six said. "Stanford provides its own problems because they've got those big kids and they're athletic and you've got to box out."
HU, with an RPI of 63, beat Pitt to open the season and also knocked off Boston College and Central Michigan.
"What you do during the season doesn't matter if you're not in the Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac 10," Six said. "I don't know what the NCAA is looking for, but at the end of the day, we've got an opportunity.
"We're not going to make no excuses or nothing like that. We're going to go over there and play and make a game of it."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun