After blowing through the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Tournament, the Hampton University women approach their third goal: winning an NCAA tournament game.
Coach David Six and his players have said – quietly – throughout the season that they were no longer satisfied simply to make the NCAA field. Their aim is to win games and advance.
Six improved the team's non-conference schedule, for competitive and potential NCAA seeding purposes.
He was asked after Saturday's championship game where he thought his team should be seeded.
"I'm not going to say where we should be seeded," Six said, "but I don't think we're a 15 or 16 seed. I haven't seen the other teams, but we've got some quality wins."
The Lady Pirates (28-5) beat LSU early in the season and Boston College in January. They won at Mississippi State and at Southern Miss. They were competitive in losses to South Carolina and DePaul. They improved as the season progressed and became only the second team in MEAC history to post an unbeaten regular season record and win the conference tournament.
"I certainly don't think we're (a) 16, 15 (seed)," Six said. "I think 13 is fair."
Seeding is especially critical in the women's tournament. Since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1994, the Nos. 16, 15 and 14 seeds are 1-227. Harvard in 1998 is the only 16 seed to ever beat a No. 1 seed. The Nos. 14 and 15 seeds have never won a tournament game, going a combined 0-152.
The 13 seeds have won just 6 of 76 first-round games. Hampton nearly made it seven wins. The Lady Pirates, a 13 seed in 2011, lost to fourth-seeded Kentucky in overtime.
No. 12 seeds are 16-60 in the first round, and 11 seeds are 23-53.
The selection committee did HU no favors last year, making them a 16 seed. Top-seeded Stanford pulled away for a 73-51 win.
MEAC women's teams haven't won an NCAA game since the field expanded to 64, a combined 0-19. South Carolina State is the only league team to win an NCAA game, beating La Salle in what was then called a play-in game in 1983. Hampton in 2011 came closest to winning an NCAA game.
Hampton has a chance to make history, largely on the strength of its defense following a historic run through the MEAC tournament. HU is just the second school to win four consecutive MEAC tournaments, joining Howard (1987-90).
The Lady Pirates won their three tournament games by an average of 27.3 points, the widest margin since Howard in 1996. Howard's tournament run that year included a 54-point blowout in the semifinals.
Granted, HU's 78-52 win against Coppin State in the semifinals was deceptive, since the game was close well into the second half before the Lady Pirates pulled away.
In their three tournament wins, they held opponents to a collective 39.3 points per game, 25.3-percent shooting and 15-percent shooting from 3-point range – all better numbers than their lofty season stats. They are in the top three nationally in all three categories. As of last week, they led the nation in scoring defense (47.3) and were third in field goal defense (.320) and 3-point field goal defense (.244).