If anybody out there can explain to me how it is that a team like Manhattan winds up at the very bottom of the bracket, below teams like Lafayette and Coastal Carolina and on par with North Florida and Robert Morris, I am all ears.
If you can explain how that happens, while teams like UAB, Georgia State and Albany wind up with a No. 14 beside their names, I am still listening.
Once you are done, I will proceed to tell you how, by just about every single metric out there, Manhattan is at least two steps better than every single team I just listed.
In the red corner, you have the Jaspers, owners of 13 wins in the Metro Atlantic, whom I covered much more optimistically before I found out their seed. Their resume was probably damaged some by the fact that the MAAC title tilt against Iona was their ninth game of the season against an RPI Top 100 team, but it was only their first win against that group. They also managed to lose by more than 10 points to teams with an RPI above 220 four times this season, so there's another ding in their armor.
That said, they face a Hampton team that is unlikely to pose much of a threat for them. The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference is well known as one of the worst conferences in all of Division I basketball, and prior to the four-game win streak that sent them dancing, the Pirates were 12-17, which included a six-game losing streak during conference play.
Hampton is just as experienced as Manhattan - they only have four underclassmen who have seen the court, and those four have only played a combined 600 or so minutes all season. That experience hadn't translated to any success, though. The Pirates rank in the bottom 50 in Division I in adjusted offensive efficiency, three-point percentage, and free throw percentage, and are only slightly better than that in effective field goal percentage and turnover percentage.
While Manhattan has Emmy Andujar, Shane Richards, Ashton Pankey, and several other returning players, Hampton has Dwight Meikle and a bunch of other players. He is not just their leading scorer, but also their most efficient shooter by a substantial margin (and he might not even play given that he has been out with an ankle injury since the final game of the season) . I expect the Jaspers to key on him if he plays and force some combination of Reggie Johnson, Deron Powers and Quinton Chievous to beat them instead.
This is a good recipe, since between those three you have one good outside shooter, one good free throw shooter, and one good inside shooter (and they aren't the same person). KenPom's number give Manhattan a 72 percent chance to win, which I agree with, but also a 74-68 final score, which I think is extremely generous to the Pirates.
Prediction: Manhattan 76, Hampton 56