William and Mary headed to Tulsa for NIT matchup

Old Dominion, William and Mary and Richmond are in the 32-team NIT field that was announced Sunday evening.

The Monarchs (24-7) are the No. 1 seed in their eight-team bracket and host Charleston Southern 7:15 p.m. Wednesday at the Constant Center. Higher-seeded teams get the opportunity to host all three rounds before the tournament shifts to Madison Square Garden for the semifinals and final.

William and Mary (20-12) travels to Tulsa of the American Athletic Conference on Tuesday at 8:15 p.m. The Tribe earned an automatic NIT berth by virtue of being CAA co-champ and the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament. W&M lost the tournament championship game to Northeastern last Monday.

Coach Tony Shaver gave the players a couple of days off, then the team reconvened for practice last Thursday.

"It's exciting," Shaver said. "We had practice (Sunday) afternoon and the guys were pretty fired up. It's a little unusual around here to be practicing in mid-March for a national tournament, and we're excited about it."

Hampton University basketball players had barely settled into their seats and turned their attention to the projection screen TV in the student center ballroom when they learned their NCAA destination.

The 16th-seeded Pirates will face Manhattan on Tuesday (6:40 p.m.) in a first-round game in Dayton, Ohio, with the winner getting No. 1-ranked and unbeaten Kentucky on Thursday in Louisville.

"I'm just excited," guard Brian Darden said. "First of all, the fact of seeing our name pop up on that screen and that we're playing in the NCAA tournament is a tremendous thing. Really, I was just excited. It didn't really matter who we played. I'm just glad to be here."

Hampton (16-17) faces yet another quick turnaround after winning the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament Saturday. Manhattan (19-13) won the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament for the second consecutive year, defeating Iona for the title March 9.

"I don't know very much about them," HU coach Ed Joyner Jr. said. "I do know that they have the experience of going to the tournament last year, so that's the one thing they're going to have, different than we do. I've got a resilient bunch of guys, and I think they're up for it, so I think we're going to go out there and battle."

Hampton makes its fifth NCAA appearance as a Division I program and perhaps its most improbable. The Pirates finished 8-8 in the MEAC and were the sixth seed entering the tournament. But they jelled last week around the absence of leading scorer and rebounder Dwight Meikle, who injured his ankle in the Pirates' first-round win against Morgan State.

Hampton then defeated the Nos. 3, 2 and 5 seeds to win the tournament. But with a losing record, the Pirates figured they'd be a 16 seed and might have to play a first-round game before facing a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

"I was just excited," said point guard Deron Powers, named the MEAC tournament's Most Outstanding Player. "I mean, I kind of knew we were going to play them anyway, but just to see it, to be here and be in the moment, I was really excited. I've always wanted to play Kentucky. I've always wanted to go to that gym, period. To actually be in a position to be able to play them, it's definitely an honor."

ODU competes in its 11th NIT, and first since the 2005-06 team reached the semifinals at Madison Square Garden. The Monarchs went to the NIT nine times between 1977 and 1999.

ODU held out faint hope for an NCAA at-large berth, with an RPI of 46 and a resume that included six wins against teams rated in the top 100. But the Monarchs lost in the quarterfinals of the C-USA tournament and had a dismal loss at Texas San Antonio (237).

William and Mary's previous NIT appearances were in 2010 and 1983. The Tribe lost a first-round game at North Carolina and finished 22-11, its most wins under Shaver. W&M tied for third in the CAA and lost in the tournament championship game.

W&M's 1983 team lost at Virginia Tech in the first round of the NIT. The Tribe finished 20-9 and won the ECAC South regular-season title, but lost to James Madison in the tournament title game.

Shaver was a little surprised that the Tribe was sent halfway across the country for a Tuesday game, given that the NIT often tries for early-round regional matchups. Team staff was in the midst of making travel arrangements to leave for Tulsa on Monday, as well as trying to find game video and to assemble a scouting report on the Golden Hurricane.

"It's not an easy preparation," Shaver said. "But one thing that I think will help us is that we're not an easy team to prepare for, either."

Fairbank can be reached by phone at 757-247-4637.

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