Tigers head to the big dance

Published 10:00 am Thursday, March 2, 2023

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In the moments beforehand, everything was silent. Some players nervously looked at their phones, others closed their eyes or just looked at the floor. And then the announcement came on the television. “After 10 years, one of the most storied programs on the East Coast has made the NCAA tournament, so it’s a great moment for Hampden-Sydney.”

And that’s when the silence ended. In fact, you could argue the room started to shake a little as players celebrated. The tv announcer wasn’t wrong. Hampden-Sydney College had not been to the D3 NCAA Tournament in a decade. But now, not only will they be competing in the NCAA tournament, they’ll be hosting a first-round game. Hampden-Sydney will play Friday at 7:20 p.m. at home, against Emory University.

“Wow, that’s a very exciting moment right there,” said Hampden-Sydney head coach Caleb Kimbrough, right after the first round announcement was made. “We worked really hard (to get here). We talk a lot about preparing ourselves to be playing the best basketball at this time of the year. To be able to put ourselves in a position to get an at-large bid is amazing.”

How they got here

It’s been a whirlwind of a season for Coach Kimbrough and the team. They finished the regular season with an overall record of 20-5, including 14-2 in the ODAC. It marks the program’s highest win totals since the 2012-13 season, when they went 23-5 and only the fourth time in 20 years that the team has won 20 or more. Interestingly enough, that 2012-13 squad was also the last group that made the NCAA tournament. Hampden-Sydney also earned its highest national ranking in school history this year, climbing as high as #16 in the Top 25. They currently stand at #20.

They made a run in the ODAC conference tournament, but fell just short Saturday night. A last-second three-point shot, banked in by Jorden Davis of the 13th-ranked Guilford (NC) College Quakers cost Hampden-Sydney the win in a 70-69 game. But the loss didn’t end things for this squad. Being ranked in the Top 25, the Tigers earned an at-large bid and now, Coach Kimbrough says, it’s time to get back to work.

“We are very very excited,” Kimbrough said. “But we’ve got a lot of work to do.”