Admit it. This is why you watch the tournament.
Sure, you’ve probably got a bracket filled out. You probably filled it out knowing far less than 10% of the individuals actually in the tournament if that.
But you know North Carolina’s history, you know Duke is perennially strong. You know Syracuse has been strong, if somewhat troubled all season. But what do you really know about Norfolk State?
If you’re being honest with yourself, the answer to that is absolutely nothing.
But that was Friday.
By Saturday morning, if you have even a smidgen of interest in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, you will have read as much about Norfolk State as any school not named Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, Ohio State, Syracuse, and a handful of others.
When a No. 15 comes out of no where to upset not just a No. 2 powerhouse like Missouri, you sit up and take notice.
More than that, you get caught up in the celebration of the near impossible — an 86-84 Norfolk victory.
Sure your bracket is likely busted, but at this point who cares.
Like good friend Jack Armstrong manning the TSN desk along with Sherman Hamilton (who incidentally could likely still lace them up with these kids if he had any eligibility left) I will gladly tear my bracket to shreds if it means seeing one of these upsets.
The down-to-buzzer win by the Spartans occurred because a team went in believing it could win.
Maybe the stats were a little off. This was a team that was ranked 76th in the NCAA in points per game. In opponents points the Spartans were a tad better at 66th.
Missouri, the team the Spartans left bewildered on Friday, were the sixth best team in the country in scoring.
Yes, stats don’t always tell the story.
Missouri was a No. 2 seed in its own regional behind Michigan State but came into the tournament the consensus No. 3 team in the entire country.
But every once in a while even David knocks down Goliath. Anyone who saw the Spartans knocking down 10 of their 19 three-point attempts isn’t being honest with themselves.
Even Norfolk’s Mr Everything on Friday, centre Kyle O’Quinn who poured in 26 points and pulled down 14 rebounds was in that other worldly place as Craig Sager attempted to interview him after the upset.
If there was one area lowly Norfolk State had an advantage over Missouri that it could exploit it was in its size. And on that count, the Spartans took full advantage winning the rebounding battle handily by a 35-23 count, and were even more dominant on the offensive boards pulling down 14 to Missouri’s six.
Again, those are all stats that try to explain how a never-heard-of upsets a perennial power, but stats can’t explain this one or any of the big upsets.
It’s a combination of so many factors that have to happen and when it does, we, as lovers of sport, shouldn’t try to explain it.
We should just enjoy it ... then go looking for the tape to put our bracket back together in the hope that this one caught all of us unaware.
How rare is it
A 15 seed knocking off a No. 2 has happened exactly four times previously in the history of the tournament. The last team to do it was the Hampton Pirates who knocked off No. 2 Iowa State in the 2001 tournament.
As mentioned yesterday, the tournament is still looking for its first upset of a No. 1 seed by a No. 16.
The Spartans are relatively new to Division 1 basketball. In 10 previous attempts to knock off a seeded team, Norfolk was 0-for-10.
Who is Kyle O’Quinn?
Kyle O’Quinn was coming off a monster season in the MEAC Conference where the 6-foot-10, 240-pound centre was both player of the year and defensive player of the year. He also won conference tournament MVP honours. No other school offered him a scholarship coming out of Queen’s, N.Y.
So O’Quinn took the one offer he did have and promised to pay the coaches who gave him the free ride back with a championship. As he told Sager in the delirious aftermath of Friday’s win, everything from here on out is gravy. Next up for the Spartans is No. 7 seeded Florida.