Norfolk State Basketball

Norfolk State Basketball: Run in NCAA Tournament Won't End in Third Round

OMAHA, NE - MARCH 16:  Kyle O'Quinn #10 of the Norfolk State Spartans reacts against the Missouri Tigers during the second round of the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at CenturyLink Center on March 16, 2012 in Omaha, Nebraska.  (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
Eric Francis/Getty Images
Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistMarch 17, 2012

Don't write off the Norfolk State Spartans, as they are going to make it to the Sweet 16.

The Spartans killed most fans' brackets when they upset the second-seeded Missouri Tigers. It was the first of two upsets of a No. 15 beating a No. 2.

Most fans probably believe that Norfolk State had its fun already and will be dispatched by the Florida Gators in the third round.

However, the shoe's going to fit on this Cinderella for a little while longer.

Norfolk State is a team that is pretty hot right now. In a knockout tournament, it's all about getting hot at the right time. Taking into account their upset of Missouri, the Spartans have won their last eight games and nine of their last 10 games.

Conversely, the Gators have lost four of their last six games, although they did dominate Virginia.

As with any lower-ranked team, Norfolk has absolutely no pressure or expectations on it. Some might think it pretty much already has won its own national championship by first making the tournament, then by upsetting Missouri.

This could really play into the Spartans' hands. You saw it against Missouri in the second round. When it comes to crunch time, they aren't going to be that intimidated because they don't have to carry the weight of expectations.

In addition, Norfolk State showed that it has in Kyle O'Quinn the kind of player who can carry the team. He scored 26 points and 14 rebounds against Missouri and averaged a double-double for the season.

Both he and fellow senior Chris McEachin are the kinds of players who give mid-majors an advantage over their higher-ranked counterparts. These teams have guys who've spent four years in college and are the unquestioned leaders of their teams.

That's something that a much better team historically might not have, as all its best players leave for the NBA after a couple of seasons.

Of course, this wouldn't be the first time a group of Spartans defied the odds and survived much longer than anyone could have expected.

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