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Friday, March 16, 2012
Shocking Spartans are for real

By Dick Vitale
ESPN.com

Norfolk State was the first team to send shock waves through the field. The MEAC champion scored the shock city upset of the NCAA tournament, sending Missouri to the sidelines, 86-84.

My friends, the Spartans are for real. Earlier this season, they beat Drexel and took Marquette to the wire (yes that was a second meeting after losing by 31 to the Golden Eagles earlier). Coach Anthony Evans' team came in believing it could score the stunner. A 15-seed vs. a No. 2 … WOW!

Norfolk State Missouri post-game
Norfolk State center Kyle O'Quinn had 26 points and 14 boards to power the Spartans' upset of Missouri.

It was just the fifth time that a No. 2 lost to a 15. Richmond stunned Syracuse. Santa Clara, with Steve Nash, upset Arizona. Coppin State beat South Carolina. The most recent one was Hampton over Iowa State. That also was a MEAC team upsetting a Big 12 squad.

I will be honest. I had Missouri in my bracket going all the way to the Final Four. So much for that.

Size has been a factor against Missouri at times this season, and center Kyle O'Quinn dominated for the Spartans. He had 26 points and 14 rebounds. Norfolk State had a 37-25 rebound edge as no Tiger had more than five boards.

It isn't like the Tigers played poorly. They shot about 53 percent and three players scored at least 20 points: Michael Dixon (22 off the bench), Marcus Denmon (20) and Phil Pressey (20). The Tigers had just eight turnovers. Norfolk State shot 54 percent and got to the winner's circle in an emotional stunner.

I feel for Frank Haith. His team went 30-4 going into the tournament. The Tigers won the Big 12 tournament. With all of those positives, Haith will be spending the summer hearing about two words -- Norfolk State.

The tournament has become so big that it is all about what happens in the Big Dance, overshadowing a great season. That is a sad reality of college basketball.

Congratulations to the Spartans. I know a lot of people looked at that region and felt a different Spartans team (Michigan State) would be making a lot of noise. On Friday night, Norfolk State was the school that made the most noise in the tournament.