Norfolk State became something of a household name last season after knocking off second-seeded Missouri as a 15 seed in last year’s NCAA tournament. It only helped the spirit of the upset when then-senior forward Kyle O’Quinn showed that he was one of the most likable players in the country in a wide-eyed, off-the-cuff postgame interview with Craig Sager.
Despite losing O’Quinn, Norfolk State carried the momentum of last season’s success into this year, running the table at a perfect 16-0 in the MEAC conference slate and looking for its second straight automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. That run came to an end Wednesday night, as the Spartans were upset in overtime by No. 8-seeded Bethune-Cookman, 70-68, in the MEAC quarterfinals.
Norfolk State led by 10 at halftime and pushed the lead to as many as 13 in the second half, but the Spartans were plagued by poor 32-percent shooting and were badly outrebounded in the loss.
The Spartans become another example of a dominant small-conference team during the regular season that stumbles in the conference tournament, forcing them to miss out on the NCAAs.
Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_
Nic Moore scored 18 of his 25 points in the second half and added 11 assists as No. 16 SMU knocked off Gonzaga in Moody Coliseum on Saturday night, 69-60.
The Zags got 20 points and 16 boards from Domantas Sabonis, but Kyle Wiltjer scored just four points and shot 2-for-17 from the floor.
It wasn’t pretty.
And it may have been the end of Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament hopes.
Entering Saturday, the Zags had an RPI in the mid-60s, enough to keep them in the bubble conversation but not enough to make them anything more than a team that will be projected to end up on the cut-line.
The issue is a complete lack of quality wins on their résumé. Gonzaga beat UConn in the Bahamas. That’s a borderline top 50 win. They beat Washington, another borderline top 50 win. Beyond that? They swept Pepperdine, beat Tennessee and own a win over Montana. None of those are top 100 wins, and that’s why the SMU game was such a big deal. The Mustangs are a top 25 team. This was a road game. This win was the kind of thing that the Zags could pin at the top of their profile.
But Wiltjer didn’t show up, the Zags had no answer for Moore and they’ll head back to Spokane needing, in all likelihood, to win the WCC’s automatic bid if they want to dance.
Cal picked up a big win over Oregon State in Haas Pavilion on Saturday night, and the exclamation point was this emphatic dunk from Jaylen Brown: