First it was Virginia Commonwealth, then it was Norfolk State. In 2012, it looks like the Old Dominion State is the home of the NCAA tournament upset.
A state that was previously well known for producing United States presidents, eight in all, may now be better known for fostering the spirit of the underdog.
Some saw VCU’s upset over Wichita State coming Thursday, as Shaka Smart’s team reloaded for a second straight run to the Final Four, but Norfolk State, 400-to-1 odds to win their region and 22-point underdogs to No. 2-seeded Missouri, seemed out-of-the-blue.
This is the part where many would compare Norfolk State coach Anthony Evans to VCU’s Shaka Smart. I’ll hold off on that, considering the differences in the resumés of the two men, unless the Spartan’s can make a Ram-like run and reach the Sweet 16 with a win over seventh-seeded Florida on Sunday.
Before yesterday, a Google search for “Anthony Evans” would draw more results for the contestant on NBC’s The Voice than for the man that is turning around a program at Norfolk State. After the Spartans’ upset win, a Facebook page for the man has over 4,500 “Likes” and his name sneaks into the bottom of the first page of a Google search.
Perhaps not the regard he deserves, but he’s on his way.
Smart and Virginia Commonwealth knocked off a Wichita State team that had become a trendy mid-major Final Four pick this year, with much credit going to Smart’s signature “Havoc” defense.
The Rams were able to hold Wichita State big man Garrett Stutz to four points on 2-for-11 shooting, including a crucial miss on a layup as time wound down in regulation.
They continue their pursuit of another Final Four against Indiana in the Round of 32 on Saturday at 7:10p.m.
So what is it about Virginia? It is the rich United States history it holds, or perhaps its pithy (and rather fitting) state motto?
“Sic semper tyrannis,” says the motto of Virginia, translated as “Thus always to tyrants,” a rallying cry against the abuse of power.
With a 12/5 upset and a 15/2 takedown, it seems Virginia Commonwealth and Norfolk State are taking that motto to heart.
Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_