The 2012 NCAA tournament was mostly upset-free through the first two days. And then a Goliath fell.
Missouri, a popular pre-tournament favorite, was stunned by No. 15 seed Norfolk State, 86-84, in a second-round game in Omaha. It was one of the most stunning upsets in the history of the NCAA tournament, delivered by a team playing in its first-ever game of March Madness.
Norfolk State, enrollment, 7,000, became the fifth-ever No. 15 seed to defeat a No. 2 seed. The last three such upsets were all delivered by schools in the MEAC conference.
The Spartans took advantage of Mizzou's lax defense to find open spots on the floor and get easy looks at baskets. The team shot an identical 53 percent from the field and three-point range. Kyle O'Quinn's 26 points and 14 rebounds led both teams.
Missouri didn't play poorly on the offensive end. Like Norfolk State, the Tigers shot well from the floor (52 percent). But every time Frank Haith's team took a lead, it was unable to consolidate on the defensive end. Missouri let Norfolk State hang around with cheap buckets, then surge to a late lead because of poor perimeter defense. The Tigers only had a chance to win at the end after some missed Norfolk State free throws.
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"I feel good," coach Anthony Evans said in the understatement of the college basketball season.
Other No. 2 seeds who lost in opening-round games (like Iowa State in 2001 and South Carolina in 1997) were largely viewed as potential upset victims early in the tournament. Missouri was far from that; the Tigers were the No. 3-ranked team in the country and widely considered to be a Final Four contender. Just five days ago, there was talk that Missouri was deserving of a No. 1 seed in the tournament.
Conversely, Norfolk was thought to be one of the worst teams in the field of 68. A popular analytical website listed the Spartans as the lowest-ranked team in the tournament.
The last time a No. 15 seed upset a No. 2 seed was in 2001, when a MEAC school (Hampton) defeated a Big 12 power (Iowa State). History repeated itself on Friday night.
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