They say time heals all wounds, but even after nine years, I know that Duke and Missouri fans are still salty, having fallen victim to some of the biggest upsets in tournament history on the same day.
On March 17, 2012, two No. 15 seeds with high ambitions secured them and surprised the world by knocking down two of the tournament’s top teams.
Norfolk State, led by future NBA player Kyle O’Quinn, bounced a two-seed in Missouri with Marcus Denmon, Kim English and the Pressey Brothers. This Missouri team had five guys who averaged double digits this season.
O’quinn was dominant in the Matchup. He led the Spartans with 26 points and 14 rebounds in the 86-84 win. At the time, Norfolk State was the third HBCU to end a 15/2 streak since the 1985 tournament expanded to 64 teams. Coppin State defeated South Carolina in 1997 and Hampton took Iowa State in 2001.
It seems crazy that a similar story would unfold in another tournament venue on the same day. A Lehigh Guard named CJ McCollum (oh, you know him now, right?) would fall 30 in an upset victory over one of the most storied programs in college hoops history. Lehigh defeated a Duke team including Austin Rivers, Seth Curry and the Plumlee Brothers.
McCollum played all games at the NBA level and showed a will to win that was unmatched on the way to their 75-70 victory.
For McCollum and O’Quinn, their performances in this tournament greatly increased their chances of playing in the NBA, even though both teams would lose in the round of 16. McCollum was a Top-Ten Pick in 2013, and would star for the Trailblazers as one of the most experienced guards in the League. O’Quinn was selected in the second round of the 2012 draft by the Magic and has played eight seasons in association with four different teams.
March 2012, are why sports fans love March Madness so much. It’s more than just a chance for surprising excitement that attracts fans — it’s a belief that any school, any player or any coach can do the impossible.