College Hoops Player of the Day for Friday, March 16, Month, 2012
Norfolk State's enormous, 86-84, upset over Missouri, the number two seed in the West region, was a monumental achievement that hasn't occurred since 2001, when Hampton defeated Iowa State, 58-57, in 2001.
Prior to Friday, a 15 seed beating a number two had only happened four times in the history of the NCAA tournament since expanding to 64 teams (now 68) in 1985. To get some perspective, that's four times in 28 years, out of a total of 112 2-15 match-ups.
Through Friday's games, mark that number up to six times in 116 2-15 meetings, because the Lehigh Mountain Hawks turned the trick on the Duke Blue Devils, knocking the #2 seed in the South region - along with coach Mike Krzyzewski, the winningest college basketball coach of all time, and all of Duke's storied history - out of the 2012 tournament with a smashing, 75-70, victory.
Never mind that sportswriters and sport bloggers won't have to scramble to rediscover how to spell coach K's name for the duration of the tourney; Lehigh's win was monstrous, and to think that two 15 seeds would beat two number two's in the same tournament, on the same day, well, that's one for the history books, an eventful day that may never happen again.
The tin-foil hat brigade will point to the unusual feat as a precursor to the Mayan calendar's prediction that the world will end on December 21, 2012, an omen of sorts, along with the record-setting warm winter and other assorted oddities and anomalies.
Whether or not the wins by the Spartans and Mountain Hawks (formerly the Engineers) have predictive or astronomical or numerological value can be debated another time. For now, the dual triumphs for the "little guy" remind us that anything is possible when men or women act together and execute on a plan.
The stars of the two games, Norfolk State's Kyle O'Quinn (St. Patrick's Irish eyes must surely be smiling today) and Lehigh's CJ McCollum, the co-players of the day, may have to share the spotlight for now, and the pair will be forever linked within the lore of collage basketball.
The two share some similarities and some differences. Both are big time scorers for little colleges, but McCollum is a 6'3" guard from small town Canton, Ohio while O'Quinn is a 6'10" center from big city Jamaica, New York, part of the New York City metropolis.
McCollum is more the run-and-gun type, as evidenced in his 30 point, 9-for-24 shooting spree against the Blue Devils, which included two three-pointers in seven attempts. But he also played the complete game, dishing six assists and grabbing six rebounds. McCollum also was 10-for-16 from the foul line.
O'Quinn did his work mostly around the rim, scoring 26 points for the Spartans against the undersized Tigers, powering inside for 10 buckets on 16 attempts, with a three-pointer (only his sixth of the season) in two attempts from outside the arc. O'Quinn had 14 rebounds for his 20th double-double of this season, was 5-for-9 from the stripe, blocked two shots and had a pair of assists.
When the celebration and laudatory remarks begin to fade sometime on Saturday, McCollum and O'Quinn will get back together with their teammates and coaches and start planning to see if they can write a little more history into this tournament. No #15 which had defeated a #2 has ever won their following game. On Sunday, the Mountain Hawks will face Xavier, the #10 seed, and the Spartans will go after Florida, a mere 7-seed.
Win or lose, Mayan predictions or otherwise, Friday, March 16 was a day for the record books.
Here are the previous 15-over-2 wins in NCAA history:
#15 Richmond beat #2 Syracuse 73-69 in 1991
#15 Santa Clara beat #2 Arizona 64-61 in 1993
#15 Coppin State beat #2 USC 78-65 in 1997
#15 Hampton beat #2 Iowa State 58-57 in 2001