Tiny Dancers: Norfolk State Spartans

By Matt Norlander | College Basketball Writer
While you were peeping at other things, the 2012 tournament got it second first-time attendee today: Norfolk State. The Spartans were an interesting team this season. For some odd reason, they played -- and lost -- to Marquette twice. But they've defeated two teams either in the field or close to it: LIU-Brooklyn and Drexel.

They are the No. 2 seed out of the MEAC and defeated No. 4 Bethune Cookman in Saturday's conference title game. When looking at the team as it played today in a 73-70 win, plus factoring in the wins over teams worthy of the field, I think this group could dodge Dayton. Maybe not, though. The MEAC traditionally sends teams to play prior to Thursday. I should say: the NCAA traditionally sends MEAC teams to play prior to Thursday.

The Spartans are coached by Anthony Evans, who is in his fifth season with the team. The Spartans turned around their program this year after enduring three straight seasons under .500. This team is one that isn't incredibly fast, but it's not afraid to push the ball at all. The extended man-to-man defense makes them pesky.

Player to know: Kyle O'Quinn. The 6-10 senior forward is by far the best player for the Spartans. He shoots an effective field goal percentage of 60. Grabbing 26 percent of available defensive boards, O'Quinn ranks in the top 20 nationally in defensive rebound rate. He's also a good force inside, blocking nine percent of opponents' attempts, which is in the top one percent in college hoops.

The Vitals:

  • Record: 24-9, 13-3 in MEAC
  • Most recent tournament appearance: 2010, No. 16 seed, lost to Syracuse 79-56 in the first round.
  • We're thinking: 16 seed (first-round game)
  • KenPom ranking: 213
  • Sagarin ranking: 182
  • RPI: 131
  • Best wins: vs. Drexel, at Long Island-Brooklyn
  • Worst losses: vs. Coppin State, vs. Delaware State
  • Notable stat: A lot of these MEAC, SWAC, Southland, America East teams can often be downright awful, or at best average, in most statistical categories. Norfolk State bucks the trend when it comes to 3-point defense. The Spartans guard from deep well, keeping opponents to 30.1 percent, which is top-20 nationally.
 
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