They say time heals all wounds but even after nine years, I know Duke and Missouri fans are still salty after becoming victims to some of the biggest upsets in tournament history on the same day.
On March 16, 2012, two No. 15 seeds with lofty aspirations backed them up and shocked the world, taking down two of the top teams in the tournament.
Norfolk State, led by future NBA player Kyle O’Quinn, bounced a 2-seed in Missouri that featured Marcus Denmon, Kim English, and the Pressey brothers. That Missouri squad had five guys averaging double figures in scoring that season.
O’Quinn was dominant in the matchup. He led the Spartans with 26 points and 14 rebounds in the 86-84 win. At that time, Norfolk State became the third HBCU to pull off a 15/2 upset since the tourney expanded to 64 teams in 1985. Coppin State defeated South Carolina in 1997 and Hampton took down Iowa State in 2001.
It seems crazy that on this same day a similar story would unfold in another tournament venue. A Lehigh guard by the name of CJ McCollum (oh, you know him now, right?) would drop 30 in an upset win over one of the most storied programs in college hoops history. Lehigh defeated a Duke team that had Austin Rivers, Seth Curry, and the Plumlee brothers.
McCollum made NBA-level shots all game and showed a will to win that was unmatched en route to their 75-70 win.
For McCollum and O’Quinn, their performances in that tournament boosted their chances to play in the NBA substantially, even though both teams would lose in the round of 32. McCollum became a top ten pick in 2013 and would star for the Trailblazers as one of the most skilled 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 the Association with four different teams.
Days like March 16, 2012, are why sports fans love March Madness so much. It’s more than just the chance for a shocking upset that attracts fans — it’s a belief that any school, player, or coach can pull off the impossible.