Home basketball crowds for Norfolk State are so small, the school doesn’t list attendance on box scores.
So you can imagine what Spartans guard Pendarvis Williams and his teammates were thinking Friday. Kansas fans were chanting, “NSU, NSU” as they pulled for the small, 15th-seeded Virginia school in its 86-84 upset of No. 2-seed Missouri.
“Kansas hates Missouri,” Williams said. “OK, I get it. But, man, that was a better than a home crowd.”
The Spartans draw 100 to 200 fans in their 6,191-seat arena, he said. By Williams’ count, including cheerleaders, his parents and star Kyle O’Quinn’s parents, NSU had about 20 fans at the game.
Mizzou had its share in the crowd of 16,843 at CenturyLink Center. But KU blue joined Florida blue in cheering for the underdogs.
Although we know for Kansas fans, it wasn’t just about cheering for the underdog. It’s what KU coach Bill Self had expected.
Before the tournament, he recalled how in 2008, KU and Kansas State fans cheered for each other’s teams when both opened the tournament in Omaha but were in separate regionals.
“This was one time our league kind of bonded, and we cheered for each other, which is good,” Self said.
Actually, it wasn’t all that fuzzy and warm. No rage of jeering, but there weren’t fans clad in purple and blue hugging each other, either. If there was any cheering for the other guys, it was on the quiet side.
This year, KU and MU are both in Omaha but in different regionals.
Self figured the Easter bunny would show up for Christmas before KU fans would cheer for the SEC-bound Tigers.
“I can’t really see that happening with us in two different leagues,” he said.
Jayhawk fans delivered. And Norfolk State, a team making its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance, was the beneficiary.
But after the game, O’Quinn put his arm around Phil Pressey after the MU guard missed a game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer.
“I don’t have anything against any Missouri player,” O’Quinn said. “They’re players just like us. It’s good to have sportsmanship.”
Norfolk State was the only Division I school to offer O’Quinn a scholarship.
“I was bad as a freshman,” he said. “Really bad.”
Another Big 12 team, Iowa State, was the last No. 2 victim. The Cyclones lost in 2001 to No. 15 Hampton, 58-57.
The other three: 1991, Richmond over Syracuse, 73-69; 1993, Steve Nash-led Santa Clara over Arizona, 64-61; and 1997, Coppin State over South Carolina, 78-65.
“They may say it’s sold out in there,” said one man who was trying, “but there are plenty of tickets. They’re selling for under face (value).”
With Mizzou losing, you can be sure there will be even more tickets available for Sunday’s games.