Making a good first impression is always important when being introduced to a person or a group of people for the first time. As far as first impressions go, the Norfolk State University Spartans made a lasting one.
In their first appearance in the NCAA tournament the Spartans of NSU, a 15th seed, knocked off the number two seed Missouri Tigers 86-84 in a raucous Century Link Center in Omaha, Nebraska. The Tigers were also the number three team in the nation coming into the tournament. This huge upset by NSU was led by its best players. 6′ 10″ center Kyle O’ Quinn, a senior, led Norfolk State with 26 points and 14 rebounds. Sophomore Pendarvis “Penny” Williams set the tone with aggressive play and added 20 points on seven of nine shooting. Chris McEachin, another senior, dropped 20 points for the Spartans with timely buckets in the second half.
The game turned into an epic battle and was an instant classic. The Spartans played at their highest level and matched the Tigers shot for shot. There were 13 ties and 22 lead changes. The largest lead was 8 by Norfolk State in the first half. Intense defense was played by both teams but you couldn’t tell by the stats. Both teams shot over 52% from the field. NSU torched the nets in second half hitting 61%. Both teams were draining threes that ranged from pull ups, open looks, tough contested deep range shots and even one off glass by McEachin. O’Quinn showed his range and hit a three from the top of the key too. Missouri was 13 of 29 from beyond the arc and Norfolk State was 10 of 19.
The Spartans brought all of what they learned from playing in a competitive MEAC conference. A conference in which the Spartans had control of throughout the season until falling to second place after being swept by Delaware State and a home loss to Coppin State. The Spartans were able to put that aside and win the conference tournament for the first time and get to the big dance. The Tigers are a different caliber of opponent but the Spartans have seen them before.
Missouri is a very efficient offensive team and they don’t make a lot of mistakes much like Delaware State. Phil Pressey dribble penetrates at will and creates shots for Marcus Denmon, Kim English and Ricardo Ratliffe in the post. Similar to the play of Delaware State’s Jay Threatt. Threatt is third in the nation in assist to turnover ratio and kicks out to Casey Walker and Tahj Tate for threes and easy buckets. Threatt averages six assists per game. Pressey averages 6.3.
The Tigers also shoots a lot of threes. The Spartans already faced that in the Eagles of Coppin State. The Eagles shot and made the most threes in the MEAC and make 9.6 threes per game. Florida is the only other school in the nation who makes more (9.9). NSU split their two games with the Eagles this year so the familiarity with a heavy three point shooting team was there.
The Spartans came in with a lot of focus. It was noticeable even in pregame warmups. Never mind that Missouri had four outstanding all-conference guards from the Big 12 and were picked to make a deep run in the tournament by many analysts-even President Barack Obama. NSU had the two time defensive player of the year and conference player of the year in Kyle O’ Quinn. Not only that NSU had Chris McEachin who has been to the NCAA tournament before with the Radford University team from a few years ago.
Pendarvis Williams who is one of the more soft spoken players on the team was more vocal than ever in practice and in this big game with his 20 points. When Williams scores 20 or more points NSU is 6-0. The Spartans also had role players making notable plays as they do in every game. Rodney McCauley, another senior for NSU, who is a defensive star had 9 points. All of his field goals came off of put backs after grabbing an offensive rebound or tipping the ball in after a miss. He finished with 7 rebounds.
Sitting at press row watching the Spartans match the Tigers shot for shot and play for play was exhilarating (It’s hard to be impartial when you’re witnessing your alma mater making history before your eyes). NSU looked as if they been to the NCAA Tournament before. They showed no fear and weren’t intimidated by the atmosphere or the moment. Because of that focus Norfolk State keeps the tradition of 15th seeded MEAC teams upsetting two seeds in the NCAA Tournament. Hampton beat Iowa State in 2001 and Coppin State won over South Carolina in 1997. NSU head coach Anthony Evans and his team is just the sixth fifteenth seed in NCAA Tournament history to beat a two seed (no. 15 Lehigh beat no. 2 Duke shortly after NSU’s victory).
After celebrating and soaking in arguably the biggest win in Norfolk State history, the Spartans have to refocus and realize they now have an opportunity to go further than any MEAC team or 15th seed has gone before in the NCAA Tournament. If the Spartans beat Florida in the third round of the NCAAs they will go to the Sweet Sixteen in Phoenix, Arizona. How sweet it could be.
While playing NBA 2k12 and getting frustrated with a move my created player attempted to do that was outrageously unsuccessful, I started to reminisce about a simpler time in sports games. Don’t get me wrong I love the advancements in graphics, gameplay, presentation and A.I. that have come this far in video games in general, but there are a few that stand out to me. This list is in no particular order and just highlights some games that were not only landmarks but just down right fun to play. Respond and let me know of some of your favorite sports games.
NBA 2k2-The Seed Was Planted
We wouldn’t have 2k12 without arguably the best basketball video game ever in my opinion-NBA 2k2. The best platform was on Dreamcast, a system that was ahead of its time in terms of graphics, speed. Did I mention that you could play online? This is back before the PS2 and Xbox came out when the Sega Dreamcast debuted in 1999. NBA 2k2 gave you a complete basketball experience.
Consider a game that enabled you to dunk like Vince Carter did in the 2000 dunk contest by going between the legs on a fastbreak in a simulation game but you had to be Vince Carter to do it. This was indicative of the great detail in the game. It also gave users a chance to play with players that greatly resembled NBA players.
You could create teams or create a player that was a true 99 rating (almost too easy but fun when playing against someone else who had a created player too).
For signature game modes like street ball which featured 2-2 up to 5-5 on some of the most storied basketball surfaces in America like Rucker Park in New York, there was also, tournament, playoff, season and franchise modes complete with a fantasy draft.
It’s interesting to see that the last two 2k titles have promoted the whole Jordan experience or how would Larry Bird fare in today’s NBA? Well 2k2 was the seed of that idea because it had teams comprised of the top players of the decade from the 50s to the 90s. (Cousy vs Kidd or Olajuwon vs Shaq). You could do it all in NBA 2k2.
NHL Breakaway 98’-Pure Hockey Fun
One of the first games on my Nintendo 64 console and one of my favorites was NHL Breakaway 98’. I loved that you could apply the glow to the puck while going up and down the ice, much like the FoxTrax in FOX broadcasts of hockey games around that time. Getting into fights was so much fun. It turned out to be its own mini game. The uppercuts were especially deadly as well.
If you wanted a good team you couldn’t go wrong with the Colorado Avalanche and Patrick Roy or Mike Modano and the Dallas Stars. But my team was the Detroit Red Wings led by Sergei Fedorov and Brendan Shanahan. I could check guys to death and score in bunches. Breakaway 98’ was fun to play for the hockey enthusiast and the casual hockey fan.
John Madden Football-The Beginning Of The End
Madden-yeah that pretty much sums it up. I chose the first game title because it was the start of what would become the most powerful video game franchise in history. The “Call of Duty” franchise could be challenging in some aspects but Madden is undoubtedly the first.
Approached in the late 80s with the idea of a football sim, John Madden didn’t fully support it because it was 7-on-7. I don’t blame Madden for that. Who wants to play a virtual passing league game anyway?
Every year it gets better and better. It has had a cultural impact on males (6 to 40 somethings) as being the must have game in every American household every football season.
How about it’s impact on the game? Madden has its own curse associated with it. Madden 2000 was the last time John himself was on the cover but some releases also had Green Bay Packers running back Dorsey Levens as well. Madden 2001 had Eddie George on the cover and ever since then the cover athlete has a dreadful season after being displayed on the game’s cover.
Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hillis was on the cover of Madden 12’ after his 2010 campaign made him a star, compiling 1,177 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns. But his injuries in the 2011 season crippled him from duplicating that success.
EA Sports wouldn’t be what it is today without the Madden franchise and it definitely gave John plenty to do after he retired from commentating. He has even more input now so look for this game to continue to evolve as it has with the game of football itself.
When it comes to video games John Madden’s face should be on the Mount Rushmore of games.
NBA Jam-He’s Heating Up!
He’s on fire! Boomshakalaka! This game may be more famous for the voice of Tim Kitzrow, the game’s commentator. This arcade game is truly a classic. The outlandish dunks and the ability to be awarded with a flaming ball after hitting three consecutive shots was one of the funniest sports game experiences in memory.
2-2 basketball at its fullest. You could pick two of the best players from NBA teams and go head to head in a game where I’ve never seen a blowout. How about tying the game and going to overtime after hitting an under handed full court heave? That’s something you don’t see in real basketball -period- but the idea of that shot and actually seeing it happen was so enjoyable.
WWF No Mercy-Wrestling Entertainment At Its Finest
If you were a wrestling fan growing up you have heard of this game or played it at some time. One of the benchmark games in WWE video game lore, WWF No Mercy, took its predecessor, WWF Wrestlemania, to another level. The story/career mode was a lot more in depth and intuitive. Story outcomes changed based on whether you won or lost a match or made certain decisions in cut scenes before or after matches.
Survival mode was also one where you could play for hours. Each wrestler had different costumes, outfits or types, usually four. It was the ultimate Royal Rumble because you had to defeat the whole roster and their four types. So if you beat Stone Cold in his traditional all black wrestling tights you would soon have to face Stone Cold in denim shorts and a 3:16 shirt on, ready to open up a can of whoopass, Monday Night Raw style.
The game also showcased a shop where you could “earn” money from Survival or Story mode and make purchases in the WWF Store. You could buy accessories, clothes, weapons, arenas, and one of the Godfather’s sidekicks for the price of $500,000 (I never got enough money to purchase her).
The grappling system was simple and featured an array of some amazing moves ranging from double teams, running grapples, simple moves and momentum shifting power moves could be executed with a strong grapple. It was the final evolution on AKI Corporation’s first big wrestling title, WCW vs. NWO World Tour. WWF No Mercy was one of the best wrestling video games of all time for incorporating so many elements from the action of WWE yet still letting you create your own world.
Those are my top five. Hit the spot and tell us what are your top 5?
WWF No Mercy-citizenmusings.blogspot.com
John Madden Football-inhistoric.com
Welcome to TheSpotVA’s Sports Blog or SLOG for short. Read posts from our featured slogger Joe Cook. A Norfolk State University alum, Cook possesses radio, television, print, and online media experience covering a variety of local sports on all levels in Hampton Roads since 05′. Basketball is his forte and he is an avid fan of the University of Michigan, 49ers, and Atlanta Braves. However, he was born in New Jersey and raised in Virginia-go figure. Anyway, don’t give him too much grief about that!
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