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'All the pressure is on them' as Norfolk State prepares to play No. 1 Gonzaga

NCAA Norfolk St Appalachian St Basketball
Posted at 12:00 AM, Mar 20, 2021

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - In a story on which we first reported Wednesday, the world record-setting bracket on the side of the J.W. Marriott hotel in downtown Indianapolis still does not display Norfolk State's name - despite the Spartans beating Appalachian State in Thursday's First Four of the NCAA Tournament. However, as of 9 a.m. Saturday - that should change.

Should Norfolk State advance even further on that bracket, the largest in the world, it would be by virtue of an upset victory which would shock the world.

Saturday in the First Round of the 2021 NCAA men's basketball tournament, NSU faces top-ranked and undefeated Gonzaga.

"I know Gonzaga, obviously, they don't want to go home," Norfolk State head coach Robert Jones said Friday. "All the pressure is on them."

In order for Norfolk State to pull-off the monumental upset of Gonzaga, Jones' Spartans will have to remain cool under pressure - similar to how he handled a fire alarm during Friday's Zoom interview.

Where's there is smoke, there is usually fire. And this 1-seed vs. 16-seed match-up sure feels like David vs. Goliath. Gonzaga is favored to win by more than 33 points. However, Jones is not fanning the flames when it comes to being a massive underdog.

"If we execute the way we're supposed to execute, the chips will fall in our favor - honestly," Jones said confidently. "If we don't, or they're just better than us that night - then they're just better than us."

Norfolk State faces Gonzaga at 9:20 p.m. Saturday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

NSU has not faced a ranked team since taking on No. 19/18 Michigan to start the 2018-19 season, a 63-44 loss in Ann Arbor. The contest against Gonzaga will mark the 21st all-time meeting for NSU against ranked opponents since moving to Division I in 1997. The Spartans are 1-19 in those previous 20 games, with the one win coming against No. 3/3 Missouri in the 2012 NCAA Tournament.