FORT WORTH, TX (WTKR)- Norfolk State takes the floor in Fort Worth for its third NCAA Tournament appearance all-time on Thursday and, for its sparse experience in the event, winning at this stage isn't uncommon once the Spartans get here.
Each of the previous two trips to the tournament saw NSU win one game. Last year Robert Jones and company topped Appalachian State in the First Four in Dayton. The Spartans' first appearance in the dance came back in 2012, when they shocked No. 2 Missouri as a No. 15 seed. Now they look to pull off another shocker.
Baylor stands in the way to start things off, the defending national champions and top seed in the East Region. Jones feels that his squad matches up well with the Bears, particularly inside, and he feels the Spartans can compete with Baylor's All-Big 12 guards. NSU held a shoot-around on Wednesday morning at Dickies Arena and, as the green and gold get set to face Goliath, they're looking to past upsets to help fuel them.
"If you remember that Missouri game, which I'm sure you do, we scored 86 points," Jones said. "It was no slow down. We played the way we're going to play and I think that's the biggest thing I can take from it is that I'm not going to try and play a total different way [Thursday] because we're playing the defending national champs. We're going to play the way we play."
"We know how we've got to come out, we've got to play from the beginning and I think we're comfortable at this stage now," junior forward Dana Tate added. "I think we're going to be good going up against another high major. It's just another opponent on the list."
Norfolk State is 0-2 all-time against Baylor with the two last facing off in December of 2014. This season's Spartans are 24-6 and completed their second straight MEAC championship run last week.
"It's going to come down to whoever plays hardest, who executes the longest for 40 minutes," noted senior guard Joe Bryant. "I feel like we can do that."
"We're not just here just to play," Jones asserted. "Whatever happens [Thursday] happens, but just like the other [66 teams] that are playing for a national championship, we're playing for a national championship, too."
Norfolk State and Baylor tip off at 2:00 PM on Thursday afternoon. The Spartans are one of three Virginia teams playing on Thursday on the men's side, joining Longwood and Richmond.
KXXV's Jack Allen contributed to this report.