INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - Thursday, the NCAA men's basketball tournament begins. Norfolk State is one of the 68 teams in the bracket. Or, is it?
Crews in Indianapolis, host site of the 2021 NCAA men's Final Four, assembled the world's largest bracket on the side of the J.W. Marriott hotel in downtown Indy. It spans 47,000 square feet. But apparently that's still not large enough for Norfolk State.
The bracket lists 60 of the 68 schools taking part in the 2021 tournament. The eight schools not listed are those playing Thursday in what's called the First Four. Norfolk State is among that group.
So, despite the Spartans' Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) title and first NCAA Tournament bid since 2012, they get no love on this local landmark.
Wednesday afternoon, in his last local TV interview before his team's game vs. Appalachian State, Norfolk State head coach Robert Jones tells News 3 Sports Director Adam Winkler that not only did he notice his Spartans were snubbed from the bracket - but he changed his team's itinerary because of it.
"We were supposed to go take a picture there at 3:30," Jones revealed. "It's the customary bracket picture. I said, For what? We're not even up there. I don't want to take a picture of anyone else. I'm going to cancel that trip until we get into the bracket. So it's motivation."
A source within NSU's program confirms the team did, indeed, cancel its photo op slated for Wednesday afternoon.
If Norfolk State beats Appalachian State Thursday, the Spartans should have their name in the bracket - slotted next to top-seeded Gonzaga, Saturday's potential opponent.
UPDATE: One day after Norfolk State's 54-53 victory, the Spartans' name still was not up on the giant bracket. News 3 reached out to Frank Hancock, President & CEO of Sport Graphics - the company which not only constructed the bracket, but is also tasked with updating it. Hancock said high winds grounded his crew Friday - preventing them from adding teams to the bracket. Hancock says winners of Thursday's and Friday's games will be updated beginning at 8 a.m. Saturday.