When Norfolk State defeated Bethune-Cookman to win the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament title and receive the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, this was a big moment for the Spartans and Pendarvis Williams was a big part of it. Norfolk State won its first-ever MEAC title and the Spartans are now making their first-ever NCAA Division I basketball tournament appearance since becoming a D-I program during the 1997–98 year.
Norfolk State will face Missouri (30-4 overall, 14-4 league) in the West Region on Friday, March 16 in Omaha, Neb., at 3:30 p.m. on TNT. The Tigers are a powerhouse team from the Big 12 Conference. Williams, a former Bodine High School for International Affairs star, played a huge role in the Spartans journey to the postseason. The ex-Public League standout had 17 points to help Norfolk State win the conference championship and get its ticket to the big dance.
“It’s like a dream come true,” said Williams, who also played his scholastic basketball at The Hun School in Princeton, N.J. “It’s been really exciting around here. We’re looking forward to playing Missouri. We know they have a good team. But we’ve been playing some good basketball this season.”
The Spartans have been very impressive. They finished with a 25-9 overall record. NSU was 13-3 in the MEAC, finishing in second place behind regular season champion Savannah State. Norfolk State had some great non-conference wins over Drexel, TCU and Long Island University. The Spartans nearly defeated Marquette from the Big East Conference, losing to them 59-57.
“I think that’s why we were the 15 seed,” Williams said. “We had some good wins outside the conference. It’s just a great feeling being in the NCAA tournament. For our school, it’s history making. We have a lot of support from the students. Our football team won the MEAC championship. We won the (indoor) track championship. Our sports teams have been doing very well.”
Norfolk State has also won the league cross-country championship, too. Williams played in Sonny Hill’s Hank Gathers College League last summer. The 6-foot-6, 195-pound sophomore, is one of the Spartans most consistent players. He averages 11.8 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.5 assists a game. Williams feels the pressure of the conference tournament really prepares for the NCAA tourney.
“It’s one and done,” he said. “Nobody wants to go home. Everybody wants to win. We’ve all been playing really hard. Kyle O’Quinn (MEAC Player and Defensive Player of the Year) has been great around the basket. He’s a good rebounder and scorer.”
Williams is one of several Philly players in the NCAA tournament. He will certainly have a lot of family and friends watching him play this week.