The second-seed Missouri Tigers will take on the 15th-seed Norfolk State Spartans in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Only four times has a No. 15 ever taken down a No. 2 in the tournament, so the Spartans are hoping to be the fifth.
It will obviously be tough.
The Tigers are 30-4 and coming off a Big 12 tournament championship, so they will not enter the NCAA tournament playing poorly.
The Spartans are on fire as well. They won the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament. They have won seven in a row, and nine of their last 10 games.
Still, this is a major step up in competition; can they meet the challenge?
Let's look deeper into the specifics of this matchup.
Where: CenturyLink Center, Omaha, NE
When: Friday, Mar. 16th, at 4;40 p.m. ET
Watch: CBS, TNT, TruTV & TBS
Listen: Westwood One, Digital Global Sports Find the station in your area here.
Betting Line: Missouri -21.5
Live Stream: NCAA.com
Norfolk State: No injuries to report
Missouri: Laurence Bowers (knee) out for season
What's at Stake?
Nearly everything, but more is at stake for the Tigers. They have legitimate national championship hopes, but they also don't want to become the fifth No. 2 seed to fall to a No. 15.
The Spartans are happy to have made the tournament, but they will bring it to the the undersized Tigers in an effort to pull the upset. It remains to be seen if they can be the next team fitted for a Cinderella slipper.
What They're Saying
Missouri still has much to prove in the eyes of many of their critics. They played only the 96th toughest schedule in the country.
It stands to reason why head coach Frank Haith would feel the need to justify his team's seeding, as well as the six teams the Big 12 landed in the tournament. He said this to Zach Miller of the Columbia Missourian:
"True round robin is hard," Missouri coach Frank Haith said last week. "It's a grind. We've been at it. Hopefully, across the country people will see what we've done playing a true round robin has been remarkable. I think it's deserving of six teams in the tournament.
I think the Tigers are a quality team. I believe they deserved the top seed, but we will see if they use the snub as motivation.
The Spartans have little shot in this one, but Matt Norlander of CBS Sports offered this breakdown of the team:
The Spartans are coached by Anthony Evans, who is in his fifth season with the team. The Spartans turned around their program this year after enduring three straight seasons under .500. This team is one that isn't incredibly fast, but it's not afraid to push the ball at all. The extended man-to-man defense makes them pesky
Norfolk State will be in trouble in this matchup, as the talent disparity is huge.
Missouri Player To Watch: Kim English
English has been huge down the stretch. This ultra-confident, three-point bomber is playing with a chip on his shoulder, as are the rest of the Tigers.
He lit it up in the Big 12 tournament. He finished with 19 points to vanquish the Baylor Bears in the final, and he's ready to perform in the Big Dance.
Norfolk State Player To Watch: Kyle O'Quinn
O'Quinn is the big key to any Spartans' upset hopes. At 6'10" he has the size to take advantage of the smallish Tigers inside. He averaged 16 points and 10.4 rebounds per game in the regular season, and he had 18 points and seven boards in the MEAC title game vs Bethune-Cookman.
If the Spartans are to shock the world, O'Quinn will be key.
Kyle O'Quinn vs. Ricardo Ratliffe
If Ratliffe can contain O'Quinn without much help on defense, the Tigers will control the tempo and run away with this game. If Quinn has a big game, the pace will slow, and that plays more into the hands of the bigger Spartans.
Tigers 94, Spartans 76
The Tigers are too good from long range, and this step-up in talent will be too much for the Spartans. Ratliffe will relish the challenge to limit the Spartans' only major threat in O'Quinn, and the Tigers will roll into the next round.
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