MIssouri's Big Dance Chances: Tigers Like Their Sweet 16 Odds

Chad HurshmanContributor IMarch 19, 2009

The Missouri Tigers have been in the Big Dance 22 times. They have scratched out a total of 18 wins, twice making it to the Elite Eight.

In 1994, they won three tournament games for the first time in school history. “Storming” Norm Stewart was at the helm.

In 1999, Stewart retired, giving way to Quin Snyder. Snyder started his coaching career with four straight NCAA Tournament berths, including 2002, when the Tigers last made it to the field of eight.

That season, Missouri became the lowest-seeded team (No. 12) to make it to the final eight.

In 2006, Missouri hired a new coach in Mike Anderson. Anderson is a disciple of Nolan Richardson, and hopes to have the same type of success (i.e. a NCAA Championship). 

In only his third year, Anderson has a Big 12 Title and is looking for more.

Missouri goes into the NCAA Tournament as a No. 3 seed in the West Bracket.  In order to make the Sweet 16, they will have to win two games. The first contest will be against the Ivy League champion Cornell Big Red.

This is their second consecutive No. 14 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Cornell has a little bit more pop than a typical Ivy League school. Junior forward Ryan Wittman is a high scorer that was a unanimous All-Ivy first team selection for the second consecutive year.

Many think he could be a legitimate starter for almost any school.

The guards can handle the ball very well. Geoff Reeves, a 6'5" junior, missed the final two regular season games with a strained back but should be ready for the tournament.

Louis Dale, meanwhile, is a 5'11" junior guard who needs to play big for the Big Red to be successful.

Ivy League Freshman of the Year Chris Wroblewski filled in nicely throughout the year, especially while both Reeves and Dale were injured.

Cornell has a legitimate center in 7'0" Jeff Foote. Foote was named Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year after leading the conference in both blocked shots and rebounds.

If Cornell hopes to have any success against the Tigers, they will need an extraordinary game of ball control, limiting their turnovers as much as possible.

Missouri has shown vulnerability to teams with size, but the Tigers' speed and aggressiveness should counter any advantage Cornell would have.

This game should be decided halfway through the second half.

The second round will be against the winner of the No. 6 Marquette Golden Eagles and No. 11 Utah State Aggies.

This game has upset written all over it.

Utah State is a disciplined team that plays a smart, high efficiency offensive game. They shoot well from all over the court.

With five players that can shoot three-pointers, they force teams to play good defense in the middle. Forward Gary Wilkinson took advantage of this in a big way, averaging 19.3 points per game during their WAC tournament games.

The offensive effort by Wilkinson was enough to earn WAC Tourney MVP honors.

Tai Wesley, a 6'7" sophomore forward, adds to the inside presence, scoring 11.9 points per game this season. Jared Quayle, meanwhile, leads the way from the perimeter with an average of 3.7 assists while hitting 55 threes.

If coach Stew Morrill can keep his crew composed, they can stay competitive.

Missouri matches up well with the Aggies size-wise, and I don’t think Utah State will be prepared enough for the “40 Minutes of Hell” Mike Anderson will provide them.

Marquette, however, is the big unknown.

They have played well at times this season, but rely heavily on their senior guards Jerel McNeal, Wesley Mathews, and Dominic James, averaging a combined 49.5 ppg.

Assists leader Dominic James will be unavailable for the tournament after breaking his foot against Connecticut. This triggered a four-game losing streak to end the regular season.If the Golden Eagles are able to get out of their funk and get by Utah State, it will be interesting to see just how much motivation coach Buzz Williams can pump into this team.

Junior forward Lazar Hayward will be depended upon greatly when confronted with the inside game of Missouri. The reserves will also have to step up in order to keep pace with the Tigers' aggressive, fast-paced defensive attack.

The Missouri Tigers have a good draw in this tournament bracket. If Anderson keeps them focused, without letting them get overconfident, they have a very strong shot at advancing to the Sweet 16.

Forward leaders DeMarre Carroll and Leo Lyons will have to stay out of foul trouble as they are the points and rebound leaders. J.T. Tiller is an underrated guard that can defend, shoot, and dish.

Zaire Taylor also makes a terrific addition at the guard position with the revolving rotation that Missouri uses to keep fresh legs pressuring their opponents.

The bench has played a lot of minutes in big games against Big 12 teams. It will be a key ingredient if they are to go deep in West bracket.

Just how far they go is up to them, but they have the talent to get to Detroit in April.