The Colorado State Rams and Missouri Tigers bring in similar strengths for their Midwest Regional showdown Thursday night in the second round of the NCAA tournament. They both score and rebound.
Colorado State holds a 25-8 record after its loss in the semifinals of the Mountain West tournament to UNLV, 75-65. The Rams average 73.1 points per game and are fourth in the nation in rebounding with 40.4 boards.
Missouri enters the contest at 23-10 and lost in the quarterfinals of the SEC tournament to Mississippi, 64-62. The Tigers have a slight advantage statistically with their 76.2 points and 41.4 rebounds per game (second in NCAA).
This will be the 10th appearance for Colorado State in the NCAA tournament while Missouri is making its 26th visit to the Big Dance.
Where: Lexington, Kentucky at Rupp Arena
When: Thursday, March 21 at 9:20 p.m. ET
Betting Line: Missouri -2.5 (via Sportsbook.com)
Key Injuries (Injury reports are from USA Today)
Colorado State: Jesse Carr (missed entire season with torn ACL)
What's at Stake?
The winner will advance to the third round of the NCAA tournament. Considering that a No. 16 seed has never beaten a No. 1 seed, Louisville is the likely opponent. If there is a historical upset and the Cardinals fall in their first game, North Carolina A&T and Liberty are the other possible teams.
What They're Saying
Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post mentions how Colorado State head coach Larry Eustachy has the experience to get his teams to the NCAA tournament consistently. Colorado State has become the fourth school to go dancing under Eustachy, joining Utah State, Iowa State and Southern Mississippi.
It is the third time in CSU history that the team has gone to the NCAA Tournament in consecutive years. This time, however, feels more sustainable than ever before with first-year coach Larry Eustachy at the helm. If there's anyone who knows what kind of springboard two consecutive NCAA Tournaments can be when building a program, it's Eustachy.
HoopsWorld.com talks about how defense will be an important factor if Missouri wants to make some noise in March Madness.
Defense is key for the Tigers. Against elite competition they really struggled to get stops at the rate they needed to in order to be successful. Improved play on that end of the floor is going to be vital for the Tigers if they are going to survive past the opening weekend for the first time since 2009, when they made it to Elite Eight.
Most Important Player to Watch: Colorado State's Colton Iverson.
Colton Iverson has been a dominant force for the Rams this season. He can post up in the paint with his 6'10" frame, run the floor in transition and alter shots on the defensive end.
Additionally, not only does Iverson lead the team with 14.7 points and 9.8 rebounds per game, his 59.9 field-goal percentage is the best on the Rams as well.
The challenge for Iverson is going to be at the free-throw line. Iverson has been to the line for 214 attempts, but only converts at 58.9 percent. Should the game be close, Iverson's ability to knock down the free ones could make the difference.
Key Matchup: Rebounding.
While both teams are excellent on the glass, they excel in different ways.
Iverson and Pierce Hornung both average over nine rebounds per game for the Rams. After that, Greg Smith and Daniel Bejarano take down just over five boards. Every other Colorado State player averages under three rebounds.
Missouri does it more by committee. All seven players who currently see significant playing time average at least 3.4 rebounds with Alex Oriakhi leading the way with 8.6 boards.
For Colorado State, Hornung gets 45.4 percent of his rebounds on the offensive end. Second-chance points will be a huge factor in keeping up with Missouri's high-powered offense.
Which team will win?
If Missouri wins the battle of the boards, the Tigers will push the ball in transition.
Prediction: Colorado State 74 Missouri 72
All five starters for the Rams are seniors. Colorado State uses its experience to win a close one.