(2) Missouri vs. (15) Norfolk State: West Region
Missouri 30-4, 14-4 Big 12 (Conference Tournament Champions)
Norfolk State 25-9, 13-3 (Conference Tournament Champions)
Time: 4:40 p.m. Friday
Location: CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Neb.
Winner will face: (7) Florida or (10) Virginia, Sunday
Missouri No. 3 AP; No. 3 ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll
Norfolk State 132
Line: Missouri -21½ (O/U 145)
Players to Watch
Missouri: G Marcus Denmon, 6-3 Sr. (17.6 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 40.9% 3s); F Ricardo Ratliffe, 6-8 Sr. (13.9 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 69.3% FG); G Phil Pressey, 5-10 So. (10 ppg, 6.3 apg, 2.1 spg). Pressey, who was strangely left off of the All-Big 12 team, is the engine that makes the Tigers go. In Saturday’s 90-75 Big 12 Tournament title game win over Baylor, Pressey proved it with 15 points, eight assists, five rebounds and a pair of steals.
Norfolk State: C Kyle O’Quinn, 6-10 Sr. (15.9 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 58.3% FG); G Pendarvis Williams, 6-6 So. (11.8 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 2.5 apg); F Rob Johnson, 6-7 Sr. (6.4 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 45.7% FG). O’Quinn earned the MEAC Player of the Year honor by leading the Spartans in minutes played, scoring, rebounding, blocked shots (2.7 per game) and field goal percentage. His 10.4 rebounds per game is 10th in the country.
Why Each Team Dangerous
Missouri: The Tigers are an incredible shooting team: 50.4 percent from the floor, which is second in the country, 39.5 from deep (14th nationally) and 76.6 from the foul line (eighth in the country). They made more free throws than their opponents attempted (546-516). They have a 16.2-to-10.3 assist-to-turnover ratio and a 14.4-to-10.3 turnover margin. Missouri shares the ball well and five different Tigers average double-figures scoring.
Norfolk State: The Spartans enter Friday’s game having won seven straight and nine of their last 10. They lost a 2-point game to 3-seed Marquette on a neutral floor and beat TCU by 13 points. This is a Norfolk State team that believes it can be competitive against top teams. O’Quinn and provides scoring and toughness.
Why Each Team is Vulnerable
Missouri: Although Michael Dixon and Matt Pressey are very good off of the bench, that’s it as far as Missouri’s depth. The Tigers have just two regulars who are 6-8 or taller and no one taller than 6-9. Six-foot-6 Kim English has been forced to play power forward most of the season. While he’s done a fine job in doing so, bigger, stronger teams could take advantage of this.
Norfolk State: The Spartans are not a good offensive team. They score just 69 points per game in one of the worst conferences in the country. They are shooting 44.3 percent from the floor and just 31.1 percent from beyond the 3-point line. Despite O’Quinn’s rebounding ability, Norfolk out-rebounded opponents just 39.8-to-38.3 per game. And the Spartans turn the ball over 3.3 times more per game than they have assists.
The Bottom Line: This is one of the biggest mismatches of the first round. Not even 22 points can keep me from taking Mizzou.
The Pick: Missouri 81, Norfolk State 51
Greg Against the Spread This Season: 198-150-6 (Through Tuesday, March 14)