On Friday (3:40 P.M., TNT), the #2 seeded Missouri Tigers (30-4) will open NCAA Tournament play in the West Region bracket in Omaha (NE) against the #15 seeded Norfolk State Spartans (25-9).
The Spartans are making their first-ever NCAA Division I Basketball Tournament appearance after gaining an automatic berth by winning their first-ever Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championship, with a 73-70 win over Bethune-Cookman. NSU reached the Division II national semifinals is 1995, before becoming a Division I program in 1997-98.
"We're excited to be playing Missouri in our first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance," said NSU Head Coach Anthony Evans. "They represent a big challenge for us, but one we will embrace. We hope to represent NSU and the MEAC well."
The Spartans leading scorer and rebounder is 6'10" senior Kyle O'Quinn, who is averaging 15.9 points/game and 10.4 rebounds/game. O'Quinn is a double-double machine, with 19 double-doubles on the season, which ranks fifth nationally. His 58% FG% ranks thirteenth nationally. He also has 2.8 blocked shots per game this season, which is among the national leaders, as well.
NSU features a total of three double-digit scorers, including 6'6" senior guard Chris McEachin (12.8 points/game) and 6'6" sophomore guard Pendarvis Williams (11.8 points/game, 3.8 rebounds/game). Williams is an 81% free-throw shooter.
Norfolk State Starters (25-9, 13-1 MEAC) - Based on the most recent game
Pos. No. Name HT WT YR P/G R/G A/G S/G Hometown
F 32 Marcos Tamares 6-7 210 Sr. 6.8 2.5 0.6 0.8 Queens, N.Y.
C 10 Kyle O'Quinn 6-10 240 Sr. 15.9 10.4 1.4 0.7 Jamaica, N.Y.
G 11 Pendarvis Williams 6-6 195 So. 11.8 3.8 2.5 1.0 Philadelphia, Pa.
G/F 15 Rodney McCauley 6-5 205 Sr. 3.4 2.5 1.2 1.0 Dallas, Texas
G/F 35 Chris McEachin 6-6 195 Sr. 12.8 3.0 1.2 1.3 Norfolk, Va.
Coach Evans has regularly played up to ten people, including , 6'7" junior Rob Johnson, 6'3" sophomore guard Jamal Fuentes, 6'4" senior guard Brandon Wheeless, 6'7" junior forward A.J. Rogers, and 6'0" junior guard Quasim Pugh.
On the season, Norfolk State has averaged 69 points/game, and has shot 44% from the field, 31% from 3-PT range, and 65% from the FT line.
Defense is Norfolk State's calling card, as the Spartans have surrendered just 66 points/game on the season. The Spartans' length is a factor in having held opponents to 41% from the field, and just 30% from 3-PT land.
"Norfolk State is long and athletic," said Missouri Head Coach Frank Haith. "They're just a very athletic team. O'Quinn is just so long. He's big. He's got a chance to be an NBA player. Their size and length are as good as anybody we've played all year. Their point guard is 6'6", so it's going to be a challenge for us."
The Spartans have wins this season over Drexel, Long Island, and TCU.
Norfolk State opened the season with a 30-point loss at Marquette. A week later, Norfolk State fell to Marquette by just 2 points, at 57-59. O'Quinn posted a double-double in that one, with 10 points and 13 rebounds.
Norfolk State has been plagued by a high number of turnovers. The Spartans have turned the ball over more than 15 times per game, and on the season they have more turnovers than assists.
Last weekend, Missouri took home the hardware from the Big 12 Tournament, wrapping things up in Kansas City with a 90-75 championship game victory over Baylor, Missouri's third straight win over the Bears this season.
At 1.18 points per possession, Missouri is the most efficient offensive team in the country. Six of the last seven national champions have been rated first or second in the KenPom.com adjusted offensive efficiency rankings where this year, Missouri is rated number one, with 125.5 points per 100 possessions.
As Coach Haith has often stated, Missouri is good enough offensively. The key to their success is in defending and rebounding. That same formula will apply in the NCAA Tournament. Against Norfolk State, Missouri should be able to create turnovers and get some easy offense in transition. Norfolk State is a team that fouls a lot, and Missouri is one of the nation's best free throw shooting teams. It will be important for the Tigers to attack the basket and get into the bonus early.
Missouri Starters (30-4, 14-4 Big 12) - Based on the most recent game
Pos. No. Name HT WT YR P/G R/G A/G S/G Hometown
F 10 Ricardo Ratli?e 6-8 240 Sr. 13.9 7.5 0.6 0.6 Hampton, Va.
G 1 Phil Pressey 5-10 175 So. 10.0 3.4 6.3 2.2 Dallas, Texas
G 3 Matt Pressey 6-2 195 Sr. 6.2 2.9 1.6 0.8 Dallas, Texas
G 12 Marcus Denmon 6-3 185 Sr. 17.6 5.1 2.1 1.6 Kansas City, Mo.
G 24 Kim English 6-6 200 Sr. 14.9 4.2 1.6 1.3 Baltimore, Md.
Missouri enters the NCAA Tournament with five players averaging double-digits in scoring. All-American Marcus Denmon is averaging 17.6 points/game, 5.1 rebounds/game, 2.1 assists/game, and 1.6 steals/game. He's shooting 46% from the field, 41% from 3-PT range, and 90% from the FT line, which ranks fifth in the country. He carries a 1.8 assist/turnover ratio into the NCAA Tournament, which is quite remarkable for a player who is both a major focus of his team's offense, and of their opponents' defense. Denmon played on a sprained ankle last weekend, and his health is a big factor for Missouri in the tournament. The word mid-week is that Denmon will be good to go on Friday.
Denmon has scored 1755 points during his Missouri career. With 5 points scored, Denmon will move past Arthur Johnson into fifth place on Missouri's career scoring list.
Here's Mizzou's top five career scoring list:
1. Derrick Chievous (1985-88) 2,580
2. Doug Smith (1988-91) 2,184
3. Anthony Peeler (1989-92) 1,970
4. Steve Stipanovich (1980-83) 1,836
5. Arthur Johnson (2001-04) 1,759
Big 12 Tournament MOP Kim English is averaging 14.9 points/game, 4.2 rebounds/game, and 1.3 steals/game. He's shooting 53% from the field, and 47% from 3-PT land. Last week in Kansas City, English shot the basketball better than at any time in his career. During the Big 12 Tournament, he shot 79% from the field, and 67% from 3-PT range. If he continues to shoot the basketball like that, Missouri could be a very tough out.
Ricardo Raliffe leads the country in field goal percentage, at 69% from the field on the season. He's averaging 13.9 points/game and 7.5 rebounds/game. His match-up with O'Quinn will be huge for Missouri in this one. Worth noting is that Ratliffe faired pretty well against another pretty good double-double guy a couple of weeks ago in Lawrence.
Michael Dixon comes off of the bench for Missouri to average 13.3 points/game, 3.3 assists/game, and 1.2 steals/game. He's shot 48% from the field, 35% from 3-PT range, and 88% from the free-throw line. Dixon scored the 1,000th point of his career last weekend in Kansas City, which gives Missouri three 1,000-point scorers on this team.
Phil Pressey is averaging 10 points/game, 3.4 rebounds/game, 6.3 assists/game, and 2.1 steals/game. He's shot 42% from the field, 34% from 3-PT range, and 77% from the FT line. He carries a 2.6 assists/turnover ratio into the NCAA Tournament. His 215 assists this year is a single-season school record.
English also leads the Tigers in charging fouls taken, although teammate Steve Moore is the one who is the master of that art. In addition, Moore has 40 blocked shots on the season, and has gone over 100 blocked shots for his career.
As a team, Missouri ranks in the top 10 nationally in several statistical categories, including won-lost percentage, scoring (80.3 points/game), scoring margin (14.6), field-goal percentage (50% FG%, third nationally), free-throw percentage (77% FT%), assist/turnover ratio (1,57 A/T ratio, second nationally), turnovers/game (10.3), turnover margin (4.1), and fouls/game (14.1).
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