(2) Missouri vs. (15) Norfolk State Preview
Senior NBA & College Basketball Editor
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(2) Missouri Tigers
A preseason injury to Laurence Bowers, a medical redshirt this year, momentarily reduced expectations for this team. A 14-game winning streak to start the season showed that they were still going to be very formidable without him. They were the winners of the Big 12 tournament championship in their final year with the league before moving over to the SEC. Senior guard Marcus Denmon has put together an All-American worthy campaign in his final year of eligibility. He’s scoring 18 points, grabbing five rebounds and dishing out two assists a game. Ricardo Ratliffe is the team’s unsung hero. His play inside has been instrumental in the Tigers being able to get by without Bowers. Ratliffe leads the nation in field goal percentage at 71 percent. Kim English, Michael Dixon and Phil Pressey are the other Tigers to keep an eye on as they are also very capable offensively. The Tigers were an impressive 3-1 against teams in the RPI Top 25. They aren’t as tough defensively as they are traditionally, but still good enough overall to win multiple games. They have to make sure they do a better job rebounding if they want to be successful in the tournament.
(15) Norfolk State Spartans
For the first time in school history the Spartans, winners of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament, are dancing in March. They won seven straight to close out the year, defeating Bethune-Cookman in the tournament championship by three to clinch their spot. Senior center Kyle O’Quinn is their catalyst. He averaged a team-high 15 points, 10 rebounds and 2.7 blocks this season and will be looking to make the most out of his first opportunity to play on the big stage. The Spartans nearly defeated Marquette early in the year and have one RPI Top 75 win, against Drexel, under their belt. They are upperclassman-heavy with three of their top four players being seniors. They won’t take many threes as they shoot just 31 percent as a team. They also struggle at the line, where they only made 65 percent of their attempts on the year. To make this season even more memorable than it already is, they’ll have to value every possession and take care of the basketball.
HOOPSWORLD’s pick: Missouri. The Tigers have too much offensive fire power for the Spartans to match.
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