BOISE, Idaho — Shortly after the NCAA selection committee placed the Missouri men’s basketball team in Boise, Idaho, coach Mike Anderson said the relatively small city nestled in the Rocky Mountains wouldn’t be a bad place for his team.
“It’s a ways from home, no question about it, but at the same time there’s not a whole lot to do but play basketball,” Anderson said on Selection Sunday. “I like that part of it.”
No. 3 seed Missouri (29-6) vs. No. 6 seed Marquette (25-9)
WHEN: 3:50 p.m.
WHERE: Taco Bell Arena, Boise, Idaho
TV: KRCG/Channel 13
RADIO: KFRU/1400 AM, KBXR/102.3 FM
This year is the fourth time Anderson has visited Boise as a coach in the NCAA Tournament, and he said it’s one of his favorite places. The Tigers arrived Wednesday, but between practicing, watching other games and watching opponents, the team hasn’t had much time to see the city.
“I didn’t expect to like it,” senior forward DeMarre Carroll said. “But it kind of grows on you.”
The team did take a trip to the mall, where Missouri forward Leo Lyons said he had a conversation with some alums of MU’s nursing school The enthusiasm of the basketball fans he saw seemed to impress the senior, and he called Boise a “basketball town.”
Of course, Boise State’s football team has made plenty of national headlines since its 2007 upset of Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl. The blue turf at Bronco Stadium has become one of the city’s most recognizable attributes.
“We’re thinking about trying to get out there,” Lyons said.
As much as he says he likes the city, Anderson has always left Boise with a sour taste in his mouth. Although his teams won their first-round games two out of three times, the teams he has coached have always left the city after a loss.
No. 3 seed Missouri will have a chance to change that this afternoon against No. 6 seed Marquette. The Golden Eagles beat Utah State 58-57 in the first round Friday with Missouri in the stands for much of the second half, and many of the Tigers watched Marquette play several times on national television this season.
“They’re a very good basketball team and very well tested, playing in the Big East, which has been renowned as the best conference in the country this season,” senior guard Matt Lawrence said. “We know that we’re going to get their best shot, and they’ve seen a lot of good talent, so they’re not going to be afraid of us by any means.”
Marquette’s players said playing other teams in the Big East, particularly Louisville, helped to prepare them for Missouri’s energetic pressure defense. Coach Buzz Williams and his players don’t mind pushing the basketball, but they admitted they don’t want to play at the pace of the Tigers.
“I don’t know how our rotation is going to be,” Marquette guard Wesley Matthews said. “That’s their style. We’re going to do what we do.”
The Golden Eagles rely heavily on their two guards, Mathews and Jerel McNeal, as well as forward Lazar Hayward. All three have the ability to play on the perimeter and get into the lane to create layups and openings for their teammates.
“Obviously, in 40 minutes of basketball, they’re going to get past some of us,” Missouri forward Keith Ramsey said. “So we’ve just got to help out.”
But that reliance could hurt Marquette, who played only seven players on Friday. Meanwhile, Missouri has nine players averaging more than 10 minutes per game.
The Tigers might also have a rare size advantage in the post. At 6 feet 8, forward Dwight Burke is the only player in Marquette’s rotation taller than 6-6.
For the first time in his coaching career, Anderson enters the second round at Boise as the coach for the higher seed. Sunday, he will try to make it the first time he leaves with a victory.