COLUMBIA — For the first time in his collegiate career, Missouri guard Kim English gets to play near his hometown of Baltimore.
The NCAA selection committee announced Sunday that No. 11 seed Missouri will play No. 6 seed Cincinnati in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., approximately 40 miles south of Baltimore.
When the announcement was made, English stood up, raised both arms in the air and cheered.
“I’ve never played anywhere remotely close to home. Georgia, maybe,” English said. “My phone was buzzing like crazy once it said D.C., so I’m excited to be going back home so my friends and family can see me play.”
English had been saying for several weeks that he hoped Missouri would end up in Washington, D.C., for the first round, since several members of his family haven't seen him play in person since he began his Missouri career. Several of those family members, as well as English's friends, texted him immediately to let him know that they wanted tickets to the game, scheduled to tipoff at 8:50 p.m. Thursday.
“Nothing will get me away from being 110 percent focused on Cincinnati,” English said. “It’s great to know my family and friends will be there, but they have no burden on the game.”
Missouri players said they receive six tickets to the games to give to family and friends. Several weeks ago, English was already telling his teammates, if the Tigers ended up in Washington, D.C., he would need any extra tickets from them.
“He made it known that he need all the extra tickets,” Missouri forward Laurence Bowers said while laughing. “Me being from Memphis, I’m not sure that I’ll have six people there, so if I don’t use all of my tickets, I’m giving them to him. I heard him mention that some of his family has never seen him play in person, so this will be a great opportunity for him.”
After Sunday's announcement, English said he hopes to take his teammates to Baltimore. One place he is eager to visit is Mo’s Restaurant, a seafood restaurant downtown.
“For any guy on our team, getting an opportunity to go back home and meet up with family and friends, and them getting a chance to see him there is exciting,” Missouri coach Mike Anderson said. “He’ll get a chance to show off that area to our guys, and if you know Kimmy, he’s going to be doing a lot of talking.”
On Saturday, the day before the brackets were announced, English tweeted: “Dc.. District of Columbia...Nations Capitol.. Verizon Center. Dc. Interstate 95.. Dc. Please selection committee. Family never seen me play.”
At that time, college basketball analysts were not projecting Missouri to Washington, D.C., but rather, to Cleveland or Chicago.
If Missouri beats Cincinnati, it will face either No. 3 seed Connecticut or No. 14 seed Bucknell. If Missouri wins in the second round, it will travel to Anaheim, Calif.