ANALYSIS: Despite title, Missouri likely to get two-seed

Saturday, March 10, 2012 | 9:40 p.m. CST; updated 10:56 p.m. CST, Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Missouri men's basketball team started up a chant as it stood on the platform after winning the 2012 Big 12 tournament championship game. 

"One seed! One seed!"

The black-and-gold clad crowd at the Sprint Center immediately joined in.

The NCAA selection committee will announce Missouri's seeding for the NCAA tournament at 5 p.m. Sunday. For now, the players can simply state their case for a top seed.

"Thirty wins, four losses with seven guys and arguably our best player (Laurence Bowers) out with an ACL injury," junior Michael Dixon said. "I don't think anybody at the beginning of the season would have predicted that. There's no way you could write that up and make a movie about it or anything."

Dixon is right about how impressively Missouri has played this season, but the numbers don't add up nearly as well in the Tigers' favor.

Eight teams have seemingly separated themselves from the rest of the country and have a chance to earn a No. 1 seed: Kentucky, Syracuse, Duke, North Carolina, Ohio State, Michigan State, Kansas and Missouri.

Of those eight, Missouri has played the weakest schedule and has the lowest ratings percentage index (RPI), a mathematical rankings system that the committee factors into its decisions. 

The Tigers' Big 12 tournament championship is an impressive addition to their resume, but it would've been more impressive if it included wins against Iowa State and Kansas rather than Texas and Baylor.

Kentucky and Syracuse are the only two schools that are pretty much guaranteed to receive No. 1 seeds on Sunday night. Kentucky lost only one game the whole season, a one-point loss to Indiana on a last-second shot on Dec. 10, and plays in the SEC tournament championship game on Sunday. Syracuse lost just two games — at Notre Dame on Jan. 21 and to Cincinnati in the Big East tournament on Friday.

This leaves six teams vying for the final two one-seeds. Duke likely took itself out of the running by losing to Florida State on Saturday afternoon. Michigan State and Ohio State will play each other in the Big 10 championship game on Sunday, the loser likely falling out of contention as well. North Carolina, which won the ACC regular season title, can make a very strong case by winning the ACC championship game on Sunday.

The decision for a one-seed could come down to Missouri and arch-rival Kansas. Although Kansas lost more games than Missouri, the Jayhawks' overall profile seems a little stronger. Kansas won the Big 12 regular season championship and ranks sixth in the country in strength of schedule and RPI.

The four teams out of those eight that don't receive one seeds will almost definitely receive two seeds. It appears Missouri will be one of those teams.

The difference between a one-seed and a two-seed in the NCAA tournament is marginal. One-seeds have a slightly easier path to the Final Four, getting to play weaker teams in the early rounds. 

An easier path to the final four is not why Missouri wants a one seed. For the Tigers, it's about respect.

"All 68 of those teams are capable," senior Kim English said. "I remember last year, VCU was one of the first four that played on (Tuesday and) Wednesday, and they got all the way to the Final Four. So, easiest path, not at all, it's the respect factor."

When the committee announces the full bracket on Sunday, teams will also find out the sites of their NCAA tournament games. 

Missouri coach Frank Haith hopes that the Tigers won't have to travel very much and that they'll end up in Omaha (the closest potential city for the first weekend) and St. Louis (the closest for the second weekend).

Missouri fans are being invited to watch the NCAA tournament selection show at Mizzou Arena on Sunday. The watch party begins at 4 p.m. and the show starts at 5.

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