COLUMBIA – Missouri men's basketball coach Frank Haith says the NCAA Tournament is a new chapter, a new season. But it looks a lot like the season the Tigers just finished up.
Missouri starts play in the tournament Friday in Omaha, Neb., and if the team defeats Norfolk State, it will play again Sunday in the same location. If the Tigers win Sunday, they will play Thursday in Phoenix, and if they win again, they will stay in Phoenix to play again Saturday.
No. 2 seed Missouri (30-4)
vs. No. 15 seed Norfolk State (25-9)
WHEN: 3:40 p.m. Friday
WHERE: CenturyLink Center, Omaha, Neb.
RADIO: KTGR/1580 AM, 100.5 FM; KCMQ/96.7 FM
The two-games-in-three-days scenario is familiar to the Tigers, who in January and February played a series of quick-turnaround games against opponents including Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Kansas and Oklahoma. Four of the six were home games, but Missouri won all six. Two of those opponents, Texas and Kansas, will be playing in the tournament, the Longhorns in the East region and the Jayhawks in the Midwest region.
“These guys have been in some difficult situations. There’s no question,” Haith said of Missouri. “Turnaround games we’ve had in the Big 12, the CBE Classic, then in the conference tournament playing three straight days. They’ve played out a bunch of scenarios that I think are beneficial when you get into tournament play, like in the NCAA tournament."
Senior guard Marcus Denmon said the team is an experienced group, and no matter the game format, the Tigers will be fine. Denmon said he thinks Missouri’s guard play will be key to the team winning games. And because most of the players on Missouri's team have been to the NCAA Tournament before, they won’t have to deal with the first-time jitters or adjusting to the new scenery.
Traveling and trying to balance schoolwork and basketball are concerns for senior center Steve Moore. But because the Tigers have experienced a number of grueling schedules before, he said he thinks his team will know what to expect and be able to handle it. In his free time, Moore plans to read for classes and do homework.
Thinking back to Missouri’s 2009 trip to the Elite Eight, Denmon said he mainly remembers how much fun it was to win. He said this season, the Tigers are focusing on continuing to win, taking it one game at a time.
“We’re a confident team,” Denmon said. “We understand how much more hard work is going to go into this week to get prepared for the NCAA Tournament. I think this group is really focused, and we’ll be ready come Friday.”