COLUMBIA— The Missouri men’s basketball team has a date to the “Big Dance.”
On Sunday the Tigers were selected as the No. 9 seed in the Midwest Region, making it five straight years that Missouri has been invited to the NCAA Tournament. Their date?
The No. 8 seeded Colorado State Rams.
“A lot of teams don't get this opportunity,” senior forward Laurence Bowers said.
The Tigers second round matchup will be on Thursday at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky., at 8:20 p.m., playing a Colorado State team that they don’t know much about.
“We're going to learn a lot more tonight,” head coach Frank Haith said in a press conference following the tournament selection. “I know they're big. They're one of the better rebounding teams in the country.”
Missouri has faced Colorado State only twice in its history, both games being played in the '60s. The Rams play in the Mountain West Conference and finished the season 25-8 overall and 11-5 in league play. They are fourth in the nation in rebounding and feature senior Colton Iverson, who is averaging 14.7 points and 9.7 rebounds per game.
Last year, Missouri was seeded No. 2 in the tournament but was upset 86-84 in its first game against the No. 15 seed Norfolk State.
“Anybody can be beat,” Phil Pressey said, the only member from this year’s team that played in the loss. “Everybody brings their A-game come NCAA Tournament (time). Everybody has that dream of winning the whole thing.
“I can't wait to play Colorado State (on) Thursday.”
This will be the second time this season that the Tigers have played in Lexington. They lost to the Kentucky Wildcats on the road in overtime last month.
If Missouri gets past Colorado State, their next likely opponent will be No. 1 seed Louisville, who plays the winner of the first round play-in game between North Carolina A&T and Liberty.
The bracket has been made, and Missouri’s date to the “Big Dance” on Thursday could be its last date of the year.
Until then, the Tigers will be watching tapes, running through drills and preparing for the most anticipated tournament in the college basketball season.
“It's extreme preparation because you really don't know the teams you're about to play,” Bowers said. “You have to play with a sense of urgency because if you lose, you're done. None of us want our season to be over with.
“I really think we have a team that can go on a special run.”