March 20, 2009
BOISE, ID--The Missouri Tigers are in the NCAA tournament for the first time in six years. Mizzou tips against the Cornell Big Red at approximately 1 p.m. local time this afternoon. Missouri comes into the game 28-and-6, winners of the Big 12 tournament title and the third seed in the West Region. Cornell is 21-and-9 and the Ivy League champ, seeded 14th in the region.
Three Keys to the Game
Overcome the Nerves: It should be expected that the Tigers may come out a little tight. They've never been in this situation before. Like it or not, things are different when you step on the court for an NCAA tournament game. The Tigers can afford to be tight for five or ten minutes. They can't afford to be tight for 25 or 30.
Defend the Perimeter: Mizzou did this very well all season long, led by J.T. Tiller and Zaire Taylor. The Tigers led the Big 12 by a comfortable margin in three-point field goal defense. If Cornell is going to hang around, they're going to do it on the strength of the three-point shot. If the Big Red doesn't hit a good percentage from beyond the arc, it simply cannot win.
Over at Half: Missouri's strength is the second half and has been all year long. In most games, if the Tigers are close at halftime, they're in great shape. But today needs to be different. In the tournament, the longer you let an underdog hang around, the better chance you have of losing. Missouri needs to put a run on in the first half and be up double digits at the break. If the Tigers are, they won't lose. The longer they lot Cornell hang around, the better the chance a big shot or two can change the outcome.
Official Prediction: It may not start out as a thing of beauty. But three seeds are 82-15 in the first round in this tournament after last night. There's a reason for that. Missouri is, simply, a much better team. Cornell can't match the athleticism of Carroll and Lyons down low, and they haven't seen defense out top like that Tiller and Taylor will play. Missouri should roll 82-65.
PowerMizzou.com will provide complete coverage from Taco Bell Arena tonight.
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