By: Sammy Stava
The Selection Show on TBS Sunday evening revealed the NCAA Tournament Field of 68, and for the first time since 2012-2013 season, the Missouri Men’s Basketball team heard their name called.
20-12 overall and 10-8 in the SEC. That was enough for the Tigers to earn a No. 8 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
This is Cuonzo Martin’s third NCAA Tournament appearance in his 10th season as a head coach. He made the Sweet 16 in his last year with Tennessee as a No. 11 seed, and was a first-round exit in his second year at California as a No. 4 seed. For the seventh time in his 10 seasons as a head coach, Martin has won 20 games.
No. 8 Missouri will play No. 9 Florida State in the West Region, Friday night in Nashville, Tennessee at the Bridgestone Arena. The winner will all but likely play No. 1 seeded Xavier, the fourth overall No. 1 seed, which the Musketeers earned their first ever No. 1 seed in school history.
Like Missouri, Florida State (20-11) won 20 games this season. The Seminoles finished 9-9 in the ACC, which has the most teams of any conference (nine) in the NCAA Tournament.
The SEC came in second with eight teams in the NCAA Tournament as Missouri joined Auburn, Tennessee, Florida, Kentucky Arkansas, Texas A&M, and Alabama to make the Big Dance.
As most No. 8 vs No. 9 seed games are, this one figures to be a toss-up. Missouri is ranked No. 38 on KenPom, where Florida State is ranked No. 35. KenPom currently projects the Seminoles winning 76-5.
As a No. 8 seed, Missouri arguably got the best possible draw with the potential of having to play No. 1 Xavier, the fourth overall No. 1 seed. Not only does Missouri avoid having to play Virginia or Villanova, they are also playing in Nashville, a close proximity to Columbia, which should make it an easy travel for Tiger fans. They are also playing on a Friday, which gives them an extra day of practice. All of that makes it the best case scenario for Missouri as a No. 8 seed. They needed it.
It’s not going to get any easier for Missouri, as the Tigers will be without senior Jordan Barnett, their second-leading scorer. Barnett, arrested Saturday morning in Columbia for a DWI, has officially been suspended for the first game of the NCAA Tournament, Cuonzo Martin told reporters at a post Selection Show press conference. Barnett will travel and practice with the team in Nashville, and he could be available for Sunday if the Tigers do advance.
With Barnett’s suspension, Missouri is now down to only seven scholarship players. Will that come back to haunt the Tigers?
We will find out by Friday night. Missouri will tip-off their NCAA Tournament vs Florida State at 8:45 p.m. CT on TBS, and 550 KTRS on the radio side.