As the NCAA Tournament prepares to kick off, we're in a remarkably exciting position this year here in the Gateway City. Our very own Billikens are getting national hype from all corners as a team with the potential to make a deep tournament run, and just a couple hours to the west, the somewhat confounding but oh-so-talented Missouri Tigers are hoping to avenge last year's March Meltdown. (Patent pending.)
So what is a St. Louis basketball fan to do? Which of these two Show-Me State powerhouses should you be following? More importantly, which one should you be betting on to win your office pool and make Larry from accounting cry? (Suck it, Larry from accounting!)
Have no fear, sports fan. The RFT is here to break it down for you.
First off, both the Tigers and the Billikens do have one very important factor working in their respective favors: both are playing in the Midwest region, putting them both in at least somewhat friendly territory. The games are all still on neutral floors, of course, but at least it isn't Duke University opening up in Fresno or that sort of thing.
The similarities don't end there, though. Given that Mizzou and SLU are only a few lines apart in their bracket, their roads could both include many of the same teams, were either to make a long run into either the Elite Eight or even Final Four rounds. In fact, it's entirely possible the Tigers and Billikens could play each other in the Sweet Sixteen. (Though that isn't all that likely; more on that in a moment.)
Projection: Mizzou won't get past 2nd round
The Tigers, as the ninth seed in the region, will actually play their first game as an underdog, however slight, as they draw the Colorado State Rams. The Rams and Mizzou are very similar teams, making for an intriguing matchup. Missouri is a bit better offensively, while Colorado State is stronger defensively. (Or at least less underachieving, perhaps?) Both teams boast absolutely elite rebounding, as the Rams rank fourth in the nation, and the Tigers rank second in rebounds per game. It's going to be a tight game, but the Tigers should be able to push the tempo enough to outscore the Rams in the end.
Unfortunately, that's where the road probably ends for Mizzou, as barring a first-time-ever occurrence in this year's tournament (a #1 seed losing to a #16), they will take on the No. 1 overall seeded Louisville Cardinals in the round of 32. These two teams have already played once this year, back in late November, and the results weren't pretty, with Rick Pitino's bunch beating the Tigers 84-61. It should be closer this time around, but I'm afraid Mizzou is still going home.
Next up: SLU's chances look better than Missouri's but still there's this...
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