Breaking down the West Region
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Missouri's finally back in the NCAA Tournament after what felt like an eternity — five years. Here's what we know. The Tigers will face No. 9 seed Florida State on Friday night in Nashville at 8:50 p.m. Outside of that? Not much.
For a refresher on the 'Noles and whoever else Missouri could face if they keep advancing, here's a breakdown of the West Region from top to bottom.
Record: 28-5 (15-3 Big East)
The skinny: The Musketeers are led by two outstanding guards in Trevon Blueitt and JP Macura, as well big man Kerem Kanter. They should easily move past North Carolina Central or Texas Southern, but don’t be shocked if Missouri or Florida State’s size and athleticism give them trouble in the second round.
16) North Carolina Central/Texas Southern
Record: TSU 15-19 (12-6 SWAC), NCC 19-15 (9-7 MEAC)
RPI/KenPom: TSU (249/227), NCC (282/309)
The skinny: A No. 16 seed has never beat a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. I don’t see these teams — neither of which won their regular season league title — pulling that off this year.
Record: 20-12 (10-8 SEC)
The skinny: Losing Jordan Barnett to suspension a week before the NCAA Tournament is, um … less than ideal. But Missouri’s wild card is Michael Porter Jr. If he can be effective even as a spot-up jump shooter, this team could make some noise on the first two weekends.
9) Florida State
Record: 20-11 (9-9 ACC)
The skinny: The Seminoles pose a big challenge — literally — for anyone they’ll play. 7-footers Ike Obiagu and Christ Koumadje are large presences on the interior, and FSU has a stable of athletic guards and wings for teams to contend with.
5) Ohio St.
Record: 24-8 (15-3 Big Ten)
The skinny: Everything for the Buckeyes starts and ends with Keita Bates-Diop, their all-everything forward who leads the team at 19.4 points per game. OSU is another team with an athletic backcourt that makes this group a sleeper in the West.
12) South Dakota St.
Record: 28-6 (13-1 Summit)
The skinny: The first SDSU in the West Region, South Dakota State ran roughshod over the Summit League en route to regular season and tournament titles. They shoot — a lot — and if they can get hot from deep, watch out.
Record: 30-4 (17-1 WCC)
The skinny: Led my former Missouri forward Jonathan Williams III, the Zags are one of, if not the most, balanced teams in this year’s tournament. They haven’t been tested much this year, but Mark Few always has his group ready for March.
Record: 27-7 (15-3 SOCON)
The skinny: UNCG is among the best field goal percentage defense teams in the country, as well as one of the best offensive rebounding teams, too. They’ll have a tough time against Gonzaga, though, as the Bulldogs are one of the best defensive rebounding groups anywhere.
Record: 26-7 (14-4 AAC)
The skinny: The Cougars are another extremely good defensive group, ranking in the top-20 in both effective field goal percentage and defensive efficiency. They’re one of the few teams in this region that can slow down the likes of Michigan or North Carolina.
11) San Diego State
Record: 22-10 (11-7 MW)
The skinny: This SDSU is one of the hottest teams in the country right now, winning nine straight games, including the Mountain West tournament title. 6-foot-10 forward Malik Pope — a one-time projected lottery pick — is a tough guard for anyone, and the Aztecs have two experienced guards in Trey Kell and Jeremy Hemsley.
Record: 28-7 (13-5 Big Ten)
The skinny: Michigan also comes into the Big Dance piping-hot, having won nine in a row and the Big Ten title. The Wolverines take a bunch of 3-pointers, but they aren’t one of the more efficient teams in the country from behind the arc. Still, Mo Wagner and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman present a tough inside-outside punch that could carry this team into the second weekend.
Record: 26-7 (16-2 Big Sky)
The skinny: Montana is an intriguing team because while it doesn’t do any one thing on either side of the ball particularly well, the Grizzlies are solid basically everywhere. Guards Ahmaad Rorie and Michael Oguine are the engine’s that make this group go.
7) Texas A&M
Record: 20-12 (9-9 SEC)
The skinny: Talk about a terrifying No. 7 seed. A&M opened the season 11-1 and was ranked as high No. 5 in the coaches poll before SEC play began. The Aggies proceeded to drop their next five games, and they plummeted out of the rankings. With Tyler Davis, DJ Hogg, T.J. Starks, Admon Gilder and Robert Williams, the Aggies have one of the most talented starting groups not only in this region, but in the entire tournament. Look out.
Record: 21-13 (10-8 Big East)
The skinny: The Friars might’ve gotten the worst draw of any No. 10 seed with Texas A&M in the first round and then a matchup with North Carolina if they get out of that. The Friars have lots of length and defend the long ball well, something they’ll need to do well to slow down this A&M offense.
2) North Carolina
Record: 25-10 (11-7 ACC)
The skinny: Don’t let the number of losses fool you; this Carolina team could be primed for another deep run, led by Theo Pinson and a host of talented underclassmen. The Heels played the toughest schedule in the entire country this year, so no moment in this tournament should be too big for this group.
Record: 23-9 (10-4 Atlantic Sun)
The skinny: The Bison love to slow down the tempo, almost a mirror opposite to Carolina. They ranked No. 5 nationally in lowest average tempo, and they also rank in the bottom 10 in possession length. To slow down this Carolina offense though, they might just need a miracle.