Missouri will face Colorado State in the NCAA Tournament's Midwest Region on Thursday night. PowerMizzou.com had a chance to speak with Ryan Krous, the publisher of GoldandGreenNews.com to get his take on the matchup.
The known star for CSU is Colton Iverson. Tell me about his game and how important he's been to the Rams. How do you see the matchup between Iverson and Alex Oriakhi?
Krous: Iverson has been a beast in his only season at CSU. The 6-10 senior has averaged 14.7 points and 9.8 rebounds and was widely considered a top candidate for MWC Player of the Year, but lost out to New Mexico's Kendall Williams. He ended up being named first team all-conference. Iverson is your prototypical big that has fairly polished post moves and does all of his damage around the rim. He isn't super athletic, but has enough nimbleness to be able to run high pick-and-rolls on offense and help out with weak-side defense and come away with the occasional block. Iverson's biggest weakness is at the foul line, but he should be a handful for the Tigers. When CSU is rolling, it's because they are feeding Iverson the rock inside and clearing out so he can go to work. He's been good for most of the season in staying out of foul trouble, too. But if there is a big advantage inside for the Tiger's, it's in the athleticism of their frontcourt as opposed to the Rams'. CSU's biggest struggles on offense have come when teams are able to effectively double-team Iverson in the low block and force him into bad passes out to the perimeter players.
Outside of Iverson, who really makes the Rams go?
Krous: CSU and Mizzou are very similar in that on any given night, you never know who will lead each team in scoring. Iverson is the team's leading scorer, but seniors Dorian Green, Wes Eikmeier, Pierce Hornung, and Greg Smith have each had team-high scoring nights this season. Guards Green and Eikmeier are the catalysts on offense, while Iverson and Hornung are the guys down low that typically pick up second chance points or score around the basket. Smith is a mix of everything; he can score along the perimeter or post up forwards down low. Eustachy preaches an uptempo offense, where a lot of points are scored in transition. But overall, there are a lot of weapons on offense that, when they are playing with confidence, are very hard to stop.
Missouri fans are very familiar with Larry Eustachy. What has he brought to Fort Collins in year one?
Krous: Eustachy has gotten a great deal of praise in his first year in Fort Collins, and deservedly so. But he also inherited a team that returned six seniors (guard Jesse Carr has missed all year with torn knee ligaments) with an enormous amount of experience, including a team that received an at-large bid into last year's NCAA tournament. The two areas that have seen the greatest amount of improvement from Tim Miles' teams are more discipline and better rebounding, granted Miles didn't have Iverson at his disposal last year. Eustachy spent the large majority of the offseason and early practices this season strictly on the fundamentals of boxing out and rebounding, and it's clearly shown through this team's success. Aside from his teaching methods, Eustachy has also brought a confidence to this team, something that previous CSU teams were lacking.
CSU has a lot of experience on the roster, but how many of those guys have NCAA Tournament experience? And do you think that's a factor on Thursday?
Krous: CSU's starting five, all seniors, have tournament experience (Iverson played in the tournament with Minnesota). While that may have only been one game last season against Murray State, CSU has played with a target on its back much of the season in big games against New Mexico, UNLV and San Diego State, so they are used to the bigger stage. That was among the biggest factors in their awful showing against MSU in last year's tournament game -- they looked scared and hesitant on the big stage. I'm not saying they won't show any nervousness come Thursday night, but many of the players have been there, done that, with the exception of bench players Daniel Bejarano (the Mountain West's Sixth Man of the Year), Jonathon Octeus and Gerson Santo. Certainly, Mizzou's players have more big stage experience, though.
What do you think are the Rams' biggest advantages and disadvantages in the matchup?
Krous: CSU's biggest advantage will be a group a seniors that have, with the exception of Iverson (only one year) and Eikmeier (three years) have spent all four years playing together. They've shown resiliency throughout the season and know how to come up big in close games. They are well-balanced on both ends of the floor. Their biggest strengths this season have been in huge rebounding advantages and being able to share the wealth of scoring. Both of those areas will no longer be advantages against the Tigers. If there is one area of glaring concern for me, it's Mizzou's big advantage in the athleticism department. That has been CSU's Achilles Heel in losses to SDSU, UNM, UNLV, and Colorado. That, and giving up huge scoring nights to guards. If they can limit the production of Pressey, Brown and Bell, they have a good chance of playing well.
How do you see the game playing out and what is your prediction?
Krous: CSU set a school record with 27 straight home wins (dating back to last season) due in large part to playing with an enormous amount of confidence. Since a loss to New Mexico at home, the Rams have been up and down mentally. When they are confident, they have the makings to be an upset-minded team that can possibly make a big run in the tournament. But I haven't really seen that same moxie over the past several weeks. Couple that with the uncertainty of Dorian Green's sprained ankle, and it's really hard to know what CSU team you're going to see Thursday. That being said, this should be a very close game, but I see Pressey's playmaking ability and the Tigers' overall athleticism being too much for CSU in the end. Mizzou pulls out a win in Lexington, 68-61.
PowerMizzou.com will be on the road with the Tigers throughout the NCAA Tournament and will provide complete coverage from Lexington, KY this week.
Nobody covers Mizzou basketball like PowerMizzou.com. If you are not yet a member, just try out our seven-day free trial.