The sharp shooting Tigers of Missouri, the West Region’s No. 2 seed, will face Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament champion Norfolk State in tomorrow’s second round of NCAA Tournament action. Friday’s clash between Mizzou and Norfolk State is scheduled for a 4:40pm ET tip at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Nebraska. NCAA Bracket Picks have the Tigers listed as a -21.5 against the spread favorite and the Over/Under set at 144 points.
Norfolk State finished a game back of Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champion Savannah State in the regular season, but the Spartans won three straight in the conference tournament to procure an automatic NCAA Tournament berth. Norfolk State beat Howard, Florida A&M, and Bethune-Cookman in securing the post-season title; the impressive run extended the team’s win streak to seven games.
The Spartans, who are 1-2 against fellow tournament teams, are a guard oriented club, much like Missouri, but the center piece of their team is senior big man Kyle O’Quinn. The 6′ 10″ New York native is averaging a 15.9 points and 10.4 rebounds per game for the season. A 58 percent field goal shooter, O’Quinn is also averaging 2.7 blocks per contest.
Norfolk State, which is making its first ever NCAA Tournament appearance, will need a monster effort from O’Quinn in order to keep things close tomorrow. The 30-4 Tigers have a thin bench but what they lack in depth they more than make up for with shooting, quickness, and ball skill.
The Tigers, who captured the Big 12 Tournament title with wins over Oklahoma State, Texas, and Baylor, have five players that average double figures in scoring. Senior guard Marcus Denmon leads Mizzou with a 17.6 points per game average; Big 12 Tournament MVP Kim English is close behind at 14.9 per game. The Tigers primary presence in the paint is the undersized Ricardo Ratliffe. Ratliffe, who is hitting almost 70 percent from the field for the season, is averaging 13.9 points and 7.5 rebounds per game.
Missouri, which has won five in a row and 12 of its last 14 games, will cruise past the Spartans tomorrow. While the 21.5 point spread is a lot to cover, the Tigers should get the job done there too as they have most of this season (18-9-2 against the spread this season).
Norfolk State vs Missouri 2012 NCAA Bracket Picks: Provided by SBG Global
Norfolk State Spartans +21.5 (-110), Over 144 (-110)
Missouri Tigers -21.5 (-110), Under 144 (-110)