QUESTION: Where do you think the greatest challenges lie in this bracket between Mizzou and the Final Four?
For a few games, the greatest challenge to Mizzou is itself, to simply play to its capabilities, which there’s no reason it shouldn’t as one of the most experienced teams in the tournament. And then there’s Michigan State, the top seed for a reason: physical, big and coached by one of the best NCAA tourney coaches around, Tom Izzo. MU’s bracket generally seems favorable, but it will be an enormous task to get by the Spartans.
For starters, the Tigers would be well served to consider every team a threat, starting with Norfolk State. They shouldn’t have any trouble but I’ve seen 15 seeds push 2s to the limit and some have won. The serious threats start Sunday, however, if Mizzou gets Florida it’s getting an opponent that has struggled severely down the stretch and is not at full strength.
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Of all the teams in the Tigers’ path to the Final Four, Michigan State is probably best equipped to take them out. They play the Big Ten’s physical style very well, and Mizzou fans
are well aware of what rugged Kansas State did to their team this season.
On a good day, Florida can shoot the three from multiple spots on the floor and play with tempo. On a good day, Bradley Beal and the rest of the Gators can play Missouri’s game and win with its talent and athleticism. If Florida gets locked in and avoids lengthy game lulls, that team could put an end to the Tiger run in a hurry.
Florida has the most athletic team but the Gators are up and down. Marquette plays at a fast-pace but not fast enough. From the top half, Michigan State has Izzo and Memphis is filled with talent, too. But the real question is all the problems that Mizzou presents for other teams. If shots fall, Mizzou could be on Bourbon Street.
Marquette seems the most dangerous challenge to me. Florida has solid guard play but doesn’t defend. I question Michigan State’s ability to reach the regional final and their ability to keep up offensively even if they do. Marquette is a more balanced club that can create mayhem the length of the court. My guess is that’s Truman’s longest 40 minutes en route to New Orleans.
Florida, in the second round, poses a huge challenge, with Billy Donovan, a terrific tournament coach, and St. Louisan Bradley Beal, who could be the best player on the floor if the two teams meet.