Missouri-Miami Preview

March 11, 2002

From the Associated Press

GAME: No. 12 Missouri (21-11) vs. No. 5 Miami (24-7).
REGIONAL: West, First Round.
TIME: Thursday, 12:40 p.m. EST.
SITE: The Pit, Albuquerque, N.M.

One of the nation’s most surprising teams takes on perhaps the biggest underachiever of the season as Miami and Missouri meet in the first round of the NCAA tournament’s West Regional.

After going 16-13 last season, the Hurricanes won their first 14 games en route to setting a school record for wins.

“This has been a team that throughout the season has set goals and played consistent basketball,” Miami coach Perry Clark said. “Different guys have stepped up in different situations. I am pleased they have met their initial goal of reaching the NCAA tournament. Now we look forward to our next challenge of competing in the postseason.”

The Tigers, meanwhile, went from the No. 2 ranking in December to not getting a vote in either poll at the end of the season.

Missouri’s big wins this season came against then-No. 22 Alabama and then-No. 8 Iowa in November in the Guardian’s Classic, then-No. 5 Virginia in Columbia on Feb. 3, and No. 12 Oklahoma State on Feb. 25. But disappointing losses came against sub-.500 teams – DePaul (9-19) on Dec. 29, Iowa State (12-19) on Jan. 9, and Baylor (14-16) on Feb. 9.

Missouri, which is coming off an 89-85 loss to Texas in the Big 12 quarterfinals Friday, won its first nine games but has gone 12-11 since.

Despite the slide, Snyder and his players seem confident that they could be dangerous as a lower seed. When he was asked whether he liked this year’s matchups, Missouri coach Quinn Snyder quipped: “We’re the 12 seed. We’re not supposed to be beating anybody.”

Missouri is taking on one of the most balanced teams in the country, as all five of Miami’s starters average better than 11 points.

The Hurricanes are led by Darius Rice, but he was a non-factor in the team’s 76-71 loss to Pittsburgh in semifinals of the Big East tournament Friday. Rice was held scoreless, missing his five shot attempts.

While all of Miami’s starters are viable scoring options, the team lacks depth. The starters account for 86 percent of the team’s offense.

Missouri averages 79.5 points, and has four players scoring in double figures.

Tigers guard Kareem Rush was the preseason player of the year, but has been streaky. Rush, though, tops the team in scoring at 20.1 points, and makes 41 percent of his 3-point attempts.

Clarence Gilbert, Rush’s backcourt mate, is Missouri’s second scoring option.

This is the first meeting between the teams.

The winner faces either fourth-seeded Ohio State or 13th-seeded Davidson on Saturday.

PROBABLE STARTERS: Missouri – F Travon Bryant (6.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg), F Rickey Paulding (11.1 ppg, 3.7 rpg), C Arthur Johnson (12.2 ppg, 8.0 rpg), G Kareem Rush (20.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg), G Clarence Gilbert (17.1 ppg, 3.2 apg). Miami – F James Jones (12.9 ppg, 6.4 rpg), F Darius Rice (14.9 ppg, 6.0 rpg), C Elton Tyler (11.8 ppg, 5.2 rpg), G Marcus Barnes (12.3 ppg, 2.8 rpg), G John Salmons (13.0 ppg, 6.1 apg).

HOW THEY GOT HERE: Missouri – At-large bid, Big 12. Miami – At-large bid, Big East.

ALL-TIME TOURNAMENT RECORD: Missouri – 14-19, 20 year. Miami – 3-4, 5 years.