The seedings do not matter any more, and the No. 8 Colorado St. Rams are going up the No. 9 seeded Missouri Tigers in their opening round game. The one big advantage that Colorado State had over most teams is their rebounding prowess.
The Rams are one of the best rebounding team in the country, and were No. 1 in offensive and No. 2 in defensive rebounding. They out rebounded their opponents by 12 per game, however Missouri is a team that is nearly as good on the glass. The Tigers actually get one more rebound per game than the Rams and average almost 10 more per game.
With the rebounding advantage that Colorado State has basically neutralized, so the Rams need to have other aspects of their game to get the win.
The big key is if Colorado State guard Dorian Green's ankle is fully healthy. Green claims he is 'fine,' but the way he played in the Mountain West tournament it was clear he was not right. If he is healthy then Colorado State has a great chance to win this game.
Even if Green is a little slow, Colorado State has big man Colorado State big man Colton Iverson who is a force down low. Iverson will be going up against Missouri's Alex Oriakhi who is a 6-foot-9 forward, and he averages 8.6 rebounds per game. That matchup will be one to watch, and could be the toughest challenge that Iverson will have faced all year. Oriakhi also can score as well, as he puts up 11.6 per game, and can possibly match Iverson on the stat sheet.
Outside of that matchup, Colorado State needs to step up their defensive game. Missouri has six players who score double digits and average 76 points per game. Missouri has multiple options which makes it difficult to key in on anyone player.
Laurence Bowers and Jabari Brown are the leading scorers for the Tigers and the two average 14.4 and 13.7 points per game, respectively. The Colorado State defense is not all that efficient as they allow teams to shoot the ball well and allow teams to score 63 points per game and are just average in opponents field goal percentage.
Another area of defense where Colorado State needs to play well is to bring the defensive pressure since the team is basically last in forcing turnovers. Forcing turnovers is a way to make easy baskets -- basic I know -- and that is something Colorado State needs to do if they are going to be able to separate themselves in Thursday night's game.
Bill C. over at Rock M Nation puts together three keys to the game on the Missouri side:
- Hit the Glass. Let's not think too hard about this one. When the rebounding numbers (for both teams) are this absurdly high, it has to be the key to the game even if it's obvious. Whoever wins the expected rebounding battle will have a very, very good chance of winning the game.
- Make the Shots They Give You. There's one sure way to win even if you aren't winning on the glass: Make shots. You don't have to rebound misses if you don't miss. If Mizzou's bipolar jump-shooters -- Phil Pressey, Laurence Bowers, Jabari Brown, Earnest Ross -- are knocking down the shots they are given (and they should get some decent looks), Mizzou could have too much offense for CSU. We know they can shoot lights out, and we know they don't always do so. In wins versus "real" teams, these four have shot 45% from the field. In losses, they've shot 38%. That might not seem like a huge difference, but these four have taken 61 percent of Missouri's shots this year. If they combine to take about 36 shots, the difference between 45% and 38% could be about five points. In what is projected as a dead-even game, five points could make all the difference.
- Flipadelphia. Honestly, the Iverson-Oriakhi matchup is going to draw a lot of attention, especially considering how well Oriakhi has played of late -- at least 10 points on 80+% shooting in five of his last six games. But this Missouri team is impacted most directly by the play of Phil Pressey. His play, of course, is dictated by others -- if Brown, Ross or Bowers are making jumpers, he sits back and dishes, but if the jumpers aren't falling, he shoulders more of the scoring load -- but his personality is this team's personality. And needless to say, his play in the final minutes of what will probably be a close game will be the most heavily parsed of any player on the court.
Those keys are spot on, and can go for both teams, especially on the second note on hitting shots.
As for my prediction on this game, it will be a close matchup and it all depends on Green's status. I don't want to give two answers for a prediction. Regardless if Green plays or not this game can be kept close, but if Green is not completely healthy then Colorado State will not win. If Green is in the lineup and healthy then Colorado State should be able to get past Missouri by a few points.