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Missouri to open vs. Clemson in NCAA tourney
Missouri made the NCAA tourney as a No. 10 seed
COLUMBIA, Mo. -- The Missouri Tigers are headed to their second consecutive NCAA tournament.
Missouri received the No. 10 seed in the East Region and will face seventh-seeded Clemson on Friday in Buffalo, N.Y. The Tigers were pleased to be included in the field announced Sunday, especially after a 75-60 loss to lowly Nebraska last week in the first round of the Big 12 tournament.
"You smile initially," Missouri's leading scorer Kim English said. "But I always felt that we were a little bit overconfident that we were going to be in."
Missouri lost three of four to end the season, though two were to top 10 teams Kansas and Kansas State. The Tigers (22-10) were listed as the fifth-to-last team to receive an at-large bid.
"There's always butterflies, it's like a game," Tigers coach Mike Anderson said. "But at the same time I thought we did well this year when you consider what took place in our league, the No. 1 conference this year."
Last year, Anderson led his team to a school-record 31 wins and snapped a five-year NCAA tournament drought that ended just short of the Final Four. He signed a seven-year deal shortly after his hard-pressing, attacking team's narrow loss to top-seeded Connecticut in the West Regional final.
Despite this season's recent woes, Anderson and his players still feel confident that they can pull it together and make a run.
"I think we got out of the fog, it seemed like we were in a fog in the Nebraska game and I think they've had a chance to sit down and realize that if you don't show up to play then you're not going to win," Anderson said. "I think that having an opportunity to play in this tournament and postseason play, we'll see the team we've seen all year long."
Guard Marcus Denmon spoke of a renewed focus that comes with a bid to the big dance.
"In the first round of the Big 12 tournament we might have looked down the road to some other games," Denmon said. "Now that this is the NCAA tournament we have to focus on the first game because if you don't get this one, your season is over."
Anderson also was pleased that his team was able to earn a bid for the second straight year after losing the top three scorers from last season's Elite Eight squad.
"I'm sure a lot of people who saw our team last year and saw what we were losing didn't expect to see us here," Anderson said. "I talked about coming in here at the University of Missouri that I wanted a program, not just a fly-by-night, one-and-done, or a fad."
Now Missouri faces an exciting first-round opponent in Clemson (21-10) that, much like the Tigers, prefers to play an up-tempo style.
"I think when the NCAA is sitting in the room they are looking for intriguing matchups," Anderson said. "It's going to be a challenge."
Guard Zaire Taylor, who will get to play the game in his home state of New York, was excited to face a team that played a similar style to Missouri.
"It'll probably be one of the better matchups you'll see in the tournament," Taylor said. "There's no controversy, there's no discrepancy, there's no issue on the tempo. We're not competing for the tempo, we're just going to see who can execute better at that tempo on that day."