Marquette (25-9) vs. Missouri (29-6)
Sunday, March 22nd, 4:50 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By John Agovino, Associate College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Taco Bell Arena (12,000) -- Boise, Idaho. Television: CBS. NCAA Tournament Record: Marquette 34-27, Missouri 19-21. Series Record: Series is tied, 4-4.
GAME NOTES: The final second-round matchup in the West Region will take place this afternoon when the third-seeded Missouri Tigers battle the sixth-seeded Marquette Golden Eagles at Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Idaho.
This is a familiar scenario for these two schools, as the Golden Eagles defeated Missouri in second-round action of the 2003 NCAA Tournament, evening the all-time series at 4-4.
In this year's event the Golden Eagles took Utah State's best punch, but survived the Aggies by a 58-57 margin. It was just the second win in the last seven games for Marquette, which stumbled down the stretch of the regular season. This is the 27th overall appearance for Marquette in the Big Dance and the fourth in a row. The Golden Eagles have enjoyed some success in tournament play, collecting a 34-27 mark, while advancing to the Final Four three different times.
As for the Tigers, they had a slightly easier time in their first round matchup, defeating Cornell, 78-59. It was the 19th victory in this event for Missouri, which is making its 22nd appearance, but first since 2003. This year the Tigers and come in with 29 victories, tying a school record for the most wins in a season, which was set during the 1988-89 campaign. Missouri has captured a victory in 11 of its last 13 contests and that includes a 73-60 decision over Baylor in the Big 12 Championship matchup.
The Golden Eagles have soared at the offensive end of the floor throughout the season and head into this matchup averaging a solid 78.2 ppg behind 45.4 percent shooting effort. Still, the team has not been the same without Dominic James in the lineup. James (11.4 ppg, team-high 143 assists), who has missed the last six games with a foot injury, has been cleared to play today and it will be interesting to see just how effective he is. Jerel McNeal has been the go-to guy for Marquette this season, as the guard is producing 19.5 ppg. McNeal is also contributing 4.5 rpg and 3.9 apg, and has collected a team-best 70 steals. Wesley Matthews is registering 18.1 ppg and 5.7 rpg, while Lazar Hayward has dominated the paint with 16.4 ppg and a team-best 8.6 rpg. Surprisingly, the Golden Eagles only scored 58 points in their first round matchup against Utah State, but Marquette was fortunate enough to slip past the Aggies by a one-point margin. The Golden Eagles shot just 36.2 percent from the floor, but used a solid 19-of-23 effort from the foul line in the win. Hayward led the way in the win with 26 points and eight boards, while McNeal and Matthews contributed 14 and 11 points, respectively.
After struggling through the first half in their opening round matchup with Cornell, the Tigers roared through the second stanza, using a 20-7 run at one point, en route to the 19-point victory. Leo Lyons exploded for a double- double of 23 points and 10 rebounds for Missouri, while DeMarre Carroll and Kim English tallied 13 points apiece. J.T. Tiller added 11 points, six rebounds and six assists in the victory. Throughout the season the Tigers have mauled their opponent at the offensive end of the court, scoring 81.0 ppg, while shooting a strong 47.2 percent from the floor. Carroll has been the top scoring option on the season, as the big man is posting 16.7 ppg, to go along with a team-high 7.3 rpg. As for Lyons, he has also been a solid contributor on the season, and comes into this matchup netting 14.5 ppg, to go along with 6.1 rpg. However, not to be overlooked is the team's efforts defensively, as Missouri is currently holding the opposition to just 66.3 ppg on a lackluster 41.4 percent shooting effort. The Tigers are also forcing 18.6 turnovers per matchup and have collected 363 steals on the season.
The return of James could give the Golden Eagles a serious boost, but whether or not that translates into a win remains to be seen. Missouri's pressure defense will likely make the difference, so expect the Tigers to claw their way past Marquette and into the Sweet 16.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Missouri 78, Marquette 71
03/22 10:23:13 ET