Missouri to face Cornell in NCAA opener - KMOV.com

Missouri to face Cornell in NCAA opener

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) -- Missouri's reward for a Big 12 Conference tournament championship is a trip to the Pacific Northwest and a first-round date against Ivy League winner Cornell.

The Tigers (28-6) are seeded third in the West Region and will play in Boise, Idaho, on Friday against the Big Red (21-9) from Ithaca, N.Y., at an undetermined time. It's Missouri's first appearance in the NCAA tournament since 2003.

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A Missouri win would set up a second-round matchup two days later against either Marquette, the No. 6 seed, or 11th-seeded Utah State.

Missouri players, coaches and fans had hoped the team's strong finish and winning weekend in Oklahoma City would lead to an early round placement in Kansas City and a chance to advance to the regional semifinals without leaving the state. The Tigers are instead in a West Region bracket that includes top-seeded Connecticut and No. 2 seed Memphis -- a team that barely missed out on its own top seed and made it to the championship game last season before losing to Kansas.

"At first, I didn't care if we went to Anchorage," said freshman guard Kim English. "But then I wanted to go to Kansas City. (Teammates Leo Lyons and Marcus Denmon) kept telling me how packed it would be at the Sprint Center. They were saying it would be like Mizzou Arena.

"If we go to Kansas City or Bangor, Maine, it's going to be 40 minutes of basketball against another team," he added. "Win and advance."

Cornell finished 11-3 in the Ivy League regular season, earning the NCAA slot from the only major conference without a season-ending tournament. The Big Red also advanced to the NCAAs in 2008, losing 77-53 to Stanford.

In nonconference play this season, Cornell lost road games to Syracuse (by 10 points), Indiana (by 15), Minnesota (17) and Siena (18). The starting lineup includes 7-foot center Jeff Foote, who averages 11.8 points, and guard Louis Dale, a player recruited by Missouri coach Mike Anderson while at Alabama-Birmingham.

Anderson and his players made certain not to suggest they were looking past Cornell for a possible matchup against Big East heavyweight Marquette or a possible trip to Glendale, Ariz., if the Tigers advance past the first weekend.

"All the teams in this tournament are good," Anderson said. "That's the beauty of the NCAA tournament."

The Tigers last played in Boise in the 1995 NCAA tournament, beating Indiana in the first round before losing 75-74 to top-seeded UCLA when Bruins point guard Ty Edney drove the length of the court for a buzzer-beating layup -- still mentioned among the tournament's all-time dramatic finishes.

Nearly 200 of the Tiger faithful joined the team to watch the tournament selection show on Sunday afternoon, including Columbia campus chancellor Brady Deaton and University of Missouri system President Gary Forsee. That followed a raucous homecoming Saturday night outside Mizzou Arena after the team returned from its 73-60 win over Baylor, its first postseason conference title in 16 years.

"Our goal is the national championship," said junior guard Zaire Taylor, who joined teammate DeMarre Carroll on the all-tournament team in Oklahoma City. "We won that tournament, and now we're playing to win another one. We're right back to square one."

Five other Big 12 teams join Missouri in the 65-team tournament: Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Texas A&M and Oklahoma State. The Sooners, a No. 2 seed in the South Region, earned the trip to Kansas City sought by both the Tigers and the Jayhawks. Kansas is a No. 3 seed in the Midwest Region.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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