Mizzou to Edge Florida State in Tight Opening-Round Matchup

Jay Pryce

Wednesday, March 14, 2018 2:30 PM UTC

Wednesday, Mar. 14, 2018 2:30 PM UTC

No. 8 seed Missouri clashes with 9-seed Florida State on Friday in the first round of the West Region. This is essentially a coin-flip encounter, but we’re leaning toward the Tigers.

Missouri (20-12 SU, 16-15 ATS) vs. Florida State (20-11 SU, 15-13 ATS)Free NCAAB Pick: Missouri +1.5Best Line Offered: Intertops

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Missouri is back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 2012-13 season under first-year head coach Cuonzo Martin, the veteran leader taking his third different program (California, Tennessee) to the Big Dance. The journey has been nothing short of amazing. The Tigers are the third-most improved team in the country per winning percentage, going from 8-24 (25.0 percent) last year to 20-11 (64.5 percent) this regular season.

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Dancin'! #MarchMadness pic.twitter.com/4XS5GdLg5g

— Mizzou Basketball (@MizzouHoops) March 12, 2018

Two players helped pull the program from the bottom: senior guard Kassius Robertson and 6-foot-11 freshman forward Jontay Porter. Robertson, a former star at Canisius, ranks fourth in the country in scoring among all graduate transfers with 16.2 per game. Porter, posting 10.1 points and 6.8 boards per contest, picked up SEC Co-Sixth Man of the Year honors.

The key player for Missouri in the NCAA Tournament is undoubtedly forward Michael Porter Jr. The projected high NBA draft pick just returned to the lineup following a four-month recovery from back surgery. The freshman played 23 minutes in a 62-60 loss to Georgia last time out, going 5-for-17 from the floor and pulling down eight rebounds. The offense often struggled to integrate the future pro star, scrambling for looks and proving stagnant much of the game. Martin, however, has had a week to figure it out. Michael Porter will play the central role. His 17 shot attempts last game were the third-most by a Mizzou player all year.

The Tigers went 6-6 SU and 8-5 ATS against tournament teams this season, draining 8.6 3-pointers per game. Their 9.3 treys a contest for the year rank second all-time in program history. Martin’s men are equally good defending the arc, yielding a 32.6-percent opponent rate. Along with Tennessee, it was the only SEC team to rank in the top five in both categories.

Florida State earned a second straight invite to the Big Dance, despite losing their three top scorers from last season. This is the program's sixth appearance in the past 10 years. Seven players on the squad have postseason experience, but confidence is down as the Seminoles closed the season going 3-5 SU and 0-7-1 ATS.

Coach Leonard Hamilton’s stout defense faded late. During the eight-game run, it allowed 77.9 points per game on 45.7-percent shooting. Shot stopping on the perimeter proved a challenge. The Seminoles yielded a 45.7-percent opponent 3-pointer rate in this span. All but one foe scored above the market’s projected team total.

Mizzou, which takes a whopping 45.2 percent of its shots from downtown, will benefit from Florida State’s current lapse. The team, however, will be without second-leading scorer Jordan Barnett (13.7 ppg), suspended following a DWI arrest over the weekend. Michael Porter can easily make up for the loss and serve as an out if the Tigers grow cold from long-range.

This matchup opened with Missouri a 1-point favorite on the college basketball odds board, but that has flipped to Florida State now the slight favorite. With your NCAAB picks in what is basically a toss-up, play Missouri (+110) for the win.

Check out SBR’s college basketball odds page for updated lines. Also, head over to the March Madness Betting Headquarters for vital handicapping information, picks, and a list of the best sports books and live betting options for the tournament season.

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