The Roadrunner mascot couldn't be more appropriate—for scurrying for cover against Connecticut.
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The Tigers haven't been to the NCAAs since 1995, but that doesn't mean they're all tournament neophytes. Albert White, a 6'5" junior forward, played for Michigan in the '96 tournament, then transferred to Mizzou the following year. Perhaps the best all-around player in the Big 12 and the Tigers' leading scorer (16.3 points per game) and rebounder (8.6), White has turned every arena into his very own royal Albert hall.
Missouri is deep—coach Norm Stewart rotates nine quality players—and can shoot. Thanks in part to sophomore guard Brian Grawer, the third-best three-point shooter in the country (50.4%), the Tigers had the second-best field goal percentage in the Big 12 (45.0). They aren't as good at rebounding, however, and it doesn't help that at times White is their tallest player on the court.
Coach Norm Stewart
Team scoring 72.2 (FG%: 45.0) (3-pointers: 176-457, 38.5%)
Opponent scoring 63.3 (FG%: 39.4)
Rebound margin +0.4
Team FT% 64.6
Whom not to foul John Woods (80%), Brian Grawer (79%)
Whom to foul Monte Hardge (43%), Johnnie Parker (61%)
Quality wins At Kansas 71-63, at Texas 54-47
After disposing of New Mexico, the Tigers will be too inexperienced and too tiny to keep up with UConn.
9 New Mexico
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Kenny Thomas, a 6'8" senior center who's 20 pounds lighter than he was a year ago, finished fourth in the WAC in rebounding (9.9 per game) and eighth in scoring (19.8). In six NCAA tournament games, however, he has averaged 8.5 points and fouled out three times. Says coach Dave Bliss, "I think Kenny's matured past the point where we have to discuss that."
The Lobos, who were already hurting for depth, are the walking wounded these days. Thomas (groin pull), 6'4" forward Lamont Long (thigh bruise) and 6'8" forward Brian Smith (sprained knee) will all be playing in pain this week. To compensate, Bliss will probably use the 2-3 zone that worked so well during the WAC tournament. One good sign is forward Damion Walker's 12-point, 13-rebound performance in the WAC final. He'd barely played since a Feb. 1 run-in with Bliss.