SLU, Mizzou & Illini Make NCAA Tournament
ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOX) — College basketball fans of the Saint Louis Billikens, Missouri Tigers and Illinois Fighting Illini learned Sunday evening that their team’s seasons will continue into NCAA Tournament. SLU won the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament Championship hours before the tourney announcement giving them an automatic bid while Illinois and Missouri each earned at-large bids.
The Saint Louis Billikens (27-6) drew a #4 seed in the Midwest Regional bracket. The Bills face the New Mexico State Aggies (24-10), a #13 seed, out of the Western Athletic Conference on Thursday at 1:10 PM (CT) in San Jose, CA. Regular season champions of the A-10 Conference as well, the Billikens have lost once in their previous 16 games going back to the end of January. The 2012-13 season has been an emotional, memorable ride for interim coach Jim Crews and SLU, especially with former head coach Rick Majerus passing away on December 1. Saint Louis returns to ‘March Madness’ for the second straight season matching a school record for consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances (1994 & 1995). As a #9 seed last season, Majerus’ Billikens upset #8 seed Memphis and lost a competitive game to #1 seed Michigan State.
The official twitter account of Saint Louis University men’s basketball team (@SaintLouisMBB) posted a picture of the team witnessing the announcement at a Best Buy store in New Jersey. Trying to get to the airport for their return flight, the Billikens got caught in traffic leaving the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, NY.
The Missouri Tigers (23-10) obtained a #9 seed also in the Midwest Regional bracket. The Tigers will face the Colorado State Rams, a #9 seed, out of the Mountain West Conference on Thursday at 8:20 PM (CT) in Lexington, KY. Playing their first basketball season as part of the Southeastern Conference (SEC), the Tigers look to recently be back on track at times getting key players such as Laurence Bowers healthy, but a blown loss to the Ole Miss Running Rebels in their conference tournament was obviously not the way Frank Haith’s squad wanted to enter the tourney. This marks the fifth straight season the Tigers make the NCAA Tournament, also matching a school record (1986-90 & 1999-2003) for them as well. Last season, they were upset as a #2 seed in the first round by underdog Norfolk State.
The Illinois Fighting Illini (22-12) received a #7 seed in the East Regional bracket. The Illini will face the Colorado Buffaloes, a #10 seed, out of the Pac-12 Conference on Friday at 3:40 PM (CT) in Austin, TX. A part of the best conference according to the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) this season in the Big Ten, the Illini turned heads at the beginning of the season winning the Maui Invitational. Though Illinois had a losing conference record at 8-10, new head coach John Groce and his team had quality wins including Indiana and Gonzaga. The Fighting Illini return to the tourney after a missing out a year ago.
Though the chances may be slim, but if SLU & Mizzou each win their first two games in the tournament, they would face each other in Indianapolis, IN for the Sweet 16 round on either March 28 or 29.
The four top #1 seeds include the Louisville Cardinals, Indiana Hoosiers, Gonzaga Bulldogs and Kansas Jayhawks.
Last year’s champion, the Kentucky Wildcats, did not earn a tournament bid. Kentucky becomes the 20th national champion to miss the tournament the following season.
Play-in games for two #16 seeds, a #13 seed and an #11 seed begin Tuesday evening.