|Missouri will be without Barnett against Florida State|
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Florida State and Missouri found out Sunday they were going dancing in the 2018 NCAA Tournament.
And there was a collective sigh of relief for these two proverbial bubble teams who could have just as easily found themselves on the outside looking in.
"I felt pretty confident, but until you see it, it's pretty nerve-wracking for anyone," Florida State guard Terrance Mann told the school's official website, Seminoles.com. Mann's team earned a No. 9 seed and will face the eighth-seeded Tigers on Friday night in the West Region at Bridgestone Area in Nashville, Tenn.
"It was amazing. Everyone was happy," added Mann, who is the Seminoles' leading scorer at 13.2 points per game. "There were a lot of nerves in the beginning. Last year, we were one of the last names to be called."
Missouri was equally relieved -- but mostly thrilled -- to be included in the field of 68.
"I told them this way back, I said, 'You'll be the team that turned it around,' " said Missouri coach Counzo Martin, who guided to the program to a top four SEC finish in the regular-season standings and won more games in 2017-18 than the team won combined in the previous two seasons. "I don't make (our selection) more than what it is. It's great. I knew we were in. I didn't doubt it one bit."
But the Tigers (20-12) will have to take on Florida State (20-11) without the services of its second-leading scorer, forward Jordan Barnett, who was suspended for the NCAA Tournament opener after his arrest on suspicion of DWI on Saturday morning. Martin said Barnett, a 6-foot-7, 215-pound bruiser who averages 13.7 points and 5.9 rebounds, will play in the second round if Missouri beats Florida State.
"It'll be the next man (up) and we keep moving, Martin told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Sunday. "It is what it is. We've managed to get to this point. You have (previously injured star Michael Porter Jr.) back in the fold. Jordan's out. Mike's in."
And therein lies the x-factor in this matchup: How will Porter perform?
Porter, a freshman small forward, was widely regarded as a potential No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft Lottery coming into the season. But he injured his back and played only two minutes of the season opener against Iowa State and underwent surgery. Porter returned just in time to play in the Tigers' SEC Tournament opener, scoring 12 points and pulling down eight rebounds in a 62-60 upset loss to Georgia.
Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said his team is preparing for Porter to still be great. even if he's not at his best.
"It's a little more challenging (to prepare for Missouri) than you would normally expect because of the (unknown with Porter)," Hamilton said. "For us to know exactly what to expect from him is virtually impossible. We have to go with the idea of regardless of who you're playing, they will have a great player at this point."
The last time Missouri reached the NCAA Tournament was 2013, while the last time the Tigers won a tourney game was 2010 when they beat Clemson. And that came after the program reached the Elite Eight in 2009.
For the Seminoles, this is their second straight NCAA Tournament selection -- and sixth in the last 10 years. The program lost its top three leading scorers to the NBA last season and the jury was certainly out on the Seminoles in the preseason. But Florida State raced out to an 11-1 start and Top 25 ranking, showing early on this year's team was legit.
Florida State beat Florida Gulf Coast 86-80 last year in the first round of the tournament before getting blown off the floor by Xavier 91-66. Mann said he remembers that game well -- and many lessons were learned.
"We learned a lot," he said. "Especially the mentality of how to prepare. And we're going to bring it into this year."