Missouri Tigers head coach Cuonzo Martin

(Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports)

Martin Explains What Mizzou Must Do To Advance In NCAA Tournament

The Tigers coach says he "couldn't ask for a better situation" for Friday's game.

March 13, 2018 - 2:59 pm

ST. LOUIS (KMOX) - It was right around this time last year that Mizzou was rumored to be courting the East St. Louis native to revamp its men's basketball program. Now, Cuonzo Martin has brought the Tigers to its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2013. 

The Tigers will face the Florida State Seminoles on Friday, at 8:50 p.m. in Nashville. Although Mizzou was knocked out of the SEC Tournament sooner than expected, with a loss to Georgia on Thursday, Martin says a number of factors are in Mizzou's favor headed into Friday's game. 

"As far as proximity to a game, to be able to have a layoff and the time we’re playing the game, I don’t think we could ask for a better situation," Martin told our Tom Ackerman, Tuesday.

Martin also gave us a breakdown of what he feels FSU's strengths are and how Mizzou is preparing for the game: 

"If you don't have guys that can guard one-on-one it's going to be a long night," Martin says. "We have to do a better job of taking care of the basketball, we struggled all year long with turnovers and taking care of the ball. And they run, jump you, trap you, mix it up, make you uncomfortable when you're on offense. 

"Then the other area where we haven't been great, not horrible, is blocking out. And they'll crash the glass and sometimes they might send five to the glass. So those are the areas we are really locking in on now in practice."

He also compared the Seminoles to a "longer" Arkansas, because of the way they defend and spread out opponents on offense. Describing their lineup, he says FSU rarely has a player shorter than 6' 4" on the court. 

Martin talked about his goal coming into this season to "have an impact." He brought the most talented recruiting class in decades, possibly ever, to Columbia and took a last place team to fifth in the SEC. 

And he has brought the Tigers back in spite of a number of off-the-court story lines, including most recently the suspension of senior Jordan Barnett. He was arrested by University Police in Columbia on suspicion of driving while intoxicated, early Saturday morning. Martin says he will not play in Friday's game, but if the Tigers win he will be back for Sunday's possible second round game. 

He says he spoke to Barnett, his family and the entire team after the incident. 

"He's a wonderful young man, got himself in a bad situation, but it wasn't about me judging him because I know I've been through things in my life and I'm always transparent with our players," Martin says. "And this is a lesson we all can learn from. It's an unfortunate one. 

"A lot of talk was made about, well Jordan won't play in the game, he helped the team get to the NCAA Tournament. But the big picture for me was, somebody could have lost their life with you behind the wheel making that decision. So that's the lesson that I wanted our players to learn and understand."