In all objectivity, I must admit the old alma mater looked good today. Missouri tormented Clemson from the opening tip with its frantic, pressing defense and forced 20 turnovers in an 86-78 win in the first round of the East subregional at HSBC Arena.
At one point in the first half, Mizzou had more steals (11) than rebounds (9). Of course, those Tigers led the country in steals this season. Clemson's Tigers were seventh in steals, but had only two today as Mizzou played crisp, efficient offense and turned the ball over only nine times. That was the difference: Mizzou created 11 more turnovers and used the extra possessions well, shooting 51.7 percent.
Trevor Booker wasn't much of a factor for Clemson. As much as I was impressed with Devin Ebanks of West Virginia in the first game, I was disappointed in Booker in the second. Booker is an all-ACC player. But offensively, he was no factor until the final minutes. He didn't demand the ball in the offense, overpassed and generally didn't test Missouri's suspect interior defense.
Mizzou will be a good test for West Virginia in the second round Sunday. The Tigers have the depth and quickness to cause problems for the Mountaineers' guards. The Big 12 is the best league in the country and Mizzou is capable of proving it against the Big East champion.
--- Jerry Sullivan