It wasn’t expected to happen this soon. Not in Mike Anderson’s third season as coach of the Missouri Tigers, but they control their own destiny in the race for the Big 12 regular season championship.
I can’t help but draw parallels between the basketball team and the football. When the football team went to Kansas City, the day after Thanksgiving, the Tigers had the Big 12 north wrapped up but still wanted to beat their rival. They stumbled not only that week, but were humiliated by Oklahoma in their home state the next week in the Big 12 Championship game.
I don’t get that excited about the Big 12 regular season title, because it won’t have much of an effect on where the Tigers are seeded in the NCAA tournament. They’ll have the first round bye in the Big 12 tournament and it’s what they do that weekend that will have the bigger influence on their national seeding.
However, these final three games are still important. Beat KU and Oklahoma and run the table on the regular season and they will be as high as a two seed. Lose these games, the Tigers still a five seed or better, but the psychological damage is done.
The glass is half full side of me says this basketball team can do it. For starters, this isn’t the National Champion Jayhawks from a year ago. Part of me is convinced MU is the better team on paper. Despite a lousy first half at home, Mizzou wore down KU and had them grabbing at their shorts while the Tigers found a way to come back from a double digit deficit. Now, the Tigers are playing with even more confidence and they’ve proven they can win on the road in tough Big 12 venues.
The glass is half empty side tells me that even though the Tigers have won at places like Texas, there are still five freshmen who will be baptized this weekend to the frenzied fans at Allen Fieldhouse and the Tigers continue to get off to slow starts. That could happen again, and this time Bill Self will do a better job of rotating his bench so they don’t wear down.
Listen to my preview of the game with sound from head coaches Mike Anderson and Bill Self, plus from players Leo Lyons and Matt Lawrence and KU’s Cole Aldrich and Sherron Collins.
Interesting stat of the day:
1969: Mizzou 56, at #12 Kansas 55
1979: Mizzou 58, at #20 Kansas 55
1989: #5 Mizzou 91, at #18 Kansas 66
1999: Mizzou 71, at #19 Kansas 63