Friday, March 30, 2007

Rinse, Repeat...

The two-headed monster known as Aldenpinkel, a monster that repeatedly gets slammed for not scheduling tough enough non-conference games, schedules a solid Nevada team (one that damn near beat Miami-FL in a bowl game last year), and—shock and surprise—gets slammed. Nevada’s not good enough. Mississippi’s not good enough. Illinois is not good enough. Nothing less than four road games against Auburn, Notre Dame, USC, and Ohio State will impress some folks, I guess.

Though I suspect that if we did create that schedule, the same people would be bitching because Aldenpinkel scheduled us out of a bowl game.

In this thread, Dave Matter does a pretty solid job of deflecting some of the complaining-for-complaining’s-sake moaning, and I’ll go further here. This is one of those arguments that Tiger fans will endlessly get wound up about—along with fullbacks, gold pants, the Big Ten, etc.—and while that’s probably a good reason not to get into it here, I’m going to anyway.

First, I’ll try to summarize the main complaints into one paragraph. Let me know if I miss something.

Complaint: Other teams aren’t scared to schedule big names...why are we? Colorado did it and won a bunch of North titles, so they obviously got something out of playing such a tough slate. Besides, fans don’t want to see their team playing Directional State—they want to see their team schedule real teams.

Response: First of all, the last two of CU’s North titles came with conference records of 4-4 and 5-3. In other words, they won by default; they won because the other teams either crumbled or sucked. And in those Big XII Championship games, they lost 112-3. In their 2002 run to the North title, their 40-3 loss to USC prepared them well...for their 29-7 loss in the Big XII Championship (and subsequent Alamo Bowl loss to Wisconsin). Maybe that extra dose of competition gave CU the edge to not crumble, but are we actually sure of that? Are we sure it didn’t hold them back? No, we’re not. If they’d scheduled easier non-conference slates, they might have gone to a better bowl.

Hell, in 2001, their toughest non-conference game was against Colorado State (they lost to Fresno State)...and they won the Big XII and almost made the National Title game!

However, being that this is a Mizzou blog, let’s look at Mizzou’s history. More recent history first: what did scheduling Ohio State in ’97 and ’98 actually get us? Other than memorable plays like Posey’s fumble return TD and Andy Katzenmoyer decapitating Corby Jones (pretty sure Corby still has a scar on his face from Katzenmoyer’s face mask), absolutely nothing. We led in Columbus at halftime in ’98, lost respectably, and...proceeded to lose every other close game on our schedule that year (sans the Insight Bowl, which wasn’t close until we took our foot off the gas). The ‘extra competition’ of that series proved not even 1% beneficial. All it did was a) prevent us from going 8-3 instead of 7-4, and b) give fans the ability to say “We played Ohio State.”

But in the end, I think that last point is what it all comes down to. Scheduling tougher doesn’t necessarily impact attendance (we hosted Ole Miss—last I checked, they play in the SEC—last September, it was an absolutely gorgeous day out, and we drew 51,112), at least maybe not enough to merit huge consideration. Plus, it’s not a confirmed fact that this approach would in any way assist the team down the line any more than an extra easy win would. The bottom line is, a team’s fans—the ones who already own season tickets and would still attend games against Directional State—want the glory of being able to say they played the big-name schools. Even if the team gets absolutely nothing from a series, fans want to feel more important by having their team play the big dogs.

Is that alone worth it? Actually...maybe. After all, teams play for the fans, so it would behoove a team to listen to what they have to say, but...I also want this team to achieve as much as it can. If the team can get more out of playing a threatening-but-can-probably-be-handled team like Nevada than it can out of playing at USC, then the fans don’t deserve the last say. I want us to win Big XII titles and championships and everything else, but I’m not sold on the fact that playing the USC’s of the world is the way to do it. Never mind the fact that teams like that probably wouldn’t even agree to play at Faurot nowadays...and for the same reason that Mizzou fans don’t want us playing at Troy or Nevada or New’s a no-win situation.

Honestly, I’m pretty much okay with the way we’re scheduling now. We open in The Dome with Illinois for at least the next five years, we take 1-2 mid-major teams (one at home, one on the road), and we get a free pass with one patsy. That sounds about right. By the end of the non-conference season, we’ve played a BCS school that we consider something of a rival, and in a big recruiting market no less, we’ve gotten a couple of decent games from competitive-but-beatable-if-we’re-as-good-as-we-should-be teams, and we got to run up the score and play the scrubs once. What’s wrong with that? Of course it would be more exciting playing USC or Auburn or something, but that’s not what’s on the schedule. Our schedule likely allows us to play in the BCS championship if we were ever to go undefeated (i.e. it doesn’t absolutely crush our strength of schedule), and in today’s football atmosphere, that’s the bottom line. If D1 goes to a playoff someday, and you can play for the national title with a couple of losses, it’s a different story. But in this environment, this is the schedule we should be playing.

And let’s face it--we’re not following the Bill Snyder method of scheduling anymore. In 2007 alone, we’re playing two teams—Ole Miss and Illinois—who were young and athletic last year. Next year, it’s Illinois and Nevada. We’re not talking Maine and Southwestern Oklahoma State (Go Bulldogs!).

But while we’re on the subject, I’ll bring up another point—the 1970s. Talk to somebody who followed Mizzou in the ‘70s, and you’re bound to hear about the ’75 win over Alabama, or the ’76 wins over USC and Ohio State, or the ’78 win over Notre Dame (which came as my mother was going into labor with me). These were ‘glory days’ for Mizzou. Oh, and their best record in the ‘70s was 8-4. Their best bowl game? Sun Bowl. Sound familiar? Oh, and the ’75 ‘Bama win led to a 6-5 record. The ’76 USC and OSU wins also resulted in a 6-5 record.

Again, the bottom line here is that the long-term benefit of playing (and sometimes winning) those big games was to give Mizzou fans something to brag about. And again, that’s a pretty damn good reason to schedule those games. But let’s stop pretending that it has anything to do with program status or preparation for the Big XII (Bill Snyder built an entire program proving that wrong). Scheduling tough is admirable and respectable and (if you don’t lose by 40) exciting. But that’s all it is. It’s not the key to a successful future, so let’s stop lying to ourselves.


The Price you pay

As the Jayhawks prepare to visit the friendly confines of Taylor Stadium, to do battle against the noble Tigers on Simmons Field, the Kansas head coatch, Mr. Ritch (no that's not a spelling error) Price, had these words to say to the local newspaper:

Conference talk aside, this weekend’s series will never waver far from the rivalry that is the Border Showdown — no matter what the sport.The Tiger players won’t be the only ones looking to avenge the Jayhawks’ taking three of four from them last

“I’ve been coaching 29 years and I’ve never seen as brutal as it is,” Price said. “I’ll be real honest with you, some of the things said out in the stands shouldn’t even be said at a college baseball game. I think the difference is when you’ve got 60,000 football fans you can’t hear the one idiot in the stands. You go to a baseball game with 1,500 people that one loudmouth stands out bright and clear.”

Do you suppose Coatch Ritch would be less sensitive about heckling from MU fans if he hadn't put three of his own sons on his team, in effect setting them up as targets for the hecklers? Oh, and let's not forget the incident last year when one of the nepotism trio collided with Brock Bond on the base paths and prompted a brawl.

Price came to Kansas from Cal Poly - San Luis Obispo. I have no doubt the rivalries are more brutal and the fans more intense in the big XII than on the California beach. That's the price you pay for running with the big dogs, Ritchie.

Warning: If you see a tubby bald guy hopping around in a backwards circle near Simmons Field this afternoon, waving a beheaded Jayhawk in the air and endlessly chanting, "kwahyaj kclahckcor! kwahyaj kclahckcor!" over and over again, don't be afraid.

It's just me, doing a reverse rain dance in hopes this weekend's 3-game set against the Jayhawks won't be completely washed out by the weather.


1993-94 Redux: Missouri 109, Wisconsin 96

(Brush the dust off of Marlo Finner!)

March 19, 1994

OGDEN, Utah -- It's tough to get a read on just how the Wisconsin Badgers really feel about their opponent tonight, top-seeded Missouri, in West Region NCAA Tournament play.

Soon after beating eighth-seeded Cincinnati on Thursday night, Badger coach Stu Jackson was trumpeting the Big Ten. When the possibility of Missouri joining the Big Ten was mentioned to him, Jackson responded, in a mock voice, “Gee, I hope they don't.”

In the locker room, Wisconsin freshman center Rashard Griffith said the Badgers would have won the Big Eight. Wisconsin, the No. 9 seed in the West, finished seventh in the 11-member Big Ten at 8-10. The Badgers are 10-0 outside the conference.

When asked about the Tigers' strengths at yesterday's news conference, players Tracy Webster, Michael Finley and Andy Kilbride were silent for more than 10 seconds. A huge grin spread across Kilbride's face.

Webster, Wisconsin's point guard, finally produced an answer.”Overall, they have a great team,” finally came Kilbride's response. “They're very well-coached, and they have a bench that can come off and score a lot of points. They can defend, and they can rebound.”

On the record, the Badgers did not bait the Tigers (26-3). “Obviously playing against a team as great as they are, it's an enormous challenge for us,” Jackson said.

But conference pride, which seems almost an outmoded concept in this era of expansion, is obviously on the table here.

“The Big Ten is the best conference in the country, period,” Jackson said. “From a coaching standpoint, from a lot of different areas. I would argue that to the hilt. It's the best basketball conference in the country.

“It has great teams, it has great players, more great players and Hall of Fame coaches. The Big Eight is a great conference in its own right, but I just really feel fortunate to be part of what I think is the best basketball conference in the country. That's one of the reasons I took the job at Wisconsin.”

In his second year there, Jackson has produced Wisconsin's first entry in the NCAA Tournament since 1947. That, coupled with the Badgers' long-awaited Rose Bowl victory, already has made this an unforgettable year in Wisconsin sports.

The Badgers had their backs up before playing Cincinnati, a team many had penciled into the second round and beyond.

Jackson does not expect the team to be swept away with what it has accomplished.

“I really think they want to go ahead and try to do it again,” Jackson said. “What's happened different this year than in previous years is not a real factor with them. They just want to go out and win games.”

Wisconsin has not won two games in a row since early January.

MU freshman Kelly Thames was willing to play the word games with Griffith, at least a little.

Asked where the Tigers would have finished in the Big Ten, Thames replied, “I'd probably say first. I'm just saying that because I'm pretty confident in this ballclub, and I think we could do well in the Big Ten.”

The Big Ten team in this matchup will be bigger than the Big Eight team at center. Griffith is 6-foot-11, 265 pounds. At 6-9, Crudup is used to this sort of thing, having played bulky 7-footers Bryant Reeves and Greg Ostertag.

“I don't think size will be a factor,” Crudup said. “It will come down to who bangs who the most and who wants it the most.”

“At the same time, Griffith has to guard him, too,” MU coach Norm Stewart said. “They do present a lot of problems. Hopefully we'll present some.”

Either the Tigers or Badgers are running into their final set of problems for this season.

Webster compared the conference season to a pre-test before the all-important final exam. “We just want to go in and hopefully pass,” he said.
March 20, 1994

OGDEN, Utah -- Here's an NCAA Tournament trip for Missouri that everyone can be proud of. The Tigers (27-3) advanced to the West Region semifinals Thursday in Los Angeles with a 109-96 victory over ninth-seeded Wisconsin.

Missouri, the top seed in the West, is making its best NCAA Tournament showing since 1989, when it went to the Midwest Region semifinals in Minneapolis. The Tigers were beaten there by Syracuse, the team they will play on Thursday.

“We wouldn't mind if the Sweet 16 is in Beirut,” Missouri guard Julian Winfield said. “We don't care where it is, we would go.”

The first-person plural really applied for the Tigers. Coach Norm Stewart used 12 players in the first half, and they made good use of the time.

Missouri scored 54 first-half points, a season high. They added a season-high 55 in the second half. The 109 total also is a season high, topping the 108 Missouri scored in a triple-overtime victory over Illinois.

Melvin Booker scored a career-high 35 points. He was 11 of 14 from the field, including a career-best six three-pointers.

“I was just feeling good,” Booker said. “I felt the ball pretty much like I did the last 10 minutes of the Kansas game.” Booker scored his previous high, 32, at Kansas this year.

“We really didn't have an answer at all for Booker, who really might be the second-best player we've played against all year,” Wisconsin coach Stu Jackson said. Presumably, consensus player of the year Glenn Robinson of Purdue is No. 1 on Jackson's list. “He's just a tremendous player.”

Unlike so many of Missouri's previous NCAA Tournament appearances and their games of the last few weeks, the Tigers got off to a flying start.

The Tigers tore out to a 10-2 lead, sparked by Booker's defensive pressure and drives to the basket.

“I just wanted to come out from the start very aggressive,” Booker said.

After Wisconsin tied the game at 2-2, Missouri led the rest of the way.

With both teams' centers in early foul predicaments, the emphasis shifted to the perimeter.

Wisconsin's Michael Finley, a 6-foot-6 forward, scored a game-high 36 points. He made 13 of 14 free throws. The Badgers took 37 three-point shots and made 15. Missouri was 12 of 19. The 27 three-pointers made in the game was a new tournament record.

Paul O'Liney, back from a one-game suspension, scored a season-high 23 points. He made two of three three-point attempts and 13 of 17 free throws.

“I came in with fresh legs, and I was ready to go,” O'Liney said. “At tournament time, you're going to win or you're going to lose. If you lose, you're going to go home, and I ain't ready to go home.”

Mark Atkins, who was scoreless against Navy in Missouri's first-round victory on Thursday, scored 16 points in 18 minutes.

Missouri's bench scored 54 points.

“I'm happy everyone got to see the real Missouri team play,” Stewart said. “We had great help off the bench again.”

Wisconsin's Tracy Webster led all the three-point shooters, making seven of 13. He scored 27 points.

But inside the arc, Missouri had too much for the Badgers (18-11).

“I really think the key to our loss was due to the fact that we really didn't have an answer for their ability to penetrate the paint,” Jackson said.

Webster and Booker tied for the assist leadership with seven each.

Missouri took its largest first-half lead at 34-18.

Helped by two points resulting from a technical foul on the Missouri bench, Wisconsin closed to 42-40 on a three-pointer by Webster. O'Liney then personally put Missouri up 49-42. He made a two-shot foul, then two of three free throws when fouled on a three-point try, then hit a three-pointer.

Wisconsin got back to within 51-47 before Booker launched a three-pointer to end the first-half scoring with Missouri up 54-47.
March 20, 1994

OGDEN, Utah -- Behemoth vs. Behemoth never developed.

The big men for Missouri and Wisconsin -- MU's 6-foot-9 Jevon Crudup and UW's 6-11 Rashard Griffith -- spent most of last night in foul trouble. Crudup's time in the penalty box came about two minutes into this second-round NCAA Tournament game after he collected Foul 2. So coach Norm Stewart turned and without hesitating summoned ... Marlo Finner?

Yes, 6-6, 230-pound Marlo Finner, who has been Crudup's relief man much of the season. No surprise that he would relieve him now, except that Finner gives up five inches and 35 pounds to Griffith, the wonder-freshman and fellow Chicagoan. None of which seemed to matter once Finner took the floor and pulled off some of the biggest plays in Missouri's 109-96 victory.

Finner, who missed last week's Big Eight Tournament on an academic suspension by Stewart, capped a critical first two NCAA Tournament games by scoring a season-high 13 points and stabbing five rebounds. Thursday against Navy, he nailed a pair of three-pointers.

But the box score did not list his two most important plays. They don't keep stats for fouls drawn.

Within 40 seconds of entering the game, Finner penetrated the lane. His shot fell through the net, and he was fouled. By Griffith.

Little more than a minute later, Finner snaked almost directly under the basket, where he plucked the ball from the air, laid it in and drew the foul. From Griffith.

For all intents and purposes, that second foul qualified as a technical knockout because Griffith sat the next eight minutes.

Wisconsin has some good players, but don't underestimate Griffith. The Badgers hail from the black-and-blue Big Ten, and he's their physical presence. Even as a freshman he's played a significant role.

Griffith finished with six points, five rebounds and four fouls in 16 minutes. Only once this season has he scored or played less than last night. And he was coming off a 22-point, 15-rebound manhandling of Cincinnati in the first round.

Getting Griffith in foul trouble “was my big thing because I knew he was going to post up real big,” Finner said. “There was no way I could actually stop him.”

Finner knew from experience that he would have to play smart against Griffith. They've played on Chicago summer-league teams against each other, and their Chicago high schools played each other when Griffith was a freshman and Finner was a senior.

“I was the biggest guy on my team, so I just took him outside and faked him,” Finner recalled. “I held my own.

“Growing up in Chicago you've got to be aggressive if you're going to play basketball. My dad started me out working inside, but I also can go out on the perimeter. I'm only about 6-5, 6-6, so I know how to be a guard at this level. I worked on my all-around skills and luckily I had a chance to show it.”

OK, sure, we know Finner averaged 30 points in high school and was one of the top two or three recruits to come out of the city in 1990. In his role with the Tigers, it's improbable that he'll score 30 points again. And he can contribute off the bench -- but against a redwood tree?

“It's nothing that I've never seen Marlo do,” Crudup said. “Marlo basically got him out from the goal and was taking him to the hole, taking him off the dribble, and that's Marlo's game.”

Marlo's game has been a catch-it-when-you-can prospect for fans since the middle of the Big Eight season. After six double-digit games in minutes, he played no more than seven in any of the last six games.

Then came last week's suspension for what he says was a shortcoming with “classwork here and there.”

“Naturally, I was a little upset not going to the Big Eight, but I knew I had to suffer the consequences,” Finner said. “But just like all year long, I had to keep myself motivated and whenever I get a chance be ready.”

Finner only played 11 minutes. He left late in the first half with a sprained ankle and did not return but is expected to be ready for the Sweet 16 this week. Despite the minimal time, he made a significant impact.

As for Griffith, he didn't have much to say after the game.

Just like during the game.


Thursday, March 29, 2007

Nothing to do with Mizzou...

...but here are a few Big XII-related notes...

  • I found this Barry Switzer profile pretty interesting. He's an interesting paradox...a sleazy, wonderful human being.
  • Nebraska got a double dose of bad injury news today at Spring Practice. And unlike Mizzou's injuries (KNOCK ON WOOD, STAT), these are a lot more lasting.
  • And finally, Billy Gillispie looks like he's staying at ATM. I'm thinking this Arkansas coaching search could turn into something almost as enjoyable as Nebraska's football coaching search a few years ago. "But really! We're great! We can hire anybody we want! Whaddo you mean we've been turned down by 7 guys? We didn't really want them..."


1993-94 Redux: Missouri 76, Navy 53

March 17, 1994

OGDEN, Utah -- Office pool junkies across the country have been torturing themselves all week, hesitating to scribble in that final segment of their NCAA Tournament brackets.

You guessed it: the West Regional, the Missouri Tigers, the legacy of NCAA flops, the undefeated Big Eight season and No. 1 seed. What to do?

Most pool players, oddsmakers, casual observers and every Tiger fan will come down on the side of support for the Tigers to advance through the first two rounds. After all, they're the West's top seed, right?

Quite simply, Missouri and coach Norm Stewart must deliver. But not to impress outsiders. This program must reach at least the Sweet 16 -- c'mon, let's be honest, really the Elite Eight -- to avoid being indelibly stained as the consummate postseason choke specialist.

Never before has an NCAA Tournament loomed so big for Stewart and the Tigers. For two reasons: They've expended all of their get out of jail free cards in the game of Perception Monopoly, and they've spent the season swaying skeptics that they are for real.

Somewhere between Baltic Ave.(today's first-round game against Navy) and Boardwalk (the Final Four) lies MU's perception for years to come.

Despite an enduring and successful career with eight regular-season Big Eight championships, Stewart has a skimpy NCAA Tournament resume. And he is regarded that way nationally. He's 8-13 in the dance and has advanced past the first two rounds in just three of 12 tournaments (Rich Daly led the team to the 1989 Midwest Regional when Stewart was battling cancer). No Final Fours.

Now Stewart has a No. 1 seed. He said last week his team deserved a top spot.

Part of talking the game is walking it, lest your words be considered negligible in the future.

Nobody will remember this team as great just because it had a No. 1 seed. The difference between being a No. 1 that meets expectations and a No. 1 that underachieves is akin to serving beverages in Waterford crystal or Dixie cups at a formal dinner. The real thing or a cheap alternative. Prime-timers or pretenders.

After toiling in relative anonymity much of the season, the Tigers finally convinced voters in the national polls that MU was worthy of top 10 status. They topped out at third and enter the tournament ranked fifth. They did so by going undefeated in the Big Eight regular season, swaying many with a second-half comeback victory at Kansas.

Still, a faction of non-believers exists, and the line starts with ESPN's Dick Vitale. Part of the reason might be that MU has no glamour boys, no Glenn Robinson or Grant Hill, and appears bland. Missouri also finished weakly, escaping Nebraska and Colorado on disputed officiating, then falling to the Cornhuskers in the Big Eight Tournament.

Of course, every team experiences emotional lulls during a season. It's just a question of when. That's why teams on rolls are good bets in those office pools. Because the Tigers finished softly doesn't mean they can't surge again in the tournament.

Probably the biggest reason that the Dickie V's of the world doubt the Tigers is that MU came out of nowhere, which means most of the East Coast media would appear stupid for not predicting it (MU appeared in nobody's preseason Top 25). So some, like Vitale, cling to their narrow, aristocratic view of college basketball and delude themselves into thinking the Tigers are negligible, even though they were the only team in a major conference to go unscathed.

I'm told Vitale predicted on Sunday night that Missouri would lose in the second round.

I'm not willing to go that far, but they couldn't have drawn many worse potential second-round opponents than eighth-seeded Cincinnati. Bob Huggins, who's coached in the Final Four, has his young team chewing up opponents.

The Tigers will thump Navy tonight, and they should beat Cincinnati or Wisconsin. But I think I'll fill out two brackets just in case.
March 18, 1994

OGDEN, Utah -- Perhaps the Army surplus-sized roll of toilet paper sitting on the floor behind Missouri's bench was a bad omen.

And was that the Missouri Waltz or a dirge playing for the Tigers when they were still tied with Navy almost eight minutes into the second half? Audio replays confirmed it was the waltz, and actually the Tigers weren't even close to dead. Maybe suffering from a 24-hour coma, but not dead, not another first-round flameout. Even with the week's distractions and sloppy play, MU could not steal defeat from the jaws of victory last night.

As much as the Navy band would liked to have struck up a round of Anchors Away for MU, this theater of the bizarre that passed for a first-round NCAA Tournament game never emitted the feel of a pending epic stunner.

Welcome to the benefits of being a No. 1 seed.

Missouri cashed in on its season-long investment -- going 25-3 overall and 14-0 in the Big Eight to fetch the West Region's top seed -- by winning 76-53 in an underwhelming NCAA debut.

“I thought Navy did an excellent job in the first part of the ballgame,” Missouri coach Norm Stewart said. “There's some benefit obviously to having the high seed, but when you come into the tournament everybody in here has got capabilities.”


Nobody's deriding Navy. But it's clear that Missouri's capabilities are imminently greater than the Midshipmen's. So forgive us if we appeared somewhat bemused when the nation's fifth-ranked team was playing just plain rank against a team that competes in a non-scholarship conference.

As the No. 16 seed, Navy offered what one might expect -- a feisty, but overmatched team that could not stand up to the top seed's experience and superior athletes.

This was not the brand of Navy basketball that turned out David Robinson.

“I thought our players fought as hard as they could as long as they could,” Navy coach Don DeVoe said. “It's a difficult set of circumstances being the No. 16 seed playing the No. 1 seed.”

Missouri created its own set of problems but not more than it could overcome. And, oh, was there plenty to overcome.

The offense moved with the speed and agility of a dirigible as MU shot 36 percent in the first half. Melvin Booker misplaced the magic touch that made him the Big Eight Player of the Year before finishing in a flourish.

The scorekeeper and clock operator set some kind of unofficial record for single-game bungles, disrupting the game's flow even more than Missouri already had. The human errors and mechanical malfunctions also gave the game a similar feel to MU's first-round victory over West Virginia two years ago when the lights went out three times at Greensboro Coliseum.

And the Tuesday arrest of junior guard Paul O'Liney, who was subsequently suspended, not only created an unwanted distraction, it limited MU's bench. After it was apparent Booker and Mark Atkins were cold, Stewart did not have the luxury of calling on O'Liney, the third member of his three-point trio.

Still, despite all that, despite trailing much of the first half and leading by just three at halftime, the Tigers remained loose. Reggie Smith grinned after missing a three-point attempt, and starter Jevon Crudup tried to help Smith stay calm, shouting, “Reggie, breathe!”

He did. Smith and that three-point surgeon Marlo Finner joined three other reserves in breathing new life into the Tigers. They played so well at the end of the first half that one wondered whether Stewart had considered starting them in the second half.

Stewart drew a smile when asked.

“No, not really,” he said. “You're going to give” the starters “another chance to make a run and see if they can't pull it together.”

Not too many other teams in this tournament would have allowed Missouri another chance, not the way the Tigers were playing. But this wasn't any other team, it was the 16th seed. And it was good to be the No. 1 seed.
March 18, 1994

OGDEN, Utah -- Norm Stewart called out the reserves. They turned the tide against Navy.

The Tigers were once again foundering on their high seed in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Missouri trailed Navy 20-19 with 5:50 left when Stewart put in a whole new crew. Out came Jevon Crudup, Kelly Thames, Lamont Frazier, Julian Winfield and Jason Sutherland. Melvin Booker was already on the bench.

In went Jed Frost, Reggie Smith, Chris Heller, Chip Walther and Marlo Finner.

The quintet, which was averaging an aggregate 31.2 minutes per game, salvaged the first half for Missouri, which went on to win 76-53. The Tigers (26-3) advance to meet ninth-seeded Wisconsin, which beat eighth seed Cincinnati 80-72 in last night's late game at Dee Events Center.

“I was hoping we could blow them out and get in there at the end, which ended up happening, but I didn't realize that we'd get a chance to get in there a little earlier and play a few minutes, which was a lot of fun,” Walther said.

It was not a lot of fun for Missouri when Stewart made the move.

“He had said a couple of days ago that the guys who came into the game deserved to play and that it wasn't anything against us,” Frazier said. “So they went in the game. It was kind of like role reversal. We were going to give them support just like they give us.”

Missouri, the West Region's No. 1 seed, tied the game at 22 on two free throws by Smith, then took a 25-22 lead on a three-pointer by Finner, back in action after being left in Columbia for the Big Eight Tournament because of missing class. Missouri never trailed again.

Finner's three-point basket was his first since the halftime closer against Illinois. “Today it happened,” Finner said. “Thank God the shots were falling.”

Stewart was willing to go a long way with the subs, although he might not have had Finner's 20-footers in mind. Finner took three, making the first two.

“All I wanted them to do is play,” Stewart said. “Those things have a peculiar way of taking care of themselves. I did get a little touchy when he shot the third one.

“I thought that group that came in in the first half was really the difference in the ballgame.”

The starters regrouped sufficiently that the box score gives no indication that the game wasn't the blowout Walther hoped for.

Crudup led all scorers with 19 points, 11 at the free throw line. Thames and Booker had 17 each. Thames had a game-high 13 rebounds, one more than Crudup.

Sutherland initiated the transfusion from the bench in the first half.

“Jason continued to play, and I thought really was the most determined player on the floor tonight,” Stewart said.

The backups have been getting the best of the starters in the last few days of practice.

“The five that he put in have been playing real well together,” Heller said. “He knew we could do something. He knew we wouldn't just go out there and fold.”

The move was made suddenly. “He just came down there and said, `You five want to go?' And we all got up and checked in,” Heller said.

Thames, Booker and Crudup checked back in during the final minute of the first half with the halftime score of 29-26 already on the board.

Missouri opened the second half in much more stirring fashion and the original lineup back on the floor.

Thames opened the scoring by slamming a lob pass from Frazier. Navy (17-13) tied the game at 33 on Jim Hamilton's three-pointer. The Midshipmen made seven of 33 long-range shots. Another from Hamilton brought Navy within 37-36 almost 10 minutes into the second half. From that point, Missouri pulled away, and took its largest lead at 66-49.

“Our kids played real hard for real long,” Navy coach Don DeVoe said. “I thought we hung in there really well for 30 minutes of the ballgame.”

Having taken out Navy with the subs' help, Missouri plays Wisconsin tomorrow, sometime around 6 p.m. Missouri time. If they can get by the Badgers, the Tigers would set their course for the port of Los Angeles, site of the West Region semifinals and finals. Missouri has not advanced to the round of 16 since 1989.


Wednesday, March 28, 2007

1993-94 Redux: Nebraska 98, Missouri 91

(Even at my most naively optimistic, I knew Mizzou was going to get thrashed in this game. The Sports God had worked awfully hard to make Piatkowski’s 3 rim out at Hearnes...he wasn’t going to let us beat them again. And meanwhile, Mizzou got the fourth #1 seed despite having a better record and RPI than North Carolina. I see how it works.)

March 12, 1994

KANSAS CITY -- The last Missouri fans saw of Eric Piatkowski, the Nebraska senior was wandering off the Hearnes Center floor dazed.

Piatkowski's 25-foot shot at the buzzer had ricocheted in and out of the bucket preserving Missouri's 80-78 victory one week ago.

Third-ranked MU and Nebraska meet again at 1:10 today in a Big Eight Tournament second-round game. Piatkowski and the Cornhuskers are eager to play this rematch.

“Oh yeah,” Piatkowski said, grinning, after Nebraska thumped Oklahoma 105-88 yesterday.

“I think early when we played Missouri this year they really embarrassed us on ESPN. We came back and played close down at Missouri, but they were the ones who won the basketball game.

“They're 14-0 in the Big Eight, and that's the reason you come to a big-time basketball program to get shots at teams that are rated so high.

“You've got to love playing a team like that.”

The team that Missouri embarrassed 89-73 on Jan. 24 in Lincoln is not the same team that has won four of its last five games.

The Cornhuskers (18-9) have held opponents to an average of 45-percent shooting the last five games, while NU has been shooting 51 percent.

“We've been playing with a lot of confidence,” coach Danny Nee said. “We cut down on our three-point shots; we've increased our defense and played with better defensive intensity; we've mixed our zones well; we've rebounded well.

“I feel it starts with Piatkowski, the level of play he's had the last five weeks is of an All-American caliber, MVP caliber. I've never seen anything like it.”

At midseason Piatkowski was struggling. He made 40 percent or less of shots in a four-game stretch.

So he began spending an hour and a half in the gym each morning -- outside of practices -- taking about 200 shots.

Since then, Piatkowski has averaged 25.5 points and has made 55 percent of his shots.

“I'm having a great time playing ball right now,” Piatkowski said.

Nee likes talking about Nebraska's surge, but the upswing hasn't left him without praise for Missouri. The Tigers' 14-0 regular-season championship and 25-2 record makes them worthy of a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, he said.

“They're a physical team,” Nee said. “They're very mature and strong. I really think they play with a purpose. They never take bad shots. They really get the ball to the open man. They exploit weaknesses. That's why Missouri is 14-0.”
March 13, 1994

KANSAS CITY -- A team that's peaking gave Missouri its first peek at losing in two months.

Nebraska, seething since Saturday when it thought a series of officials' calls cost it an upset victory at the Hearnes Center, ran past, shot over and finally toppled the Tigers 98-91 yesterday in the semifinals of the Big Eight Tournament. It was the first loss in 20 games against Big Eight competition, including last year's conference tournament, and ended a 15-game winning streak.

To hear the Tigers, they were overdue for a loss.

“We won our last three or four games, but we haven't been playing our best ball,” senior guard Melvin Booker said. Booker and other Tigers called it a wakeup call. The box score produced some alarming numbers. Nebraska (19-9) crunched the Tigers on the boards 54-39. Missouri attempted a school-record 28 three-point field goals but got only seven to fall. Nebraska was in position to be the first team in 22 games to shoot 50 percent against the Tigers but missed its two attempts in the final minute to finish 35 for 71.

“Before the game started, we said today wasn't going to be decided by a charging call,” Cornhusker senior guard Jamar Johnson said. “We came out and played like a team today, and that's what you've got to do to beat a team like Missouri.”

Eric Piatkowski, who scored a tournament-record 42 points Friday against Oklahoma, led Nebraska with 24. He had help. Senior center Bruce Chubick and sophomore guard Jaron Boone, like Piatkowski, seem to be playing the best basketball of their careers in the last few weeks.

Chubick had 16 rebounds, breaking his previous high set Saturday, and 17 points. Boone scored 21, and sophomore Erick Strickland, who scored his career-high 28 points against Missouri last season in Lincoln, added 16, including four three-pointers. The Cornhuskers made 10 of their 24 three-point attempts.

“I think the style and the brand of basketball now is the highest that it has ever been at Nebraska,” coach Danny Nee said. Nebraska plays Oklahoma State for the championship today at Kemper Arena.

Mark Atkins went against the grain for Missouri with a team-high 25 points. He made four of 14 three-point attempts and five of six free throws. All of Atkins' free throws came in the second half when he twice was fouled while shooting three-pointers.

“A lot of times, we rushed them. I know I did,” Atkins said. “But we're a three-point team.”

The Tigers, who came in ranked third in the nation, trailed most of the game. They were down 51-40 with 16 minutes left. Atkins's first three-spree at the free throw line put Missouri up 55-54 with 12:26 left. Piatkowski tied it with one free throw, then Melvin Brooks gave Nebraska a 57-55 lead with two more with 12:04 to play. Nebraska led from then on, most of the time comfortably.

Paul O'Liney's three-pointer with 4:44 left brought Missouri within 80-76, but the Cornhuskers ran off again. The final score was the smallest lead they had in the last three minutes.

“We got to the top of the hill, but we couldn't get over it,” Lamont Frazier said. Frazier led Missouri in floor time with 34 minutes and had a team-high nine rebounds. Booker and Jevon Crudup sat out most of the second half.

“I wanted somebody else in the ballgame,” coach Norm Stewart said. “That's just selection of personnel. That's what a coach does.

“We made the hump a couple times. And the people who did it were not the front-line people. And then when I put the front-line people back in,” Stewart made a whistling sound, “we went back.

“Consequently, I gave the other people who had gained the lead the opportunity to finish it out or to play some more.” Among those reserves were O'Liney, Atkins and freshmen Jason Sutherland and Derek Grimm.

Having been scrubbed from the Kemper Arena launch pad, the Tigers have returned home to learn of their final window of opportunity this season, the NCAA Tournament. Those pairings will be announced this afternoon.

“Obviously what we need now is some practice time,” Stewart said.

The end of the winning streak maintains the fact that no team has won the Big Eight Tournament in consecutive years. “We were the hunter last year,” Stewart said. “Now we're the hunted.”

The wound-licking has begun.

“When the time comes for us to play again, I think you'll see a totally different ball team,” Frazier said.
March 14, 1994

KANSAS CITY -- Missouri got half of what it wanted on Selection Sunday. The Tigers drew a coveted No. 1 seed, their first in NCAA Tournament history. But having stated a preference for the Midwest Region, they missed that mark by several hundred miles.

Duke athletic director Tom Butters, chair of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Committee, explained some of the twists of the process that sent the Tigers (25-3) to Ogden, Utah, to play Navy.

“We do have four, hopefully equal, No. 1s,” Butters said at the Hyatt Regency hotel, where the nine-member committee deliberated from Thursday through yesterday. “But in the S-curve, they are ranked. And we have the responsibility to move those who are preferentially ranked to areas of natural origin where we possibly can.”

In other words, the Tigers finished fourth among equals and went West.

“We're obviously pleased with having received the No. 1 seed,” Missouri coach Norm Stewart said in a prepared statement last night. “We think we deserved it for our play throughout the season. We're looking forward to playing in the NCAA Tournament again. It's one of the great spectacles in sports.”

Stewart's office today said he would be unavailable for further comment before the Tigers travel to Utah.

It's a familiar approach. Last year, the Tigers went to Salt Lake City, where they lost in the first round to Temple. In 1986, Missouri played at the Dee Events Center, the site for Thursday's game, and lost in the first round to Alabama-Birmingham.

Missouri's previous highest seed was No. 2 in 1982 and 1983.

The West's indigenous conferences usually fail to produce a native No. 1 seed or a Final Four participant. Teams from overloaded regions are often assigned the West's No. 1 seed. Last year, Michigan beat Temple in the West final at Seattle to advance to the Final Four.

The whole concept of geographic designation, at least at the top, has seen its day in Butters' assessment.

“If I could do anything to change the present system, I would get rid of `South' and `Southeast' and `East' and `Midwest,' “ Butters said. “Because that is a misnomer. I think it confuses media, and it confuses the public.

“I really truly wish the regions were called 1, 2, 3, and 4.”

Arkansas received the No. 1 seed in the Midwest. If the Razorbacks win two games in Oklahoma City, they move on to Dallas. Big Eight teams were obviously desirous of playing in the Midwest, where the other first-round site is Wichita, Kan.

Arkansas is playing in a neighboring state, as is Southeast No. 1 seed Purdue, which travels to Lexington, Conn. Defending national champion North Carolina is the No. 1 seed in the East at Landover, Md.

“Obviously, somebody had to be shipped west,” Butters said. “As those rankings unfolded, it was Missouri.”

Winning the Big Eight Tournament might have kept the Tigers closer to home in the Midwest.


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Farewell, friends

The Internet is a strange place where acquaintances are made and communities are formed among people who don’t really know one another. If you’re reading this, chances are that noms de keyboard like Iam4Mizzou and Earthdog Fred mean something to you even if you’ve never met the men behind the monikers.

Stranger still is when a member of the cyber community dies. How do you properly mourn someone whose name you don’t even know?

Just over a month ago we lost a Tigerboard veteran known to most of us only as T2MU61, but to some as Tom. Here’s what little I knew about him: He loved Illinois high school hoops, he retired to New Mexico, and when I was writing my book, his recollections of the exploits of Sparky Stalcup, Charlie Henke and Joe Scott at old Brewer Field House helped me imagine a time and place in Missouri’s basketball history that I didn’t get to experience firsthand.

Today brings news of the passing of Mulawman at just 38 years of age. Again, I didn’t know him, not even his real name, but when it came to thoughtful, cogent analysis of basketball (especially in and around Kansas City), he had few peers in our little corner of the world wide web.

So rest in peace good gentlemen, you true sons of Old Mizzou. We never knew you, but we miss you just the same.


1993-94 Redux: Missouri 64, Colorado 62

(This team was obviously both gassed and still roughed up from the Nebraska game the week before. Meanwhile, I love how the Trib columnist--Scott Cain--actually complained about the pro-Mizzou officiating in the last story...pretty funny...)

March 11, 1994

KANSAS CITY -- Melvin Booker is coming out of the deal with much more than a free lunch. That was part of the package yesterday when Booker accepted the Big Eight Player of the Year award downtown before Missouri worked out at Kemper Arena in advance of the Big Eight Tournament. The No. 3 Tigers (24-12) played Colorado today at 12:10.

“I had a nice, little steak,” Booker said. Although he considered himself an All-Big Eight player coming into this, his senior season, Booker had no idea what all was on the menu for him.

“Coming in, nobody thought I'd be Big Eight Player of the Year,” Booker said. “It means a lot to me because that's something I work hard for. I work hard so that in the end, people will say `He's one of the best players in the conference.' That's the main thing about it. All the hard work paid off.”

While the award has gone to teammates Doug Smith and Anthony Peeler previously, Booker is a different kind of Tiger Player of the Year.

“I don't think I'm in a class with them,” Booker said. “They averaged 23-24 points a game. “They just took over games whenever they wanted to. I'm not that type of player.”

Lamont Frazier and Jevon Crudup, both of whom have played and lived with Booker for four years, say he's not all that different from Smith and Peeler.

“They all work hard. They're all unselfish ballplayers,” Frazier said. “The thing that stands out most about Melvin is he's quiet. There's no way to know what he's thinking.”

Booker's actions speak well for him. “When a job needs to be done, he seems to be the one that steps up and makes those big plays for us,” Crudup said.

Booker's best credential for claiming Player of the Year is found in Missouri's 14-0 conference record.

“It's a team thing for me,” Booker said. “If it was up to me, the whole team would get MVP.

“I need my teammates out there,” he said. “As long as we were winning. I thought if we were the ballclub to win it, they'd probably pick somebody off our team. I was playing consistent all year. That's what I've been trying to do.”

His stealth candidacy took even himself a bit by surprise.

“He's not awed by it,” Stewart said. “I don't think he's overwhelmed.

“It's more or less kind of slipped up on him.”

If it's slipped up on Booker, imagine the reaction in his native state ofMississippi.

Arthur Hayes, Booker's coach at Moss Point High School, said a few weeks ago that the coaches who didn't act on his recommendation of Booker are “probably kicking themselves in the butt right now.”

“I hope they are,” Booker said. “I really thought I was a good player coming out of high school. The home teams just weren't giving me a chance. Missouri gave me a chance, and I made the best of it.”

Booker said none of the state's “Big Three,” -- Mississippi, Mississippi State and Southern Mississippi -- were interested in him.

As for the players that were hot prospects when he was a senior?

“Some of the guys I don't even remember,” he said. “I don't even know what they're doing right now. They probably know what I'm doing right now.”
March 12, 1994

KANSAS CITY--Missouri won its 19th consecutive game in Big Eight competition yesterday, but the Tigers looked very mortal in doing so.

Late-December addition Paul O'Liney made two free throws with three-tenths of a second on the clock to give the top-seeded Tigers a 64-62 victory over Colorado in the first game of the Big Eight Tournament at Kemper Arena.

"It was a long day," Missouri coach Norm Stewart said. It could have made for a short stay here and a long wait for tomorrow's NCAA pairings announcement.

The Tigers were locked in with the Buffaloes throughout the game. The biggest lead either team had was seven points by Missouri, that just once and only briefly midway through the second half. It conjured up black-and-gold shades of 1990, the last time Colorado and Missouri met here. Colorado won that game, the only time in Big Eight Tournament history that the No. 8 seed has won. Missouri went on to a harder fall, losing to Northern Iowa as a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

That Colorado upset went into overtime, and Buffaloes coach Joe Harrington thought this one was headed there, too.

Taking over with 33 seconds after Colorado center Ted Allen banked in a three pointer to tie the score at 62, Missouri had the chance to take the last shot with the 35second clock turned off.

Booker drove to the right side of the lane, went up and was stuffed by Colorado freshman Fred Edmonds.

"In that situation, I wanted to take the shot," Booker, the Big Eight Player of the Year, said. "I had a good opportunity at it, but, I think it was Edmonds, came over and did a good job of blocking the shot."

In the scramble for the ball, Allen was called for a foul, his fifth, sending O'Liney to the line.

With a one-and-one opportunity, O'Liney stepped up and made the first one. Missouri then called timeout. Stewart wanted O'Liney to miss his second free throw to start the clock and give the Buffaloes (10-17) no chance to set up a play.

"I tried to throw a line drive so it could hit the front of the rim," O'Liney said. "But it went over and went in, so we had to deal with that."

Rich Frandeen's inbounds pass went about 70 feet in the air. Mark Dean caught it but the shot he got off came after the buzzer and went off the rim.

"I don't feel like we got away with one," Tiger senior Lamont Frazier said. "I feel like we didn't play well."

"It really came down to they made a few more free throws than we did," Harrington said. "We shot the exact same number." Missouri made 15 of 17, including the one O'Liney wanted to throw back. Colorado hit nine of 17. The Buffaloes missed six of their last seven.

Statistically, the Tigers were practically in a dead heat with the Buffaloes. That's not heartening, especially when Colorado's Donnie Boyce, the Big Eight's top scorer, left the game with an ankle injury with 16:38 left in the first half and CU trailing 8-2. He did not return.

Colorado played better without him.

"I'm glad that our players believed we could win, even with Donnie out," Harrington said. "No one in that place thought we'd even keep that close, I'm sure, when he went out."

The Buffaloes made seven of 12 three point attempts. Four were by guard Pete Hefty, who came off the bench to replace Boyce. Three were by Allen, Colorado's 6-foot-10 center.

"They made some shots today that weren't exactly what you call textbook," Stewart said.

That opened up things underneath for forward Dean, who led all scorers with 22 points, 14 in the second half.

Jevon Crudup, who tied Booker to lead Missouri with 17 points and had a game high 10 rebounds, had a tough job.

"I was trying to help down on Dean," Crudup said. "It gave," Allen "more room to shoot the three."

In some ways, the Tigers did not display the form that won them the top seed. They were out rebounded and outshot.

They did win when they had a lead in the final minutes, as they have all season. Colorado led three times, all by two points in the first half. O'Liney closed the first-half scoring with two free throws on a one-and-one for a 29-26 Missouri lead.

The Buffaloes tied it five times in the second half, the last on Allen's banked-in three pointer.

"We'll find a way to win," Frazier said.

"We're confident because we have so much experience. We've been around so many situations such as that, it's almost part of the game for us now."
March 12, 1994

KANSAS CITY--Part of what has made Missouri next to bullet-proof this season is its unflagging ability in late-game situations to maintain poise then prevail.

The Tigers are 12-1 in games decided by eight points or less, six of those victories by margins of three points or less, after swiping a 64-62 victory from Colorado yesterday in the Big Eight Tournament opener.

"We're going to have to try to stay away from those" close games "because we'll give somebody a heart attack," senior guard Melvin Booker said.

This one never should have reached cardiac proportions, though.

Colorado played a part in making it a last-second affair, but attribute most of the dramatics to the Tigers, who shot just 40 percent and were out rebounded by three.

Most curious was the stationary status of senior center Chris Heller, last year's tournament MVP. Coach Norm Stewart did not play Heller, keeping with the regular-season pattern.

But MU was without forward Marlo Finner, who has been suspended for the week. Finner usually spells Jevon Crudup.

Colorado's vulnerability was glaring --only three players on the bench after an injury to star guard Donnie Boyce.

Stewart chose not to try to wear down the Buffaloes with a deep bench. He substituted three times in the second half, only once after the 13:35 mark. MU got just 12 bench points.

Still, mission accomplished, right? They won.

So should a first-round Big Eight Tournament game create much concern among fans who have visions of NCAA grandeur? Maybe not—if the Tigers can eradicate the germs that poisoned their play.

No team wants to enter the NCAA Tournament playing poorly. But this program especially should be concerned about staggering into the dance. Hey, the history there is brutal--six first-round exits in eight NCAA Tournaments since 1983.

This game might have added to Missouri's late-season legacy were it not for two blown officiating calls in the last minute.

With 50 seconds left, Crudup toppled CU's Ted Allen on a pivot move, then scored. No call. Missouri led 62-59.

After the 6-foot-11 Allen banked in a three-pointer to tie it, Booker worked for a game-winning shot. But CU's Fred Edmonds delivered a monster block. Bodies looked like projectiles darting for the loose ball, and official James Armstrong whistled Allen for a foul on MU's Paul O'Liney.

Good call if fouling a player's shoelaces is in the rules. Did this guy call the Fifth Down game, too?

O'Liney makes the free throws with less than a second on the clock, and it's over.

The scramble leading to the last foul "was good hustle by both teams," Allen said. "That's where" the officials should have left it."

Isn't there some unwritten official's creed about no blood, no foul late in close games?

Not here. Not yesterday, not on a day that the Buffies made like party-crashers despite losing Boyce to an ankle injury four minutes into the game.

"When Boyce went out of there, they all stepped up," Crudup said.

Several CU shots fell that had no business being near the rim. They were the kind of shots that you can't do much about. But Missouri's plight reached beyond fluky buckets.

"Part of it, I think, Missouri probably didn't get up for us," CU coach Joe Harrington said. "They don't have a lot of respect for Colorado."

MU coach Norm Stewart, whose interview followed Harrington's, took exception: "I'm glad that I didn't hear what Coach Harrington said. Joe's a good, young coach in this league. But I think guys come in here in Joe's position, and that's tough always win or lose. He was probably a little excited. You give him an hour or two and he might not say the same thing he said in here that you guys feed on, which is fine. That's your job.

"We have all the respect in the world for their ball club."

Sure, the Tigers respect them, but this didn't have anything to do with respect. The word is so often misused in these situations. Harrington was referring to motivation, not respect, and let's face it: Colorado is a bad team and would have been a difficult team to stir any opponents' emotions, particularly one like Missouri that already knows it's probably going to be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Nobody's saying they must play like a No. 1 seed today against Nebraska. But a crisp game might go a long way in reducing heart attack risks next week.


Monday, March 26, 2007

For you Basketball junkies with premium cable

You may want to check out UCLA Dynasty on the family of HBO networks. A great little one-hour show about Wooden, those teams and all the different innovations they brought to the game. The above listing is from the STL Post Dispatch, but I am sure if you have HBO the schedule will be the same. I have just watched it and really enjoyed it.


Now that that's over and done with...

I can finally relax a bit and look forward to bask... football, football season!

I knew I'd get that one right.

So, probably nobody gives a rip about my thoughts for next year's Kansas team. But, what good is this pulpit if I don't use it. Actually, I'm more writing this to see if anyone does a break-down on next year's MU squad as well, since I don't have quite the familarity with it as I did when I was still in school.

First off, I'm sure by now you've heard this bit of
news. To any Arkansas readers we may have, who may think Bill Self is now cleaning out his office to head to Fayettville... allow me this moment - Ha ha ha ha ha! I'm better now.

Arkansas may call Self, but one, he's already said he's not going anywhere; Arkansas, Kentucky, etc. And, two, KU's response will probably be "Homie don't play that game!" And, will proceed to throw more money at Self's feet. Sorry, Arkansas, but Bill Self is going to be in Lawrence for the 2007-08 season.

I tell you who won't be in Lawrence... Brandon Rush. At least I think there's about a 60 to 75% chance Rush will make the NBA leap this summer. All indications are he could be a mid-round pick... next year. But, the reality is, Rush is already old for a college sophomore, let alone an NBA rookie, especially in a league that drafts as much on "up-side" as it does on results. Unfortunately, that means Rush will lose another year of earnings potential if he does stay at KU, and that's a chance he can't risk. Depending on how things shake out, he'll probably go mid- to late-first round and be perfectly happy as a off-the-bench defender/spot up 3-point shooter. He's not a marquee-build-your-team-around-him guy, but he would give any squad quality minutes, and after his initial 3 year rookie contract, probably bounce around the league from year-to-year.

This next player may be a bit idealistic on my part, but I am about 70% sure Julian Wright is coming back to Kansas next year. By all accounts, he promised his mom he would earn a degree before going to the draft, and if not for his mom, he would have not come to Kansas in the first place. So, I think that shows just how much weight she carries when it comes to his decisions. Plus, he did really dissappear in the Sweet 16 and the Elite 8, so that may chew at his mind in making the decision. I leave a 30% window, because if someone were offering me $3 million a year for 3 years to leave school... I would have to really think about it.

Now, Darrell Arthur may think about testing the draft waters, but the reality is, he faded way to much in the second half of the season, especially in conference play to expect anything more than a second round pick. I think Self will make that readily apparent to him and he'll remain in Lawrence, at least one more year.

Everybody else stays in a Kansas uniform. Plus... one major addition: Cole Aldrich. From many accounts, I get the feeling this kid is the consistent low-block scorer Kansas has not had in uniform since Nick Collison. The kind of guy you can give the ball to 5-feet from the basket, and you know he's going to get it in there. Kaun is a great defensive player but is not a force offensively, Jackson could be a similar guy to Aldrich, but I think he's much better served as a really tenacious rebounder. Both Wright and Arthur seem to do better a little further away from the basket. But, this Aldrich kid, he could be something special before all is said and done with his time at KU.

I'm not into season predictions this far away from the opening tip... but I think all of these new coaches are going to do their damnest to improve their squads, and I think KU is prepared to meet that challenge head on.

So, now I have to ask, does anyone have early returns for MU next year, especially the recruits that Anderson is bringing in? I think this is the part of the transition from mid-major to major basketball that coaches stumble with the most. Consider Bruce Webber at Illinois. It's becoming more and more clear that he cannot recruit Big Ten style players to Illinois. He probably doesn't have a problem getting similar kids like he did at SIU, but in the long run... those guys don't cut it when you're going up against Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Michigan State on a nightly basis. I'm curious if Anderson is going to be able to recruit those kids that will buy into his system, but also be players that you could say: "Yeah, I could any of them at Texas, Kansas or any other school in the conferece." Thoughts?


1993-94 Redux: Missouri 80, Nebraska 78

(Piatkowski’s shot when so far down before coming out that I remember not really being able to celebrate all that much...I was too shaken...)

March 5, 1994

The second-hottest hand in the Big Eight has been handed a tough task today: Pry an unbeaten conference championship away from the Missouri Tigers.

“They're getting ready to make history,” Nebraska coach Danny Nee said. “It's a tough game for us if they were 1-12.”

But catching the Tigers 13-0 and going for the first undefeated Big Eight championship in 23 years, and with eight seniors in their last game at the Hearnes Center, figures to make it tougher.

As the victories piled up, the Tigers, who clinched the conference title outright a week ago, would barely acknowledge the mathematical possibility of going 14-0. Now at 13-0 and ranked sixth in the nation, Missouri sees no reason to change the measured one-at-a-time approach that has gotten it this far.

Even the ceremony for the seniors, half the roster, won't be too ostentatious.

“We want to recognize them, and we will,” coach Norm Stewart said. “We're going to have a banquet to do that also.

“We'll introduce them and their parents, if they're here.”

Then it will be back to the chores. Stopping the Cornhuskers, who are on a three-game winning streak, second-longest in the Big Eight, is the main one.

“We've got to do a good job of transition defense,” Stewart said. The Tigers did that Jan. 24 in an 89-73 victory in Lincoln. The Cornhuskers made just two of 26 three-point shots.

It was the third game in a winning streak that has now reached 13 games for Missouri.

“It seems like an eon since we've played them,” Stewart said.

In that passage of time, the Cornhuskers (17-8, 7-6) have won their last three games and five of their last seven after losing four in a row, including the Missouri game.

Eric Piatkowski, a 6-foot-7 senior, was named Big Eight Player of the Week on Monday. Then he scored 32 points Wednesday night in a 89-81 victory over Oklahoma State. He's averaging 30 points a game in his last three.

“Eric Piatkowski is playing at an MVP rate right now,” Nee said.

The Cornhuskers' sophomore core -- Jaron Boone, Terrance Badgett, Erick Strickland -- seems to be coming of age. “They've had a really great year,” Nee said. “We feel like we're improving. Strickland, Boone and Badgett, they've improved a lot.”

The Cornhuskers have been taking steps toward an NCAA Tournament berth. A victory at Missouri at this stage would be a huge one.

“I feel we have to play our way into the tournament,” Nee said. “I think if we lose our next two games, we could be out. We're no lock.”

Staying close to the Tigers, who are averaging double-digit victories in conference play, would qualify as a “quality loss,” in the selection committee's estimation.

“I do feel how we play Missouri could affect us later on,” Nee said. “If you're going to lose to someone, it's a hell of a lot better to lose to Missouri than Colorado or somebody.”

The Cornhuskers took that misstep at Boulder, starting their four-game losing streak.

Taking on the Tigers just before tournament time doesn't add any seasoning to suit Nee's taste. “We've had our tests,” he said. “We've been tested. We've played Kansas and Kansas State and Oklahoma State. You've got to play everybody sometime.”

This might be the time for Missouri sophomore Julian Winfield to play again. Winfield, who had a hand in holding Piatkowski to nine points, his lowest output of the season, sprained his ankle against Southeast Missouri State and has missed two games.

“Julian has a good chance of playing,” Stewart said. “If he's able to play, he'll start.”
March 6, 1994

The last time Missouri played Nebraska, the Tigers held Eric Piatkowski to a season-low nine points.

This time around, Piatkowski led all scorers with 26 points and nearly robbed Missouri of a perfect Big Eight regular-season performance.

The 6-foot-7, 215-pound senior guard shot a three-pointer from about 24-feet that rolled in and back out as the final buzzer sounded.

Piatkowski, along with many of the Cornhuskers, stood on the court with a look of disbelief that they had came so close but eventually lost 80-78.

After the game, a somber Piatkowski said the team had agreed not to talk to the media. It was the first time in coach Danny Nee's eight years that Nebraska players have not commented.

Senior Lamont Frazier was one of three Tigers to guard Piatkowski, and he was there for the last shot.

“He was deep, and the only thing I could do was put a hand in his face,” Frazier said. “That far out, you don't want to foul him. You just hope it doesn't go in.

“All I could do was watch the ball. It actually went in, and then it came out. It was like an `Oh, Oh' and then an `Oh yeah!' “

When MU's Melvin Booker saw the ball, it was in the basket. “I thought it was goaltending on somebody,” Booker joked.

Along with Frazier, junior Julian Winfield and freshman Jason Sutherland guarded Piatkowski.

The first-team All-Big Eight Conference player scored 14 points in a span of 4:35, and all before the 10 minute mark of the first half. Sutherland played most of the final 10 minutes of the half, and Piatkowski's only points came from two free throws.

Piatkowski, hoping to repeat as a first-team All-Big Eight Conference selection, was quiet for much of the second half. He hit three free throws in the first 14:35 and finished with 10 points.

“I thought Sutherland did a good job,” Missouri coach Norm Stewart said. “Then he'd have a run, then we'd get some fresh legs on him, but he still had a heck of a day.

“If he'd hit that last basket, you all would be over there talking to him.”
March 6, 1994

Nebraska's last-second loss to Missouri yesterday was enough to shut down what is usually a wide-open program.

For the first time in his eight years at Nebraska, coach Danny Nee told his players not talk to the media. Nee said he also would not speak but did, weaving the F-word into many of his comments.

“I'm not going to talk, because I'm going to go off,” Nee warned outside the visitor's locker room as Missouri players were still on the court celebrating an 80-78 victory.

“You saw the (expletive) game. You gotta write it up,” he continued. “Anything I say, I get (expletive) censored.”

He walked halfway up a ramp leading out of the Hearnes Center, kicking at the pavement as he went.

Nee never mentioned the officiating directly, but he was obviously frustrated with the outcome of several calls late in the game.

Reporters stayed put, wondering if the Cornhusker players would comment. Nebraska reporters stood around debating the calls made in the final minutes of the game, when Nee abruptly came back and reactivated his tirade.

“Nebraska played its heart out,” Nee said unprompted. “My players, we can't play any better. I can't ask anymore of the University of Nebraska than what we did out here on this court.”

By then, reporters thought it safe to slip in a question.

A Missouri reporter asked, “Do you think this game hurts you as far as the NCAA Tournament?”

“Aw, (expletive),” replied Nee, whose team is considered questionable for the tournament. “I have no comment.”

A few seconds later Nee thrust his head toward the reporter and asked, “You don't think we belong in the (expletive) tournament?”

Nee did smile once in the post-game non-interview, when asked about senior Eric Piatkowski's last-second shot that flirted with the rim before it skipped off.

“It was close,” he said with a grin. Immediately, though, the anger resurfaced.

“You saw the last minute,” he insisted. “That's what the story is. Two teams played our hearts out....

“You ever see such a thing?”

Then, Nee finally realized he was granting an interview.

“I can't,” he said, shaking his head. “I'm going to get in trouble, and I've been reprimanded once.”
March 6, 1994

Nobody plans to go 14-0. Yet, it doesn't just happen , either.

Meet the Missouri Tigers, makers of Big Eight basketball history.

Yesterday the Tigers put on a heavy mettle concert at the Hearnes Center, closing the Big Eight regular season with a ballad for the ages.

They wiped handful after handful of sweat from their faces and fashioned a labor-intensive 80-78 victory over belligerent Nebraska that made Missouri only the third team in the league's 36 years to run the gamut. Fourteen conference games, 14 victories. And the last piece of the exquisite puzzle did not fit without excruciating trial and trepidation.

How fitting.

The victory was indeed a microcosm of this team's season.

Dirt under the nails. Ring around the blue collar. Sore backs. Toiling in relative anonymity most of the season.

If this season were a job, this team would have started at minimum wage digging ditches.

Heavy on the hard work. Light on the glamour and glitz.

No shooting stars play on this team, though Kelly Thames is a future star as sure as Norm Stewart is the toast of this town. No, this is a collection of capable, steel-nerved guys -- eight of them seniors -- who each can play the game. But when you put them together, their varying talents complement each other, and the product is an inconspicuous machine that simply consumes opponents.

“This year they seemed to be zeroed in on really being as good as they can be,” said Stewart, who, with his assistants, deserves ample credit for making a deceivingly average-looking team into a landmark.

“They weren't picked high. Nobody, I think, thought that they could win the Big Eight championship, let alone go undefeated, and they did it. That is a special team right there.”

The fact that none of the players seemed awed by their accomplishment is probably another good sign, a sign of maturity and a sign that they want more than regional success. They want to make a run through the NCAA Tournament so bad that they ache.

But you can't begin a season fixated on the prized mallard on the other side of the swamp, if you will. Too many gators to fend off in the interim. Snappers like Central Missouri and Jackson State and Coppin State (Remember those three-, four- and one-point squeakers?) and Arkansas (How can we forget the 52-point wedgy?).

Three games stand out since then:

The turning point, which was the triple-overtime victory against Illinois. Lots of guts expended.

The 73-68 victory at Oklahoma State, MU's first severe league test that seemed to really nourish the embers of this remarkable run.

And, of course, the pillaging of Lawrence, Kan., where the Tigers rallied in the second half to unseat the three-time defending champion Kansas Jayhawks.

Winning on every team's home court in one season is nothing short of stunning. But yesterday, beating Nebraska at Hearnes was no less difficult.

“This was our toughest Big Eight game of the year,” senior forward Jevon Crudup said.

The first half was a symphony of clanks and doinks and watching the Cornhuskers steal easy baskets. The officiating was grizzly, but the play was even uglier at times.

Senior guard Melvin Booker finally liberated the Tigers with 12.5 seconds to play.

“Tonight just wasn't a real good game for us,” Booker said. “But we stepped up and won it with heart. That's what it was: Heart won the game.”

The masses stayed and partied in the Hearnes Center, rejoicing with the players and coaches as they pruned the nets, finally signifying a championship they've had in hand for almost two weeks.

The players took their snips at the nylon and smiled. But they did not linger.

They still have work to do.


Sunday, March 25, 2007

Random Thoughts from Section 426, Row A

And yes...that wrestling wrap-up is just takes time to sit down and do a little research...time I just do not seem to have these days. I cannot tell if it is 6:15 a.m. work mornings or the wedding in nine weeks. Either is coming.

So I had the chance to go to the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 games this past weekend in the Edwards Jones Dome here in STL. This also completed my seeing at least one game of each round of the NCAA tourney...which was not even something I grew up thinking I could do. Saw three pretty decent least no blowouts. We got really decent seats...front row of the upper deck. . To be honest, there are not too many other seats I would want in that place. Needless to say, the Dome does not provide that cozy feeling that college basketball tends to feed off of. Speaking of what the Dome and the NCAA also does not provide...

  • Length of time outs is at a epidemic duration. Talk about sucking the life out of a building with basically an almost four minute break each time. Any time a college basketball game that does not go into overtime lasts almost as long as a hockey games means you have problems.
  • I don't know if Florida has played a full 40 minutes yet or not, but I am to the point where I really do not want them to (or believe they will) advance any further. Butler and Oregon combined for a grand total of 55 fouls against Florida. Now, yes, there were a few of those which came at a point in the game where the team had to foul them, but in both games, Florida received just about every last call, and seemed to need them to pull off their victory, especially against a very game Butler.
  • Speaking of Butler, I did witness an interesting feat performed by their fans on Friday night. At the under 12 timeout in the 2nd half, the Butler fans managed to recruit both the Oregon AND UNLV fans to cheer for them during the timeout.
  • The NCAA should try to maybe do a little better job in terms of regional seeding in future years. How dumb is it for Kansas and SIU to play in a 2/3 empty arena in San Jose at 4:00 p.m. local time? STL was in the same boat, with no regional anchor this past weekend (Wisconsin bowed out early).
  • What a job by G'Town to make the Final Four (and give me three of four teams this weekend with aTm letting me down). Overcoming UNC's ridiculous advantage at the free throw line and basically crushing them down the stretch was really fun to see. Jeff Green is an absolute freak of an athlete.
  • For my Final Four prediction, I will go ahead and stick to my guns with UCLA beating Florida and G'town taking down Ohio State (I did have G'town beating UT to get there, and had aTm beating Ohio State) and UCAL beating G'town in what will likely go down as one of the unprettiest and exciting games in a long time.

Alright...time to turn the steaks...Nice job by Mizzou baseball this past weekend to take two of three on the road at Nebraska to open the season. I am thinking (hoping) trrip will have more on that this week, but that is how you LOVE to start the conference season.

Until next time....hopefully that wrestling article that I promised to write....


Holding a beaker that says "Funk"

I'm sure you're eagerly awaiting The Beef's wrestling season wrap-up, so in the meantime here's something to tide you over: a Ben Askren Q&A in the Trib. Not only is he likely the best athlete in Mizzou history...the dude's got personality.

Q: You’ve got the T-shirt with your picture that says "Funky," and I understand you’ve got a new one. Can you describe it?

A: It says, "Askren Labs," and it has me in a science coat. I’m holding a beaker that says, "Funk." On it, it says, "Doing to wrestling what BALCO did to baseball: making it interesting."

Q: How are the T-shirt sales going?

A: We sold quite a few in Detroit, but then my salesman got kicked out of the building. It would have went better had that not happened. He actually got kicked all the way out of the parking lot.

Q: How do you plan to sell them?

A: I’ve been ridiculously busy, but I’m going to sell them on the Internet. I’m going to get hooked up with a few wrestling Web sites and a wrestling catalog or two.


1993-94 Redux: Missouri 68, Kansas State 57

(Jevon Crudup “unusually strong.” That’s one way to put it. It’s pretty interesting to see Dana Altman and K-State being a huge disappointment at 17-10. Everybody always says that Altman was a ‘clear failure’ at a big-time job, and he should stay at Creighton. Not saying I wanted him at Mizzou, but there’s really nothing too ‘clear’ about his ‘failure’ at K-State considering how far they fell after he left.)

March 2, 1994

MANHATTAN, Kan. -- It's becoming a regular part of Missouri's Big Eight schedule, spending Senior Night at Kansas State. Tonight's game will be the third time in four years that the Tigers are on hand as the departing Wildcats are wished farewell at Bramlage Coliseum.

That occasion, not trying to get in the way of an undefeated Big Eight season for Missouri, will be tonight's main attraction, Kansas State coach Dana Altman said.

“We're just worried about us playing well,” Altman said. “It's our seniors' last game at Bramlage.

“We'll give it our best shot.”

When their shot is on, the Wildcats are very capable. They shot 85 percent in the second half, including a Big Eight-record 16 consecutive field goals, Feb. 19 in an 89-76 victory over Oklahoma.

Saturday at Nebraska brought a return to earth for the Wildcats, the worst-shooting team in the Big Eight. The Wildcats shot 44 percent, better than their average, but the Cornhuskers blazed for 64 percent and an 86-77 victory. It ended a three-game winning streak for the Wildcats (17-9, 4-8).

“We were disappointed with our loss to Nebraska,” Altman said. “I'm not sure if it was them playing awfully well or our defense playing not well at all.”

Whether they do it on offense or defense, the Wildcats' key is keeping the score down to a manageable level. At Bramlage Coliseum, where Missouri is 1-4 and 0-3 when ranked, Kansas State is 9-1 this season when the visitor scores 70 or fewer points.

The Wildcats are 9-1 in games decided by six points or fewer this season and 18-3 the last two years. Kansas State's shooting touch seems to improve markedly when there's a chance to win the game late.

“They're a great defensive team, and their crowd plays a big key because the students are right there on the court,” Missouri senior guard Melvin Booker said.

It would greatly help No. 6 Missouri's pursuit of a 13-0 conference record if the Tigers stay in high gear offensively. The Tigers are coming off a 99-83 victory over Oklahoma and haven't been under 70 points since beating Kansas State 63-43 13 games ago.

“We're getting better offensively,” Missouri coach Norm Stewart said. “I like that.”

Guard Paul O'Liney, who scored 21 points Saturday in his first start, again is expected to play in place of Julian Winfield, out with a sprained ankle.

“They've got a lot of weapons, they've got a lot of depth,” Altman said.

The Tigers are almost to the point where they'll talk about going 14-0. First they want to be 13-0.

They're already Big Eight champions.

“We're real pleased to win the title,” Stewart said. “We've got two games remaining, and we'd like to avoid having a letdown.”

Being a target for teams that could use a huge victory to impress the NCAA Tournament Committee should help. So should Missouri's chance to become only the third undefeated champion in 36 seasons of Big Eight play. Winning tonight or Saturday in the season finale with Nebraska would give Missouri its best Big Eight record ever.

“I guess everybody's thing is they don't want this '93-94 Missouri team being remembered as going 14-0,” Booker said. “I think it's going to be something we're going to really push for.”

Altman, perhaps the most low-key coach in the Big Eight, downplayed the lying-in-wait angle. “I'm sure our crowd will be excited but no more so than for any other Big Eight game,” he said.


MISSOURI (22-2, 12-0)
No. Player Yr. P Ht. Ppg.
15 Melvin Booker Sr. G 6-2 18.0
23 Paul O'Liney Jr. G 6-2 9.2
22 Lamont Frazier Sr. F 6-4 8.2
33 Kelly Thames Fr. F 6-7 11.6
0 Jevon Crudup Sr. C 6-9 13.2

K-STATE (17-9, 4-8)
No. Player Yr. P Ht. Ppg.
23 Anthony Beane Sr. G 5-10 11.0
24 Askla Jones Sr. G 6-5 21.8
44 Belvis Noland Jr. F 6-4 7.8
5 Demond Davis Jr. F 6-4 5.9
32 D. Cunningham Jr. C 6-7 10.4
March 3, 1994

MANHATTAN, Kan. -- Running the numbers is simple: 15-2 equals 13.

A 15-2 run to close the first half gave Missouri control of the game, and the Tigers are now 13-0 in Big Eight play with last night's 68-57 victory at Kansas State. Their chance at the first perfect Big Eight record in 23 years comes Saturday when Nebraska visits the Hearnes Center.

On Kansas State's Senior Night, Missouri freshman Kelly Thames made like a big shot, hitting a three-pointer to end the first-half scoring and giving Missouri (23-2, 13-0) a 32-27 lead.

Thames moved outside after hitting his first three shots close to the basket. He was the leading scorer at halftime with 11 points.

It was the first three-point attempt in four games for Thames, who finished with 15 points. He's now two for nine for the season from three-point range.

As was the case with Thames' game-winning basket against Oklahoma State, the ball came from Melvin Booker, not quite according to plan.

“We got kind of confused,” Booker said. “Time was running a little faster than I thought it was, once I looked up.

“They were in some kind of zone. I saw Kelly over there, so I just threw it to him.”

Once the ball went to Thames, everything hit stride. “I was wide open, time was running out, I just shot it,” he said.

That shot was a big plus for Missouri in a first half that looked suitable for the usual K-State upset at Bramlage Coliseum. Three times in the last five years, Missouri had come in ranked in the top seven and lost here.

No. 6 Missouri trailed 25-17 with five minutes, 28 seconds left in the first half last night.

“I think you could say we were flat,” Missouri coach Norm Stewart said. “We were a little flat for a lot of the ballgame. But other times, we really pushed hard defensively.

“I thought the first 16 minutes of the first half we were playing their game. After that, when we started making them guard us a little bit, the game changed.”

The Wildcats (17-10, 4-9) didn't do anything to change their league-low shooting percentage for the better. Senior Askia Jones made nine of 15 shots and scored a game-high 25 points. The rest of the Wildcats could only scratch out 13 field goals in 46 attempts, 28 percent.

Effort made up for some of Kansas State's offensive inefficiency. While the Tigers shot 50 percent for the first time in seven games, the Wildcats came up with 19 more field goal attempts. They made 12 steals and had 11 offensive rebounds, 10 in the first half.

“That first 16 minutes, they got all the loose balls. They had all the hustle plays,” Stewart said.

But once Booker tied the game at 25 with a short jumper 2:06 before halftime, Kansas State never had the lead again. Thames gave Missouri the lead for good with a follow shot with 57 seconds left in the half.

“Kelly's doing some things we didn't do as freshmen,” Booker said. “He's won all his games on the road. It took us three or four years to win at other people's place.”

It wasn't for lack of trying, Kansas State coach Dana Altman said.

“I can't fault our team's effort,” Altman said. “I think we worked hard, and I think we played hard.”

But Missouri proved too hard to guard inside. At 6-foot-7, Thames is as tall as center Deryl Cunningham, K-State's tallest starter. Jevon Crudup led Missouri with 19 points and was the top rebounder with 12.

“They were giving us a lot of opportunities inside, and I tried to capitalize on them,” Crudup said.

“It's nothing to be cocky about, but I thought no one was going to cover me one on one in the paint.”

Cunningham fouled out with 2:21 left.

“Crudup is real strong, unusually strong,” Cunningham said. “He'll nail you with that forearm and make you lose position.”

The Wildcats enlivened the crowd of 12,688 by pulling within 52-47 with 7:25 left. They had been down 48-34. Jones twice got K-State within six points, the last time at 60-54 with 2:01 left. He made three free throws after being fouled by Crudup after launching an errant three-pointer. Missouri then went eight for eight at the free throw line to put away the game.

That put a Big Eight version of perfection just a game away.


Saturday, March 24, 2007

Deep thoughts on Spring Football

I figured I should take the time to share some thoughts about the injury-fest that is Spring Football, but first I wanted to highlight a fantastic Kyle Riggs story by Gabe over at PowerMizzou.

"I was so far behind, I put that into consideration with weights, my weight, having experience," Kyle said. "Taking so long to come back and be ready and thinking about if I give my scholarship back and get a hardship, that will be maybe another person that can come in and maybe contribute more."


After Riggs told his parents, he informed Pinkel of his decision to give up football.

"He'll have never played here, but he's a player that, it's like a parent, when my kids here get hurt, it's like my own kid," Pinkel said. "I really respect him, how he fought back to do it, competed through it."Pinkel then made good on a promise he had made to Riggs' dad more than three years before.


"When we went back up so Kyle could commit, coach Pinkel asked if we had any questions. I told him there was one thing I want to understand: if he gets hurt and can't play football anymore does he still have a scholarship? He looked at Kyle and said. 'You're making a commitment to me, I'm making a commitment to you. As long as I don't kick you off the team, as long as you don't get in any trouble, you'll always have that scholarship."

Over the summer, I was talking to coach Pinkel and he said it was getting close to time Kyle has to make a decision. He told me Kyle's decision, if he decides he doesn't want to play football, he still has that scholarship."

Due to a medical hardship waiver, Riggs' scholarship does not count against Missouri's limit of 85. But it will get him through college."

He cares about everybody that's here, we're part of his family. Everybody here is family," Kyle Riggs says of Pinkel. "He'll take care of us."
I realize this isn’t all there is to being a successful athletic program by any means, but...our set of coaches—for all sports, really...Pinkel, Anderson, the Kreklows...on down the line—has to be the best set of human beings in the conference, Pinkel in particular. I really do wish Mike Alden had some semblance of PR skills because he’s made some pretty damn strong hires in the field of character, and that should be recognized.

Now that set of coaches just has to keep improving in the win column. Because I like Pinkel so much as a person, I’m willing to cut him a lot of slack, but he’s built expectations up high enough now that it wouldn’t behoove him to have another ’04-like step backwards. are some Spring Football thoughts based totally on what other people have seen and written...

  • While nobody’s had a Kurt Propst type of injury yet (SOMEBODY KNOCK ON WOOD, STAT), there has been an absolute rash of injuries lately. I can’t remember a practice being cancelled due to lack of healthy bodies before. Impressive. If it’s going to happen, it’s good that it’s happening now instead of August or later.

  • I’m really liking what I’m reading about Sean Weatherspoon so far. Between Weatherspoon and Van Alexander (and maybe others), we should have more attitude on the LB corps this year than I can remember, which is good. Harrington, Bacon, Ming, etc. were pretty good players, but the corps as a whole has never seemed to be as good as it was supposed to be. They seemed to be missing something, I think it’s that they really mean enough. We need a streak of mean on defense, particularly at LB, and hopefully this is a good sign.

  • It’s pretty much unanimous that Tony Temple is running like he did in the Sun Bowl in every practice. Can’t say I mind that. I’m really curious what’s going to shake down with the #2 RB spot. Counting possibly true frosh Derrick Washington, you could say that there are 5 guys worthy of PT behind Temple—Marcus Woods, Earl Goldsmith, Jimmy Jackson, Connell Davis, and Washington. And while there will be injuries I’m sure, you can’t imagine that all those guys will get the touches they probably deserve. And poor Connell Davis just can’t stop frickin’ fumbling the ball.

  • I don’t know what to think or say about Chase Patton at this point. It looks like his biggest contribution as a Tiger might end up being the role he played in Mizzou’s strong in-state recruiting haul in ’04. His accuracy and consistency just aren’t what they need for him to be a big-time QB. If Daniel gets hurt (I’ll bite my tongue just for thinking that), I’d almost prefer to see possibly Dominic Grooms get some PT instead of Patton.

  • I’ve seen a lot of articles/notes on the Defensive Tackle position so far this spring, but I must say, the only position I’m truly worried about on defense isn’t DT, but DE. Stryker Sulak disappeared for long stretches last season, and while Tommy Chavis made a great 4th down stop against K-State, I don’t remember his name being called much other than that. We really need a decent pass rush this season. Our secondary is less experienced than last year, but they’re much faster and more athletic. They’ll be fine as long as they don’t have to cover people for long periods of time.

    As we saw against Oregon State and others last season, when a good QB has time to find a receiver, he’ll find one no matter how good or bad the secondary is. And the one thing we’re sure to face this season is good QB play—Illinois, Ole Miss, K-State, Iowa State, Texas Tech, and Texas A&M will all have at least above average QB’s to throw at us, as well as possibly Colorado and OU (and maybe Kansas). If we’re on their asses, we’ll be just fine in all of those games. If they have time to think and throw, we’ll find ourselves in a shootout.

  • I’m really thinking we’ll have a strong Special Teams unit this year. Who knows, I probably think that every spring, but...Jeff Wolfert is one of the top 2-3 kickers in the conference, and Adam Crossett will see a pretty strong challenge (hopefully) from JUCO transfer Jake Harry.

    Our kick return game was pretty bad last year, but we have more athletes to trot out there—I’m thinking of Derrick Washington, Tremane Vaughns, Jared Perry, maybe Jeremy Maclin—so hopefully we’ll find a deep threat. At punt return, Tommy Saunders isn’t a burner, but he’s such a smart runner. He did well last year, and he’ll possibly get a pretty strong challenge from guys like Vaughns and Perry and maybe Trenile Washington. In all, this could be a strong unit, but I guess I shouldn’t jump to conclusions.

  • I came to the realization the other day that, due to a friend’s wedding, I will be missing my first Black & Gold game since 1998. And I’ll be missing the Mizzou-Illinois game due to a, yes, friend’s wedding in Minnesota. My friends really need to start running their wedding dates by me first—don’t they know I have a blog to run???