Wednesday, February 28, 2007

1993-94 Redux: Missouri 80, Arkansas State 58

(The first yawner of the season.)

December 8, 1993: MU Wins, But That’s Not the Half of It

of the Tribune's staff

Starting hasn't stopped being a problem for Missouri. The Tigers think theymight have found some answers in the second half of last night's 80-58 victory over Arkansas State.

“If we could play two second halves, that would be cool with me,” guard Melvin Booker said. Booker scored 20 of his game-high 24 points in the second half as the Tigers (3-1) broke away from a halftime tie.

Coach Norm Stewart started Booker, Jevon Crudup, Mark Atkins, Kelly Thames and Julian Winfield in an attempt to carry over Saturday's success, when Missouri turned a 39-28 halftime deficit into an 80-76 victory.

“We started the ballclub that finished the other day and was really playing well,” Stewart said. “It didn't take us long, we had to make a change. We were getting killed.”

Offensive anemia set in again. The Tigers trailed for almost the first 14 minutes, bottoming out at 17-7 with 9:12 left.

Chris Heller came in for Crudup and contributed at both ends. Jeff Clifton, ASU's All-Sun Belt forward, had made three straight jumpers.

“We get some immediate results,” Stewart said.

Clifton finished with 21 points to lead ASU (1-1).

Missouri went on a 13-2 run, with three-pointers from Mark Atkins at the start and end, to take a 20-18 lead with 6:03 left.

The Tigers later led 26-20, but Jerry Major made three free throws with no time on the clock to tie the score at 28 after Lamont Frazier fouled him while Major took a three-point shot.

The second half was very different.

Booker, who was 0 for two from the field in the first half, made six of his seven second-half field goal attempts, including three of four three-pointers. “I really just looked for my shot, and it was falling for me,” Booker said.

After shooting 39 percent in the first half, Missouri made 59 percent in the second to top 50 percent for the first time in 16 games.

After being outrebounded 19-15 in the first half, the Tigers finished with a 41-33 advantage on the boards.

They turned up the pressure, making point guard Arthur Agee give up the ball to disrupt the offense.

“It got us going,” Booker said. “We really wanted to get out and run the ball from the turnovers.”

Booker also had seven assists, doing everything necessary for the point guard position.

“He's the one that can bring it,” Stewart said. “He wants to bring it. So we're letting him bring it. The others right now are just a little hesitant.”

Booker has taken the ballhandling responsibility that supposedly was going to be divvied up.

“I'll take the role right now because my game's going pretty good,” Booker said. “So I'll be THE point guard.”

Eventually, that chore will be spread among more hands, Stewart said.

“They'll give him some relief,” Stewart said. “Someday somebody's going to say, `Melvin's back there and has worked for 35 minutes. Maybe I ought to go back there and help him out.' It'll occur to one of them someday, and they'll go back and try it.”

Booker played 39 minutes.

The Tigers were locked into a tight game for about 32.

Clifton went on another scoring spree early in the second half with Missouri's original lineup back in the game. He gave ASU its last lead at 38-35 with 16:35 to play.

Booker tied it at 38 with a three. His jumper broke a tie at 49 with nine minutes left. That started Missouri on a 31-9 run to the buzzer.

“We're just trying to get over that hump,” Thames said. “This will probably be one of the turning points.”


Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Just to be safe...

...from now on, Doug's posts will be in red BLUE font. I wouldn't want anybody thinking a Mizzou fan was relieved that KU won last night.


Good news! We don't have to wait a year!

Granted, it only took eight days for K-State administration to respond to the story everybody knew about. But, I have to say the first line made me chortle (because people just don't chortle enough anymore).

Seriously, why even bother saying things like, "The University has a long-standing policy that considers live animals (except guide animals) at athletics events to be contraband." And, "These acts cannot and will not be condoned or tolerated."

Obviously, K-State and has been turning a blind eye to the tradition for years. If they really wanted to crack down on students bringing chickens into Bramlege Coliseum... it would not be that difficult. How do you smuggle in chicken without looking obvious? In your pants? Anybody have any experience?

I'll be interested to see next year's KU at K-State game... but I fully expect to have another picture like we did only a week ago.


Okay, my heart feels better now...

That's the kind of game you knew KU was going/needing to experience. It just doesn't make it any easier to watch in the last minute and a half.

What I am looking forward to is Saturday, because I think this will be the first time in conference that Kevin Durant will face a couple of players who may be better able to guard him, mainly in Julian Wright and Darrell Arthur. Not that I'm deluded enough to think Durant is not going to score... just that Kansas might actually be up to the task defensively to limit his production somewhat. Though, Nebraska managed their game by allowing Durant to score whatever he wanted, and locking down the rest of the Longhorns. Granted, the Huskers still lost, but that is another way to handle the game plan.

Now, for something of mutual interest...

Really? Really? There are whispers of a coach about to be fired... just rumors really, and the first place the fans and media go are the coaches of the top 2 teams in the Big 12, another two coaches in the same conference in their first year at a new school and finally, a coach who looked to be ready to make the major conference jump last year.

I understand Arkansas has won a national championship, since the last time KU did, but that's basically the only thing in it's recent history the school has going for it. I don't see how you can use that as a selling point for either Bill Self or Billy Gillespie.

Yes, Fayetteville is closer to Edmond, OK than Lawrence... but only by an hour. Then there's the whole money thing. It'll cost quite a bit in salary in lure either Self or Gillespie... not to mention any buyouts to Kansas or aTm.

Now, if Doc Sadler were still at UTEP or Mike Anderson still at UAB, then those guys might be likely candidates, but not now. Not when they are both trying to build programs in year one.

One poster mentioned how South Carolina State was able to hire both Lou Holtz and Steve Spurrier... well, yes... however Holtz was out of football when the Gamecocks called, and Holtz then, basically, hired Spurrier.

Kudos to the Razorback fan base for aiming high... but in this case... I think their aim may be off by more than just a little.


1993-94 Redux: Missouri 80, Jackson State 76

(As you’ll see later with Coppin State, the SWAC was knocking some teams off in the early ‘90s. That said, it’s unbelievable how many close games Mizzou played against crap teams in December. And the bit about Norm calling up Stoglin and requesting a game after Stoglin complained he couldn’t get anybody to come to JSU...that’s both admirable and surprising considering how much we seemed to avoid playing SMS and SLU.)

December 4, 1993

of the Tribune's staff

Besides Norm Stewart, there's another college basketball coach who didn't like the way Missouri's trip to Arkansas went Thursday night.

“I was hoping that Missouri played them a lot better or even beat them, because they've got something to prove now,” Jackson State coach Andy Stoglin said. “They'll play even harder against us.”

Stoglin's team plays Missouri at 3 p.m. today in the Hearnes Center.

He is a former assistant to Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson. Now Stoglin and his Tigers are Razorback opponents. He can empathize with Missouri's 120-68 loss, the most lopsided in the program's history.

“That game doesn't influence my judgment about Missouri at all because the last time Arkansas played like that was against us last year,” Stoglin said. “Two days later we beat Tulane.

“That's why we played so hard against Tulane. So we understand fully what we're up against.”

The 92-84 victory over Tulane was one of JSU's landmark games in a 25-9 season. Although they dominated the Southwestern Athletic Conference with a 13-1 record, the Tigers were knocked out of the conference's automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament by Southern in the SWAC Tournament.

In the NIT, Jackson State won at Connecticut, then returned home and was eliminated by Southwest Missouri State.

“I considered putting Rodney Dangerfield on my program because we don't get respect,” Stoglin said. “When we beat Tulane last year, people wanted to know what was wrong with Tulane, not that Jackson State has a pretty good team.

“When we beat Connecticut, they talked more about they were down than we were good.”

Tulane also canceled a scheduled game at Jackson, Miss., this season, and Alabama ended talks about a possible visit there, Stoglin said.

“It's hard for us to get to the other level because good teams won't play us at home,” he said.

Today's game is part of a deal that will change that. Missouri plays at Jackson State next season, the result of a call Stewart made after seeing similar comments from Stoglin.

“I jumped on it,” Stoglin said. “It helps my program to bring a traditional Top 25 program like Missouri to play in my building.”

Stoglin can see a good reason Stewart would like to visit the Magnolia State anyway. “It's smart on his part because they recruit Mississippi,” he said. “It's going to help their recruiting.”

MU guard Melvin Booker is a Mississippian.

JSU's starting five is home-grown.

Playing big-name opponents on the road has its pluses, too. “When we play Missouri, every newspaper, every sportscaster is going to talk about it back there,” he said.

“When we played Tennessee State, they probably didn't give our halftime score on ESPN. When we play Missouri, they will. When we play Arkansas, they will.”

The Lindsey Hunter watch helped publicize JSU last season. Hunter, the fifth-leading scorer in NCAA Division I last season with 26.7 points per game, is now with the Detroit Pistons, who made him the 10th pick in the NBA draft.

But JSU's program didn't go out with Hunter.

“I think my team has Top 25 talent now, and we'll be a Top 25 team after Christmas.”

Missouri is probably still getting over its last trip South. Not only was there the game to recover from, two of the three planes that transported the traveling party stopped short of Columbia because of fog on the return trip.

One landed in Sedalia, and its passengers came home by bus at 5 a.m. yesterday. The other plane landed in Kansas City. Those passengers made it back at 1 p.m.

Guard Reggie Smith severely sprained his left ankle at Arkansas and is out indefinitely.
December 6, 1993: Tigers Turn Attention to Arkansas State

of the Tribune's staff

The third game in six days is at hand for Missouri. It might be here just as
Missouri is getting a handle on its game.

“Probably the second half against Jackson State is the only true half this
year that Missouri has played the way it's capable,” Arkansas State coach
Nelson Catalina said. Catalina's Indians will see at 7 tonight at the Hearnes Center if Missouri can keep it up.

The Tigers (2-1) outscored Jackson State 52-37 in the second half to win 80-76 on Saturday. It was the first time they've topped 70 points this season.

Having Jevon Crudup back in good standing helped the Tigers. He should give MU an advantage over ASU.

“We're not very big,” Catalina said. “We haven't been in three or four years.

“That's a big concern for this basketball team this year. I think we'll be tested in that area tonight.”

Arkansas State opened a week ago with a victory at Texas Tech.

“Arkansas State's a very good team,” Missouri coach Norm Stewart said. “Any time a team can go out and win on the road, they've got some strength, they've got some poise, and they've got some maturity.”

Since then, the Indians have played only an exhibition game, a 78-70 victory over Arkansas Express on Thursday. “I wouldn't have wanted to watch it as a spectator,” Catalina said.

He's ready to resume playing for real.

“Once you start playing games, they don't think they should be practicing anyway,” Catalina said.

Arthur Agee, a transfer from Mineral Area College, where Missouri signee Corey Tate is, starts at the point for ASU.

“He will be a good one when he gets there,” Catalina said.

All-Sun Belt forward Jeff Clifton is ASU's most versatile player, Catalina said, but has yet to hit stride this season.

“We're hoping he can bust in one night, and we'll be hitting on all cylinders,” Catalina said.

While the Indians lack size, they are athletic, Catalina said.

He favors a motion offense. “There's no set plays, you can't scout it because we don't know what they're going to do.”

After completing this flurry of games tonight, things will slow down for the Tigers. They play Southern Methodist on Saturday and Coppin State Dec. 19, both at the Hearnes Center, before meeting Illinois Dec. 22 in St. Louis.


Monday, February 26, 2007

Big XII Predictions, 2/26

Kansas @ Oklahoma – When things clicked for Sherron Collins, Kansas went into an entirely different gear. Rush, Wright, Chalmers, Robinson, etc., can all go into an offensive funk from time to time, and those funks seemed to overlap quite a bit, causing KU to slip up at random times. However, since Collins has found his way (the switch seemed to flip with about 5 minutes to go in the first Missouri game), and since Self has started to trust him (which seemed to happen after he caught hell for not playing Collins at the end of the ATM game), I’ve started to wonder if KU is actually capable of one of those funks again. I mean, I’m sure they are, but...I’m just not sure if they’re capable of doing it against anybody but a really, really good team.

That said, tonight’s game will be a good test of my theory. OU’s been solid at Lloyd Noble this season (Saturday’s game against Texas notwithstanding), and this is a game that KU quite possibly would have lost last year. However, I just can’t figure out a reason not to pick them to win. When the offense starts to get stagnant, Collins just lowers his head, bulls toward the rim, and gets a layup. Seriously, he’s like Stefhon Hannah with 20 pounds of muscle. KU’s funks never seem to last more than 2-3 possessions now, and I just don’t see OU presenting enough of an obstacle for them at this point, not after they took KSU’s best punch in an extremely hostile environment last week and won relatively comfortably. KU by 10.

Kansas State @ Oklahoma State – The OSU homer is coming out in me. They’re in a massive slide right now, but I just cannot see them losing three straight at Gallagher-Iba. The crowd just won’t let them. That’s pretty much the extent of my analysis. OSU by 3.

Colorado @ Missouri – It’s Senior Night at Mizzou, so hopefully Marcus Watkins gets the start. No matter who starts, I’ll be pretty disappointed if this game ends up within single digits. Colorado played decent for 20 minutes or so against K-State on Saturday, and they might have at least some semblance of life to them, but Mizzou has just played too well lately (even in Saturday’s loss). They’d have to regress pretty significantly for this game to be close, and hopefully that doesn’t happen. MU by 16.

Iowa State @ Nebraska – Nebraska has the best pure (i.e. old-fashioned) post man in the league, and Iowa State has just about packed it in. NU by 13.

Baylor @ Texas Tech – On Saturday, I said that I still thought Baylor could jump up and bite somebody. Well, there aren’t many opportunities left. However, I’m thinking beating OSU at home on Saturday is a lot easier than beating Tech on the road.

Eh, screw it. Baylor by 2.

Texas A&M @ Texas – It really hasn’t gotten a lot of attention, but the race for Big XII Champion has gotten quite interesting. It’s not often that three teams have a chance to win with a week left in the season. To hold onto their tenuous lead, ATM has to win in Austin. If they win that, they get an easier game at home against Mizzou to clinch the title. However, if Texas wins, they have an opportunity to claim the title by winning in Lawrence this weekend. If ATM slips and KU beats Texas, they’re champs. I don’t have a rooting interest in this, really, but I guess ATM winning would be the least painful result of the three. Therefore they won’t win. Texas by 4.

And if things take place according to these predictions, here’s how the standings will look heading into the last weekend of the season.

1. Kansas 13-2
2. Texas 12-3
3. Texas A&M 12-3
4. Kansas State 9-6
5. Missouri 7-8
6. Texas Tech 7-8
7. Nebraska 6-8
8. Oklahoma State 6-8
9. Oklahoma 6-9
10. Iowa State 5-10
11. Baylor 4-11
12. Colorado 2-13

I went 6-for-6 on Saturday, but these games are a bit tougher. Plus, needless to say, I’m picking quite the longshot in Baylor.


1993-94 Redux: Arkansas 120, Missouri 68


December 3, 1993: Hogtied

of the Tribune's staff

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. The Dedication Game at Bud Walton Arena will be long remembered not only in Arkansas, but in Missouri.

For the Tigers (1-1), last night's 120-68 loss was the worst margin of defeat in the program's history.

“I'm trying to forget it already,” senior guard Melvin Booker said. “That's not Missouri ball.”

At least not like it's ever been before.

The 52-point loss topped the previous record drubbing, 47 points 96-49 to Kansas in the Big Eight holiday tournament on Dec. 28, 1977. The 120-point total tied the most ever scored on Missouri, matching Oklahoma in the Sooners' 120-101 victory at Norman in 1988. The Razorbacks' 75 second-half points shattered a three-way tie for most opponents' points in a half. Indiana in 1969, Virginia Tech in 1987 and the Sooners in that '88 game, all poured in 62.

“Losses like that are hard,” Missouri coach Norm Stewart said. “Losses like that are real hard. They're hard on everybody.”

Competitively, it was over quickly.

Dwight Stewart, a 6-foot-9, 260-pound center opened the scoring with a three-pointer, the first of seven in the first half and a school-record 16 for Arkansas (2-0). Missouri got to within 5-4, then lost contact after Kelly Thames put in an offensive rebound with 15:27 left in the half, drawing Missouri within 11-9. Five minutes later, Arkansas led 27-11.

The Razorbacks built their lead to 23 points, 38-15 at the 5:14 mark, then leveled off to take a 45-22 lead into the locker room.

“We missed six layups that I counted, we might have missed more than that,” Stewart said. “You make those six layups and at least you go in at the half and you've got something to talk about besides fighting over the oranges.”

The Razorbacks, looking well worth their No. 2 ranking, kept peeling and squeezing in the second half. The final margin was their biggest lead of the night. It came on a putback by walk-on John Engskov. He was the 14th Razorback to score.

Scotty Thurman, who scored his career-high 34 points as a freshman in Arkansas' 73-68 victory last year at the Hearnes Center, led the Hogs with 18
points, four three-pointers and 21 minutes.

Arkansas' 16 threes were also a record for a Missouri opponent. Arkansas shot a better percentage from three-point range than it did two-point distance or the free throw line.

Seven Razorbacks scored in double figures. Chris Heller led the Tigers with 11 points.

Stewart also cleared his bench.

“Once that started and it really opened up, we started just using people that we wanted to see play and give some opportunities, too,” Stewart said. “Then you go completely out of control as far as the score is concerned.”

The Tigers fed the Hogs 27 turnovers.

“You've got to give credit where credit is due,” Jevon Crudup said. “They got in, and they pushed and they pushed and they pushed.”

Although the arena, with an official capacity of 19,200, had already opened with a 93-67 victory over Murray State on Monday, last night was the dedication, and 20,212 is now the record.

Stewart was 5-0 in the old Barnhill Arena.

“We won't play that good again,” Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson said. “Missouri was not a very good basketball team tonight, but I think they will

“Sometimes the buzzsaw hits you.”

Stewart's workshop will be busy trying refit the pieces. “I told Nolan they're really good,” he said. “I couldn't tell tonight how good they are because we're not very good right now.

“We didn't give them much of a ballgame.”

Just about anybody who wanted one has a tape to prove it. The game was seen throughout the nation on ESPN.

“Oh yeah, I knew that,” Booker said. “Now I'm scared to call home.”
December 3, 1993

of the Tribune's staff

Twenty-two minutes in front of judge Jodie Asel yesterday cleared the way for Jevon Crudup to play for eight minutes in Missouri's humiliating loss to Arkansas last night.

As the Tigers' charter airplane to Fayetteville waited at Columbia Regional Airport, Asel was declaring Crudup guilty of driving with elevated blood alcohol levels and failing to keep his car in the right-hand lane.

Kevin Regan, Crudup's Kansas City attorney, said the MU senior wanted to “put the matter behind him so he could return his concentration to studies for his double major and return his concentration to his basketball endeavors.”

After the guilty verdict, Tiger basketball coach Norm Stewart lifted Crudup's suspension from play. Crudup couldn't, however, leave the episode in Columbia. When he walked onto the basketball court last night, Crudup was greeted with taunts of “think before you drink.”

Crudup, Missouri's second leading scorer last year, scored six points during the worst loss in Missouri history, 120-68.

The hastily arranged hearing didn't put an end to all of Crudup's legal troubles. Under state law, he faces a 30-day suspension of his driver's license because of the alcohol arrest. He delayed that suspension by requesting a hearing before the state Department of Revenue.

Regan said Crudup intends to “litigate fully” the license suspension.

Crudup maintained his innocence before Asel, but Regan did nothing to dispute the evidence against Crudup. Asel termed that “a very unusual way to proceed” before pronouncing sentence.

Regan said Crudup was, in essence, pleading no contest to the charge, but such a plea is not allowed in Boone County.

Asel fined Crudup $300 and sentenced him to 15 days in jail. The jail term was suspended, and Crudup was given two years of unsupervised probation. He must also complete a program for alcohol-related traffic offenses and a program of meetings with victims of intoxicated drivers.

In October, Crudup was in municipal court, where he was found guilty of disturbing the peace. He paid $44 in fines and court costs for that offense.

Assistant prosecutor Eva Sterner said Crudup was treated no differently than any other offender in a hurry to get a case concluded.

“We often plead people, especially those facing a jury trial, on days other than the scheduled pretrial hearing.”

Crudup's case had been scheduled for a Monday hearing on pretrial motions, with a jury trail set for Wednesday.

Sterner said she did not help speed things along to make Crudup available to play. She said she “did not learn about that till yesterday afternoon. I was told by Kevin Regan that” playing in the Arkansas game “would be an unexpected bonus.”

Regan first approached her Wednesday about resolving the case, Sterner said. When arrangements couldn't be made, she said, the hearing was set for yesterday.

The alcohol charge stemmed from Crudup's Sept. 7 arrest on Interstate 70 by a Missouri Highway Patrol trooper. His blood alcohol level at the time registered .12 percent, Regan said.

An initial charge of driving while intoxicated was reduced to driving with elevated blood alcohol, Sterner said, because it would have been too difficult to convince a jury that Crudup was intoxicated.


Sunday, February 25, 2007

My Thoughts on Damien Nash

I think most of the time when I make a post here, it will likely be thought out, researched and proofed to an extent. I cannot tell you why...just my style I suppose. This one won't be like that; it will probably be just a tad more stream of consciousness. I guess that makes it a little more blog-like.

My thoughts on Damien Nash are simple...what a shame. What a shame for a young man who had overcome a good deal to reach his over-riding dream to fall at such a young and promising age.

I felt compelled to write a little on Damien because I had a tie to him. Not a strong tie mind you, but a tie nonetheless.

On a cold January morning back in 2001, I arrived at the Devine Pavilion, which is where I worked for a year as the Students Services Representative for the Mizzou Athletic Department. I was asked to be there early that Saturday morning to help with a big recruiting visit that was going to happen. Six (I believe) high school football players were going to be coming in. The buzz around the building was that this was the most important weekend in Gary Pinkel's EXTREMELY young tenure at Mizzou.

My boss (Ed Stewart) had done me a favor really in allowing me to be the representative of our two-man department. Most other recruiting mornings, I was either not needed there, or would show up just to be seen, but contributed little to the morning. That morning, Ed had given me the chance to participate out of a conversation we had two days before when I told him how excited I was for the recruits coming to town that weekend. Ed asked if I wanted to run our show and I accepted. The secretary for the recruiting section gave me my assignment that morning when I arrived. For the first few hours of the morning while the athletes and their guardians were at the Devine Pavilion, I was assigned to Damien Nash.

Damien was a very polite young man when I met him that morning. I assumed an athlete of his caliber and acclaim would have a swagger, and while I believe he did, he did not show it that morning. He seemed very quiet as I talked to him about MY own excitement for his being there and how much I loved Mizzou. (I came to find out later that I was assigned to Damien because I was the lone MU grad that morning being paired up). I led Damien through the morning meetings and panels. I answered any questions he had (few) and told him as many good things as I could (many).

As the morning wore on, I noticed something about Damien. He was REALLY quiet. We had just finished a talk by one of the academic people when there was a short break before the athletes were to be reconnected with their guardians before heading on to lunch, which meant my involvement for the morning was coming to an end. As we exited the room, I asked Damien what he thought about the academic people. He replied he thought it was pretty cool how much help the students received. I asked him next what he thought he might like to study. He had no real response to the question, but while hemming and hawing through his non-answer, he stopped. I asked him what was up and it finally came through....

At that point, Damien knew he was not going to be attending Mizzou in the fall. His grades were simply not going to allow him to do so. We talked a bit about what he was looking at for his last semester, and playing the coach role, I told him there was still time and he could really buckle down and make it happen. He kept telling me no, that there was no way it was going to happen. We talked a little about what HE thought his future was going to be; the rest of high school, college and his goal of the NFL. I ended our conversation by saying I believed MU would always be there for him. But I left him feeling sad that he was so excited to be there that morning, that he could see one finish line but knew he was not going to cross it for some time.

In the end, Damien's own premonition was right. He did not qualify out of high school and went the JUCO route, getting injured while playing there. Upon his arrival to MU, the thought of Brad Smith and Damien Nash was downright scary. His career was what it was, I am too far away from any situation to know what did or did not happen in the end. But in that end, Damien was drafted by Tennessee and got on with Denver this past year. And I always felt just a little pride when I would see his name in the box score this season.

Damien had made it this year, through all the trials and tribulations his high school, JUCO and college careers had thrown him. He had made it. He lived his dream. He was awoken far too early from it though, and for that I will always feel just a little extra sorrow when recalling him.

RIP Damien Nash.


Big 12 Wrestling team scoring

In the angus preview post below, team scoring was glossed over a bit, so I thought I might take this opportunity to shed a little more light on that.

Teams have the opportunity to score points in a variety of ways in this tournament. They are awarded points for a wrestler placing (10-7-4-2-0 1st thru 5th). They gain an additional point for winning a semi-final match and 1/2 point for a first-round consolation win. And finally, bonus points are available: 2 for a fall, 1 1/2 for tech fall with back points and 1 for tech fall without back points or a major decision.


1993-94 Redux: Missouri 69, Central Missouri State 66

(You had to figure Bob Sundvold’s team would keep it close.)

November 29, 1993

By DAVID HOLZMAN of the Tribune's staff

The Hearnes Center spent most of last night in a collective state of shock.

Freshman Kelly Thames was finally able to bring the Tigers and the fans around as Missouri beat Central Missouri State 69-66 in a down-to-the wire test of nerves.

Thames' 19 points and 12 rebounds were both game highs. The Tigers trailed most of the night, by as much as 14 points in the first half.

Thames' two free throws with 3:48 to play gave Missouri a 62-61 lead. The Tigers (1-0) managed to hold on from that point.

“We were outplayed, we were outprepared and we were outcoached, but we won the game,” Missouri coach Norm Stewart said.

It was a night for the younger set. Bob Sundvold, now in his second season as Mules coach after 13 years as an assistant to Stewart, came quite close to pulling off the Show-Me State shocker with his NCAA Division II team.

He couldn't quite accept Stewart's comment about outcoaching. “That's nice of him, but I don't know,” Sundvold said. “I had chances, and I think I should have done something differently. I don't know.

“I'm really happy for the way our players played. It's just a missed opportunity.”

The Mules (1-1) never quit knocking.

They led for the final 18:03 of the first half and built it to 14 points three times, the last being 28-14 with 7:27 left. The Tigers closed to 36-31 at halftime.

Missouri regained the lead at 44-43 when Melvin Booker scored on a fast break started with a blocked shot by Chris Heller.

The Mules remained stubborn. Thames' free throws were the seventh lead change after that. There were also three ties in that span.

With 4:16 to play, Heller left the game with five fouls, three points, eight rebounds and four blocks. That made Thames, a 6-foot-7 forward from Jennings, Missouri's big man for the duration.

“I was just trying to play my game and play like I did in high school,” Thames said. “Just play hard, that's all.”

He played the full 40 minutes.

“I thought a couple times that we would give him a little rest, but each time that we were about ready to do that, we'd get a timeout,” Stewart said. “I just kept checking with him. He seemed to be doing all right. He knocked his free throws down at the end, which means that condition-wise he's in pretty good shape.”

Thames made nine of 11 free throws, including six of six in the final minutes, starting with the pair that gave Missouri the lead for good. Missouri was 19 for 28 at the line.

Corey Williams tied Thames for scoring honors with 19 for CMSU. Tyrone Latimer added 18. The two combined for 27 of CMSU's 36 first-half points.

Stewart gave Julian Winfield most of the credit for holding down Williams in the second half. Winfield also had nine rebounds.

“This game is over,” Winfield said. “Maybe it wasn't the win that we wanted or the kind of win that we needed, but it's a win.”

The areas that pleased Stewart were defense, the team's foundation, and handling the late-game situation when the Tigers were able to play with the lead. “We started to play good defense,” Thames said. “That was they key right there.”


Saturday, February 24, 2007

Big XII Wrestling Tournament Preview

So….I figured I would finally dip a toe in the pool of blog writing. This is my first EVER blog post, though some could likely argue that I have been doing this for years on Tigerboard and other places. Anyway, with resident experts in just about everything on here (really they are, just ask them), I thought I might take a shot at something of which I likely know a bit more. With that in mind, here is my Big XII Wrestling Championship preview by weight class. I say by weight class because I don’t really know exactly how the team scoring works in a format such as this, so we will run through each of the 10 classes and then finish with a guess as to who is going to take the team title.

(A note on the format of this: I am using the InterMat Division 1 rankings, courtesy of I could have used all of the polls I am sure to create a stronger looking Big XII, but that would have taken far too much time. I will first talk about the chances of the MU wrestler in this class, and then make my overall prediction for the weight class. I will only predict the champ, but do remember each class gets three wrestlers to move on, plus the conference gets another eight wild cards, so almost four wrestlers per class of the five.)

The teams:

Iowa State (#2)
Mizzou (#3)
Oklahoma State (#4)
Oklahoma (#14)
Nebraska (#19)

125 pounds…..the wrestlers:

Sam Hazewinkle – Senior/OU (#1)
Nick Fanthorpe – Freshman/ISU (#6)
Paul Donohoe – Sophomore/NU (#12)
Tyler Shinn – Freshman/OSU (#14)
John Olanowski – Freshman/MU (NR)

You think John has his work cut out for himself in this class on Saturday? The 4/5 matchup in the first round will have a top wrestler in it…that is never a good sign if you are the #5 guy. Olanowski has not been very strong in Big XII season, and there is not much reason to believe he will be able to turn it on this weekend. In fact, this may be the last time we see him in this tournament, as MU brings in a top recruit from Hickman next year.

As for this class….from a national perspective, all you have to say is WOW. You have to bet that four wrestlers will move on to Detroit from this class. Sam Hazewinkle has to be considered the favorite, not just because of that shiny #1 national record, but because he has more Big XII Tourney experience than the other four do combined. Only Donohoe has wrestled previous, with a 3rd place finish last year. Hazewinkle is JUST now coming back from an injury, but I believe he will add to his two titles and one 2nd place and finish a tremendous career on top of the podium.

133 pounds…..the wrestlers:

Coleman Scott – Junior/OSU (#4)
Tyler McCormick – Junior/MU (#5)
Nick Gallick – Freshman/ISU (#20)
Patrick Aleksanyan – Sophomore/NU (NR)
Brian Shelton/Joe Comparin – OU (NR)

Tyler McCormick has had a tough year with injuries and Coach Brian Smith trying to rest him for this time of the year. Tyler has only wrestled 18 matches on the year, but does sport a 3-1 record against other Big XII opponents. If Tyler is healthy (and with the rampant flu problem, I don’t know that we know if anyone is really healthy or not) he should contend for the title, having already defeated Coleman Scott earlier in the season. If MU has designs on winning the team title, this is a weight class they might need to come away with.

This class could be pretty wide open. For the lack of ranked wrestlers, there is some good experience in the class. McCormick has a 2nd place finish, Comparin has a 3rd and Aleksanyan has a 4th. Gallick is the wild card here, looking very strong against MU, but not against McCormick a couple of weeks ago. I am going to predict a win by Coleman Scott in this class because I just do not know about the health of McCormick, flu bug or not.

141 pounds…..the wrestlers:

Nathan Morgan – Junior/OSU (#5)
Dominic Moyer – Senior/NU (#7)
Mitch Mueller – Freshman/ISU (#12)
Ashtin Primus – Freshman/MU (RV)
Kyle Terry – RS Freshman/OU (NR)

Once Ashtin Primus earned the spot in the starting lineup earlier this year, he has been quite impressive and successful as a freshman at 141 pounds. He holds 31 wins on the season, and a 4-4 record against other wrestlers in the Big XII. For much of the season, Primus had been able to work his way up into the national rankings, but fell out right at the end of the season. I even put “Receiving Votes” because I am sure he is just outside the top 20 at this point. Primus has a great future in front of him, and I believe he is likely capable of beating most in this group.

Nathan Morgan is a previous Big XII champ at 133 pounds last year, and did just as well in his new class this season. However, Moyer earned a 3-1 win earlier in the season over Morgan when NU and OSU met. I think the senior will use that experience to gain a win in this loaded group. Personally, I also believe that Primus will make his debut in Detroit in two weeks as he will also come out of this class one way or another.

(author edit: So...seems that Kyle Perry was able to knock off not one, but TWO top 10 wrestlers this past week from Hofstra and Michigan State and parlayed that into Big XII Wrestler of the Week

Needless to say....that rises his stock, though potentially not in this group. I believe he will still be the #5 going in, but he will be someone to be reckoned with, without a doubt. Perhaps another case where the Big XII would do well by sending all five from the same class.)

149 pounds…..the wrestlers:

Matt Storniolo – Sophomore/OU (#2)
Cyler Sanderson – Freshman/ISU (#13)
Josh Wagner – Sophomore/MU (#14)
Robert Sanders – Sophomore/NU (NR)
B.J. Jackson – Junior/OSU (NR)

Josh Wagner is the first of the Wisconsin Four that we will cover. Who are the Wisconsin Four? Wagner, Matt Pell, Ben and Max Askren. Wagner is rated the lowest at #14 of the group. Wisconsin as a school is ranked #8 in the country. What do you think they would do this year had they kept all four of these talents in state? Yeah….they’d be THAT good.

At any rate, Wagner is another up and comer for Mizzou who had a terrific season, rising all the way to #7 in one poll before a tight loss to Sanderson of Iowa State. However, he had a huge win on the year, knocking off Matt Storniolo and finishing 6-1 against Big XII wrestlers on the season. (Remember, Mizzou wrestled four conference matches, but wrestlers could have met in individual or team tournaments). Wagner comes into this tournament with as much of a chance to win this class as anyone there. The only question will be how he handles the pressure.

Storniolo had some injuries during the season, but seems to be back healthy now. He has a second place finish from a year ago, with Sanders of NU actually coming in third. If you look at the team title, the key is for either Wagner to win here (best case), or Storniolo to win, since OU is not expected to be close to contending. I believe the latter will unfortunately be the case, but the semi final match in this class between Wagner and Sanderson should be one of the best of the entire day.

157 pounds…..the wrestlers:

Trent Paulson – Senior/ISU (#2)
Chris Oliver – Sophomore/NU (#10)
Will Rowe – Sophomore/OU (#11)
Michael Chandler – Junior/MU (#15) or Nick Marable – RS Freshman
Newly McSpadden – Sophomore/OSU (NR)

Mike Chandler has also been bitten by the injury/illness bug this season, but Nick Marable has also been ranked on the season, so I don’t entirely know how that works. Marable has some big wins under his belt this season, I don’t know if the bracket here allows for that. Assuming it does not (though for the Big XII’s sake, I wish it did and you could totally argue that five from this class should go); we will work with both wrestlers here. Chandler went 2-1 in the Big XII this year, but has not wrestled in about a month and a half, and lost a close decision to Oliver from Nebraska. Marable actually holds wins over McSpadden and Rowe on the year, so really, as I write this, I have no idea what is going to come from here.

Having watched Trent Paulson take on and absolutely destroy Nick Marable two weeks ago, there is little doubt who is going to come out of this class. However, what happens from there is anyone’s guess. Can MU send two to the mat? All I know is that Newly McSpadden has the best name of the tournament, but will likely do absolutely nothing in this class against this dominant lineup of wrestlers.

(By the way, two wrestlers from the same team did place back in 1997 with two HWY wrestlers from NU coming in 1st and 3rd. I do not know if the Big XII has changed that rule, but it appears that it has happened before)

165 pounds…..the wrestlers:

Johny Hendricks – Senior/OSU (#1)
Travis Paulson – Senior/ISU (#3)
Matt Pell – Senior/MU (#7)
Shane Siebert – Senior/OU (#18)
Stephen Dwyer – Freshman/NU (NR)

What a strange trip it has been for Matt Pell. A natural 174 pounder, Pell made the jump up to 184 pounds for his first two years. That paid off with a 2nd and 4th place finish in the Big XII Tournament, and his reaching All-American status at the class. Last year, Pell dropped through 174 (where Ben Askren obviously has been the entire time) to 165, and it paid off with another 2nd place finish, this time to eventual national champion Johny Hendricks 2-1. Pell then went on to miss making All-American at the NCAA’s after a close loss to Travis Paulson. See the history in this weight class? On the season, Coach Smith has done his best to rest Pell as much as possible so he can peak right about now.

Clearly, this is another class where the Big XII will send four wrestlers. Pell lost tough matches this season to Hendricks and Paulson, and obviously would like nothing more than to finish his Hearnes Center career with the conference title that has eluded him thus far. That is a tough call to make however; as his semi-final match is going to be right up there as the best 2-3 match of the day. I believe Pell will be able to use the home mat advantage to carry him to a win there, but will fall again to the 2-time defending national champion in the end.

174 pounds…..the wrestlers:

Ben Askren – Senior/MU (#1)

And though it does not matter….

Josh Weitzel – Junior/OU (#8)
Brandon Mason – Sophomore/OSU (#15)
Grant Turner – Senior/ISU (#19)
Marc Harwood – Senior/NU (NR)

Honestly, as I typed this, I did not realize how decently deep this weight class was this year. But really, does it matter? Askren is 9-0 on the season against Big XII opponents, 32-0 on the season against any opponents and 142-2 against anyone not named Chris Pendleton from Oklahoma State. Askren will be almost certain to win his 3rd Big XII title (his one win over Pendleton came as a freshman in the Big XII Championships). Beyond that, Askren is odds on favorite to not only repeat as national champion, but as Wrestler of the Year. In the end, Askren should be able to push his career win total over 150, probably out of the reach of most if not all future MU wrestlers.

Not much to predict in this class. Askren has not lost a match in almost two years, and is not likely to lose one now, as long as the flu is not a factor. Assuming it is not, the only thing left to question is whether or not he will pin everyone in the tournament, and if those pins give us any extra points towards our team total. Honestly, the final total might be so close that it could come down to something like that.

184 pounds…..the wrestlers:

Raymond Jordan – Sophomore/MU (#5)
Jake Varner – Freshman/ISU (#6)
Jack Jensen – Junior/OSU (NR)
Levi Wofford – RS Freshman/NU (NR)
Josh Hinton – RS Freshman/OU (NR)

Very quietly, Raymond Jordan has had a tremendous season and risen to #5 in the country in what is a very young weight class, both nationally and in the conference. Jordan only lost four times on the season, and went undefeated in conference play with a 5-0 record. The last win was the most impressive and important, a 6-4 win over Jake Varner from Iowa State. That win was important because it gave Jordan the #1 seed in the tournament and a first round match against a lesser opponent. Jordan fell 3-2 last year in the finals to Kurt Backes of Iowa State (now at 197, more on him in a moment) and will look to add a title to his already impressive resume.

As for this class on the whole, this is one of the weakest of the groups. With only two ranked wrestlers, it should almost certainly be a Jordan/Varner final. Both will obviously move on to Detroit to hopefully defend the honor of the Big XII. I only say that because the Big 10 has EIGHT ranked wrestlers in this weight class….8 of 19!! Anyway, I believe Jordan will take what he learned against Varner and replicate that success to bring home his first Big XII title.

197 pounds…..the wrestlers:

Max Askren – Freshman/MU (#2)
Joel Flaggert – Junior/OU (#5)
Kurt Backes – Senior/ISU (#7)
Craig Bester – Freshman/NU (#11)
Jared Shelton – Sophomore/OSU (NR)

You think Max Askren has something to prove on Saturday? 26-1, with the one loss coming in the biggest home match of the season against Iowa State and Kurt Backes. Backes was up 6-4 with some pending back points when Askren and Backes scrambled and rolled through. All of a sudden, the match was over as Backes was given a pin over Askren, ending his 26 match winning streak and knocking him off of his #1 in the country pedestal. The good news is that Askren should still be the #1 seed, with win over everyone else in the conference and Backes sporting two losses on the season (Flaggert and Bester). I believe Max is going to be fired up to prove the loss was a fluke and product of sloppy wrestling.

With four wrestlers in the top 11 in the country, this weight class is the crown jewel of the Big XII on a national level. The semifinal matchup of Flaggert and Backes will be another dandy worthy of the NCAA semifinals, not Big XII. Askren did defeat Flaggert in a tough match early in the season in the finals of the Missouri Open, but did not wrestle him again in OU a month or so ago. I believe these two are destined to meet again in the finals, and I think Askren will be a man on a mission to win what will hopefully be MU’s third Big XII title in a row.

Heavyweight……the wrestlers:

David Zabriskie – Freshman/ISU (#15)
Jared Rosholt – Freshman/OSU (#16)
Mark Ellis – RS Freshman/MU (#20)
Cameron Browne – Freshman/NU (NR) or Jon May Junior/NU
Brad Farmer – Sophomore/OU (NR)

Two years ago, Coach Smith had an interesting problem on his hands. He had two freshman heavyweight wrestlers on his hands. Smith chose to go with Sean Connole last season, and the undersized freshman did not produce much while Mark Ellis redshirted in an attempt to grow bigger. Ellis came on this season, and has done well, but not been spectacular. His season took a downturn with an injury mid-year and never really recovered. Against ISU, and freshly off of the air being sucked out of building from Askren’s upset loss, Ellis lost a tough match to David Zabriskie of Iowa State. That match all more than likely puts Ellis in the #3 seed, a tough draw to be sure. This also may be his first and last appearance in the Big XII tournament, with MU having the #1 High School heavyweight in the country coming from Kansas City next season.

As far as this class goes, this one really could decide the tournament, and how exciting will that be? Zabrskie defeated Rosholt twice on the season (both by 4-3 scores) and has to be considered the favorite and #1 seed. Ellis of Mizzou should come in 3rd and move on to the NCAA tournament as well. I think Zabriskie will beat Rosholt in the finals, but will it be enough to push Iowa State to their first Big XII wrestling title?

Final Analysis

First off, I cannot believe this has been 2700+ words to this point.

Totaling up the champions by school, we have three for Mizzou (Askren, Jordan, Askren), three for OSU (Scott, Morgan, Hendricks), two for OU (Hazewinkle and Storniolo) and two for ISU (Paulson and Zabriskie). OU is not deep enough to be considered a candidate for the team title. That leaves OSU, ISU and MU. In four matches this season, OSU was 0-4 against ISU and MU, so I think that says they are not deep enough either. That leaves MU and ISU. Last time out, ISU defeated MU in a match that was much closer than the score would tell you. Tyler McCormick did not wrestle and Max Askren was not only upset, but was pinned. Turning those matches around, and giving decisions to both wrestlers would have made the final score 18-17 in favor of Mizzou. Will it be that close on Saturday? Only time and perhaps MU’s ability to recover from the flu bug will tell.

My only true prediction will be that MU will send a school record NINE wrestlers to the NCAA tournament in Detroit in two weeks, with the 125 pound class being the only one in which we will not have a representative.


Not since Clarence’s shot in OT against OU... 2000 have I seen a shot go as far down as Stefhon Hannah’s 3-pointer with 30 seconds left did without going in. Just a gut-wrenching way to lose a game, especially one that had some meaning to it.

Random thoughts on the game that sent us to 1-6 in games decided by 5 points or less...

• Marshall Brown should not be allowed to shoot the ball anymore until there are less than 5 minutes left in the game. And even then, he should only be allowed to shoot with under 10 seconds left on the shot clock. His shot (and, really, his entire game) just hasn’t been there all year, and while he’s made a couple clutch shots in the last 8 days, it really almost seems like Darryl Butterfield—who has plenty of his own flaws—has surpassed him in just about every facet of the game. I’m not sure why he hasn’t clicked like I thought he would under Anderson, but he hasn’t, and aside from that 3-pointer with about 4 minutes left in regulation, he brought nothing today.

• Seriously, how good was the defense down the stretch today—on both sides? Maric only got 1-2 decent looks in the last 8-9 minutes, and neither Keon nor Hannah could get any separation whatsoever.

• I like what Doc Sadler has brought to this Nebraska team, and their style works well against Mike Anderson’s style. The only thing is, I don’t know how much of it is Sadler and how much of it is Maric (at least offensively). Either way, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Nebraska could finish 5th in conference. Just think what they could do if they never had to play Kansas.

• If Arthur Johnson had played for Doc Sadler, he’d have averaged 20 PPG.

• I just have to accept it—we play a style that pursues chaos, and we have a large, old group of officials who will always be out of position if the game’s being played as we want it to—that’s a bad combination, but it’s not going to change, so I just to accept that there will be large numbers of bad calls (for and against Mizzou) in every game. However, I should still be able to expect that what is a foul with 15 minutes left in the first half is a foul with 5 minutes left in the game. This game wasn’t even close to the worst officiated game I’ve seen this year, but things still alternated between calling everything, then nothing, then everything, then nothing again. You just hope they balance out in the end, I guess, and each team gets screwed an equal number of times.

• Poor Leo did not balance out for him today. Kalen Grimes got away with a bit of contact (in the 2nd half, anyway, definitely not the first), and it seemed like Butterfield had 9 fouls, but Leo couldn’t breathe without a whistle blowing. Of course, that could be because he was guarding a guy who had 45 pounds on him, and he couldn't keep Maric from getting good position. I thought the charge (his 5th foul) was some crap, though. Yes, he lowered his shoulder, but Maric didn't have position on him anyway. It was a no-call if anything.

• This loss does officially knock us off the bubble, but our chances were on life support anyway. Our improvement has been encouraging, but we waited too long to bump up our level of play. An 0-4 start (with a loss at home to Iowa State) was too much to overcome. Still plenty of ball to be played, though. Keep this up, and we might stick around a while in the NIT for once.

• And hey, at the very least we can take consolation in the fact that we would have won the SEC West this year.


Big XII Predictions, 2/24

Texas @ Oklahoma - The only game that features two teams in the top half of the conference, I don't really have a good feel on this one. Oklahoma has been twice the team at Lloyd Noble, but they don't appear to have the athleticism to matchup well with Texas. However, if they get on a roll with the 3-pointer, Texas is a young enough team to get in a rut. Texas won by 11 in Austin, and they have more to play for, so I'll say UT by 1-2.

Oklahoma State @ Texas Tech - I'm a bit of an OSU fan (they've always been my #2 team), so part of me keeps thinking that they'll right the ship and get things going. But I'm pretty sure that's the biased part of me talking. Their only win in the last 6 games was a 2OT win over Tech in Stillwater, but if home court is worth anything, you figure Tech will win. At some point, OSU will get its third wind (maybe), but probably not in Lubbock. Tech by 8.

Kansas State @ Colorado - Eww. In front of 2,500 fans at the Coors Center, KSU by 13.

Texas A&M @ Baylor - I keep thinking Baylor's going to jump up and bite someone, but Billy Gillispie's team seems too mentally strong to lose a game like this at this point in the season. ATM only won by 10 in College Station, so it will likely be tight, but with the Big XII title in the balance, ATM finds a way. ATM by 2.

Missouri @ Nebraska - This is a 'head vs heart' pick, only my head is saying MU and my heart is saying NU. Figure that one out. MU is a better, stronger team than they were when these two teams met in Columbia. In that game MU deflected a couple passes right to an open guy for 3 in the first half and just couldn't buy a shot in the middle section of the game. My head says MU will continue to stay warm, while NU's cooled off just enough to lose this game (especially after their FIFTY-THREE point loss to KU last weekend). However my heart is warning me that MU is due a step backwards, and Lincoln has been the location of lots of steps backwards for lots of teams over the years. NU by 4.

Iowa State @ Kansas - Death. Destruction. Carnage. KU by 24.

So if this all takes place, here's what the standings would look like after today. Tech would jump over OU and MU into 5th with the win, while Nebraska would jump OSU and ISU into 8th. That's about it.

1. Texas A&M 12-2
2. Kansas 12-2
3. Texas 11-3
4. Kansas State 9-5
5. Texas Tech 7-7
6. Missouri 6-8
7. Oklahoma 6-8
8. Nebraska 5-8
9. Oklahoma State 5-8
10. Iowa State 5-9
11. Baylor 3-11
12. Colorado 2-12

Honestly, MU's best chance of success in the Big XII tournament comes if they can lock down the 5th slot. That would likely lead to a CU walkover in the first round and another rematch with K-State in the second. A 6th-place finish (which is where they'd likely fall if they lose today) would likely lead to a matchup with Baylor (who fought well in Columbia), followed by another game with Texas, against whom they match up terribly. So yeah...would be nice if they won today...


1993-94 Redux: November 16 - 23

(I had no recollection of both Crudup and Booker being in trouble with the law in the offseason...and I’m not sure if “municipal ordinance violation” could be any more vague.)

November 16, 1993: Crudup’s Charges Reduced

Tribune Sports Editor

Jevon Crudup's charges have been reduced, but his suspension has not.

Crudup, a senior forward on the Missouri basketball team, was supposed to be tried tomorrow in Boone County Court on charges of driving while intoxicated and failure to drive on the right side of the road.

But those charges were reduced to driving with a blood-alcohol content above .10, and the trial was postponed until Dec. 8 so Crudup can attend his grandmother's funeral tomorrow.

DWI is a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by 30 days to six months in jail. The new charge is a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by up to 15 days in jail and/or a $300 fine.

Barring an earlier resolution through plea bargain, Crudup will miss two exhibitions and four regular-season games. That includes the Dec. 2 ESPN game at Arkansas.
November 23, 1993: Stewart’s Outlook Upbeat

of the Tribune's staff

Thanksgiving has come early for Missouri basketball coach Norm Stewart. Practice has been enjoyable. “We've had now at least four that I would put in the super category, where you just go home and are glad you're coaching,” Stewart said yesterday. The Tigers' one meeting with outside competition was a 104-61 victory over the touring USA Verich Reps.

“We thought that the players should really be encouraged by their performance,” Stewart said. “You can't go by comparing scores, but that team left here, went down and won at Wake Forest. Then they went back and played Virginia a good ballgame at Virginia.”

The Tigers will have guests again tonight, playing the Russian Red Army in a 7 p.m. exhibition at the Hearnes Center. It's the last outing before the season opener Saturday night against Central Missouri State.

Melvin Booker probably will rejoin the starting five tonight after sitting out the Verich game as the final installment of punishment for a municipal ordinance violation in August.

Julian Winfield, Lamont Frazier, Kelly Thames and Chris Heller are the other likely starters, Stewart said.

While it's been so far, so good and the Tigers appear deeper than they've been since 1989-90, Stewart sounded one cautionary note yesterday. “We'll have see what happens when the excrement hits the flying, swirling blades,” he said.
November 26, 1993: MU Disarms Red Army

of the Tribune's staff

Preparedness was not at a high level, but Missouri easily turned back the Russian Red Army last night at the Hearnes Center in the last checkpoint before the regular season.

The Red Army showed little offense, and Missouri was never threatened in an 81-42 victory.

“When you really look at the stats, it wasn't bad,” Missouri coach Norm Stewart said. “But yet it just didn't seem like we were in the ballgame.

“Maybe we're now up to that point where we're waiting for the opener. But we've got some work to do between now and the opener.”

Missouri plays for real Saturday night against Central Missouri State at the Hearnes Center.

Melvin Booker, last year's leading scorer, returned to the lineup last night, but things were not as smooth as last week's exhibition. The Tigers drilled the USA Verich Reps 104-61 in that one.

“We didn't seem to be as attentive to the game as we were the other one,” Stewart said. “We were a little bit more excited about that game.”

Mark Atkins' four three-pointers were the flash point of Missouri's offense. The senior guard's 14 points led all scorers.

The Russians did not score for more than five minutes while Missouri built a 12-0 lead. They once got to within nine for a few seconds.

The Tigers made 10 steals, led by Julian Winfield's four. Freshman Jason Sutherland was not credited with any, but he was among the leaders in floor burns.

“I got one strawberry on my hip, but that's all part of the game,” Winfield said. “I think me and Jason had a contest to see who can get the most.”

Winfield was one Tiger who played better last night than against Verich. “Tonight I think I was a little bit more aggressive than I was the past game,” he said. He and Booker started, along with Lamont Frazier, Chris Heller and Kelly Thames.

“It was nice to have Melvin out there,” Winfield said.

On defense, the Red Army provided more resistance than the Reps. “These guys pushed a little more inside than Verich did,” center Chris Heller said. “There was a lot of banging, a lot of holding and stuff down low.”

It wasn't low when Jed Frost was intentionally fouled by Alex Zolotukhin. The Russian hit Frost from behind with an elbow to the head. Frost turned and walked toward him, but an official quickly intervened. It did prompt one of the best lines from the Antlers in years. “Better Jed than Red!” they chanted.


Friday, February 23, 2007

1993-94 Redux: November 1 – November 10

(Man, was the Big 8 stacked nicely that year. And I’m sorry, but I just cannot picture Monte Hardge playing for UNLV.)

November 1, 1993: Tigers Put on Scary Preview

By DAVID HOLZMANof the Tribune's staff

Last night's Haunted House of Hoops was not quite the costume extravaganza of past years. The Missouri Tigers entered the Hearnes Center floor amid fog in Dracula capes. Further costuming was optional.

Once they got down to playing basketball, everybody pretty much looked like everybody else.

There was a fairly even split of talent in the Black vs. Gold scrimmage. Lamont Frazier opened the scoring with a pair of three-pointers, and the Black which started Frazier, Melvin Booker, Chris Heller and freshmen Jason Sutherland and Kelly Thames went on to win 66-55.

The Gold started Jevon Crudup, Julian Winfield, Derek Grimm, Mark Atkins and Derrick Johnson.

Grimm, a 6-foot-8 freshman from Morton, Ill., led all scorers with 18 points. A crowd of about 3,000 attended the public scrimmage.

Redshirt freshman Chip Walther, a 5-10 walk-on, had 16 points. Walther spent time on both teams.

Much like the halftime Halloween costume contest, it was a night for the younger set.

“They ought to be really encouraged, and I include all of them in that,” Missouri coach Norm Stewart said. The veterans on a senior-laden team didn'tcome in for a blanket endorsement.

“You should be able to do some of the fundamental things better than some of our veterans did,” Stewart said.

The Haunted House of Hoops returned after a year's hiatus depending on NCAA rules regarding practice. Last year, the opening date was moved from Oct. 15 to Nov. 1. This year, teams were allowed to begin on Saturday, making last night the second day of practice for Missouri.

The Tigers went without senior guard Reggie Smith and junior forward Marlo Finner. Both have been held out of practice because they've missed classes, Stewart said.

Smith took part in the pre-game introductions and sat on the team bench. Stewart said Finner was at the library last night.

They're not expected to be out much longer. “I've got to check something,”Stewart said. “They'll probably be back tomorrow.”
November 5, 1993: Cowboys Unseat Jayhawks as Media’s League Favorite

By DAVID HOLZMANof the Tribune's staff

If voters in the preseason basketball Big Eight media poll are right, not only will Kansas' reign end, Oklahoma State will win its first title in 29 years.

The Cowboys were the overwhelming favorite, receiving 46 first-place votes from 60 ballots cast.

Kansas finished second in the poll. Indicating how wide-open a race is expected, seven teams, including Colorado, received first-place votes.

Missouri received two first-place votes and is the choice for third.

Sophomore guard Julian Winfield of the Tigers was named Newcomer of the Year with 14 votes in 38 cast, beating out forwards Calvin Curry of Oklahoma and Belvis Noland of Kansas State, each of whom had 10.

Missouri coach Norm Stewart said his team placed about as he expected, but he couldn't agree with taking the Jayhawks off the favored perch.

“They won the championship three years in a row,” Stewart said. “It's always been my opinion that if you win the championship, you're the favorite until somebody displaces you.”

Kansas loses four starters, including NBA first-round draft choices Rex Walters and Adonis Jordan from the backcourt.

“When you play that system, you're playing a lot of players, and they have a lot of players returning,” Stewart said.

While forward Richard Scott is nominally the only returning starter, Steve Woodberry, Greg Ostertag and Patrick Richey are all proven players. Woodberry is a preseason all-conference selection, joining Oklahoma State center Bryant Reeves, guards Eric Piatkowski of Nebraska and Donnie Boyce of Colorado and forward Jeff Webster of Oklahoma.

Reeves, last season's Big Eight Player of the Year and the conference leader in scoring and rebounding, was a unanimous choice and dominated Player of the Year voting with 51 of 59 votes.

The Tigers' Melvin Booker, a first-team selection on the coaches' all-conference team last season, and Jevon Crudup were named to the second team. They were joined by guards Anthony Beane of Kansas State and Fred Hoiberg of Iowa State and Scott.

Winfield received one all-conference vote, giving him honorable mention status. Missouri guard Jason Sutherland received one Freshman of the Year vote. All the freshman candidates were guards first-place finisher Jacque Vaughn of Kansas, Chianti Roberts of Oklahoma State, Dameon Page of Colorado and Sutherland.
November 10, 1993: Hardge Tops Off List of MU Recruits

By DAVID HOLZMANof the Tribune's staff

The word came from near and far today, the start of the early signing period for college basketball recruits. Jefferson City center Monte Hardge scheduled a ceremony for this afternoon, where he is expected to sign with Missouri, ending a down-to-the-wire decision between the Tigers and Nevada-Las Vegas.

At 7-foot and 280 pounds, Hardge would bring needed size to the Tigers. Derek Grimm, a 6-8 freshman, is the only non-senior taller than 6-6 on the current Tiger roster.

Hardge averaged 16 points and 11 rebounds last season as the Jays won the Class 4A high school championship. He shot 58 percent from the field, and 52 percent at the line.

Kendrick Moore, a 6-2 point guard from Hartford, Conn., also waited until today to make his choice known. It's the Tigers. “I thought they had the best overall package for me,” Moore said this morning.

Moore steered Hartford Public High School to an undefeated state title in Connecticut Class LL, the larger of the state's two classifications.

“I think his best position is the point,” Hartford Public coach Stan Piorkowski said. “He's an exceptionally skilled ballhandler while at all times knowing what's happening on the rest of the floor.

“He's not a guy who's going to take over and say `Here, let me score 50 points,' although that's what I'm going to ask him to do this year.”

Last season, Moore averaged 17 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.

A member of the National Honor Society, Moore plans to study accounting.

Corey Tate, a 6-4 guard from Mineral Area Junior College, orally committed in early October. “If you know you want to do something, just go on and get it over with,” Tate said.

He had a longstanding relationship with Missouri, dating back to his days at Pattonville High School in the St. Louis area.

“They stuck with me all through high school,” Tate said. “That says a lot.” Because he did not meet Prop 48 requirements, Tate said, he went to junior college.

Tate said he had interest from schools such as Syracuse and Alabama, but his final decision came down to Missouri or St. Louis.

After suffering a broken leg Aug. 22, Tate is back playing his sophomore season at Mineral Area.

He's kept track of the Tigers since high school and has a desire that should be easily achieved before next season. “I've never stepped on the Hearnes floor. Every time I see it on TV, my hands break out in a sweat.”

Like Moore, Tate gets high marks for passing. “I think I pass better than I do anything,” he said.

Scott Combs, a 6-7 forward from Paoli, Ind., orally committed to MU last week and was scheduled to sign today at Paoli High School.

Combs averaged 20 points and 12 rebounds last season as Paoli advanced to the round of 16 in Indiana's all-in one state tournament for the second consecutive year.

Missouri's current roster of 15 players includes eight seniors and five scholarship recipients with eligibility beyond this season. With today's signings, the Tigers still have three scholarships available. Forward Marlo Finner projects to be the only senior next season.


Props to the Columbia Tribune...

...for keeping a free archive of their paper going back to 1/1/1993. Most papers cut off their archive after about a year or two back, charging you to look at anything beyond that.

Because of that, I had a cool (to me, anyway) idea as we approach March Madness. Over the next month or so, I’m going to go back and post archived previews and game summaries from the 1993-94 season. We know how that season has become (justifably) immortalized by Tiger fans, but it’s always fun for me to go back and see what people were saying then. The Tigers were coming off of a disappointing 1992-93 season, so nobody really saw that level of success coming, especially since a lot of it hinged on an end-of-semester JUCO transfer. Anyway, this is interesting to at least me, and since it’s (partially) my blog, I’m going to do it. You’ve been warned.

And besides, this will a positive addition to my posting to go along with all the “What If?” scars I bring back to the forefront...


Thursday, February 22, 2007


...PowerMizzou is reporting that starting CB Domonique Johnson is leaving the Mizzou program because of "personal reasons." He's not the single best player on the defense or anything, but it's hard to disagree with the fact that our defense was better when he was in there. "Personal reasons" could be any of 10,000 different things, but it still stinks.

As for what it means for 2007...the way I see it, it will be a dogfight between Hardy Ricks (who started a few games while Johnson was injured) and Del Howard for the starting job. I liked what I saw out of Howard, but Ricks had the upper hand, at least at the end of 2006. Other possibilities, I guess, are Trenile Washington, Paul Simpson, and maybe Castine Bridges. It's good that we've got the depth that we do there, but somebody now needs to step up. My early (biased) prediction: Howard.

UPDATE, 2/23: According to Graham Watson, Howard moved to safety, and there are no plans for moving him back. Which means I was proven wrong in an impressively short amount of time. Go me.


What If, Part I: What If Ricky Clemons Didn’t Choose Mizzou?

Welcome to the first part in what will likely be a relatively long series of “What If...?” posts. This isn’t meant to be some rose-colored fantasy so much as a chance to do two things a) satisfy some curiosity, and b) prove my ultimate nerddom in front of the entire blogosphere.

I can pinpoint the exact moment where I was most optimistic about Mizzou basketball and the Quin Snyder Era. It was the morning of September 28, 2002. A few hundred Tiger fans and I attended a basketball scrimmage that morning before the epic Mizzou-Troy State football game that afternoon, and things couldn’t have gone better. Mizzou was coming off an Elite Eight appearance, Luol Deng was visiting, and it was the first chance for a lot of people to get a look at Ricky Clemons, a JUCO point guard whom Quin Snyder had spent a good portion of the offseason wooing. What happened? Well, Clemons made something like 9 of 10 3-pointers, Deng scored at will and looked extremely happy to be in Columbia and comfortable around the other players (this came on top of news that Deng and his father were not happy with the negative way Coach K and Duke were recruiting him), and I could hardly contain myself. I breathlessly reported back to people at our tailgate just how great Clemons and Deng were, and how great this could be for Mizzou basketball.


Like I said, that was the zenith of my optimism. Almost everything that happened from that point on represented a trip down a downward slope. First, Deng signed with Duke, negative recruiting or no negative recruiting.

And then Clemons assaulted his girlfriend because she didn’t want to watch Roots.

And then Vahe Gregorian of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch decided to try and win a Pulitzer with heavy exposes of the dark side of the Mizzou program.

And then Mizzou bowed out in overtime in the second round of the NCAA’s.

And then Clemons crashed an ATV on the school president’s lawn while out of prison because of a lie and got officially kicked off the team.

And then Mizzou got put on probation because, among other things, Quin gave Clemons some flip flops and made a recruit (who didn’t even end up coming to Mizzou) a burger.

And then the 2003-04 Mizzou team, a possible Final Four contender with or without Clemons, became possibly the worst underachiever in Mizzou history, losing to the likes of Belmont and missing out on the NCAA’s altogether.

And then the 2005-06 team missed the postseason altogether, resulting mercifully in Quin Snyder’s firing.

(Yes, that was a relatively selective look at the last 5 years. Sue me.)

It appears now that Mike Anderson has righted the ship, and things have turned back to an upslope. But what might have happened if Ricky Clemons had selected Florida State, or N.C. state, or Mississippi State instead of Mizzou? Would things have actually ended up any better? Granted, I would not have been nearly excited about Mizzou basketball on September 28, 2002, but would two years of Wesley Stokes and no recruiting sanctions have saved the Mizzou program? I really don’t know the answer, but let’s take a look.


Never mind the personal aspect—Ricky Clemons’ 2002-03 season with Mizzou was a roller coaster in and of itself. He scored 25 points in his debut against American. He followed up a solid December with a fantastic beginning of January, almost single-handedly beating Iowa on 1/4 (scoring 27) and keeping Mizzou competitive on the road against Syracuse on Big Monday on 1/13 (scoring 26). It was later that week when all hell broke loose with the Roots incident. He was suspended for the trip to Gallagher-Iba (walk-on Ryan Kiernan played 10 minutes, and Mizzou got slaughtered), but when he was reinstated (innocent until proven guilty, after all), he continued to play well until he broke his hand against Colorado on 2/22. He didn’t miss a game (in fact, he scored 13 points in an upset of Oklahoma the very next game), but his production from that point on degraded quickly. In fact, by the postseason you could have almost convinced me he was throwing games. He finished the season going 2-for-15 against Marquette (albeit with 7 assists) in a game the Tigers somehow lost despite getting a combined 64 points from Rickey Paulding and Arthur Johnson. He was 7-for-39 (17.9%) with 22 points, 12 assists and 10 turnovers over his last four games in a Mizzou uniform.

On July 7, 2002, Wesley Stokes announced he was transferring from Mizzou to play for San Diego State. Part of his announced reason was that he was homesick and wanted to play close to his family. You have to figure that was indeed part of the decision, but you also have to figure that, if Ricky Clemons hadn’t committed to Mizzou and hadn’t been forecasted to steal quite a bit of Stokes’ playing time, Stokes wouldn’t have felt quite as homesick, no? So let’s pretend that Clemons instead committed to his second choice, whoever that would have been, and Stokes decided to stick it out for two more seasons at Mizzou.

2002-03 Season

Here’s a comparison of Wesley Stokes and Ricky Clemons in their junior seasons. I determined Stokes’ numbers by combining his sophomore stats at Mizzou and his junior stats at San Diego State. Stokes emerged as a scorer (and turnover machine) at SDSU, but I balanced that with his Mizzou numbers simply because of the level of competition (Stokes also probably benefitted from having a year to hone his skills while sitting out at SDSU for transfer rules).

Wesley Stokes: 28.0 MPG, 8.7 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 4.9 APG, 2.8 TOPG, 1.17 PPS, 0.26 ShPM, 0.08 RPM, 0.17 APM, 0.10 TOPM

Ricky Clemons: 34.0 MPG, 14.2 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 3.8 APG, 3.3 TOPG, 1.14 PPG, 0.37 ShPM, 0.09 RPM, 0.11 APM, 0.10 TOPM

(MPG = Minutes Per Game, PPG = Points Per Game, RPG = Rebounds Per Game, APG = Assists Per Game, TOPG = Turnovers Per Game, PPS = Points Per Shot, ShPM = Shots Per Minute, RPM = Rebounds Per Minute, APM = Assists Per Minute, TOPM = Turnovers Per Minute)

What you see here is two completely different point guard styles. Ricky Clemons had a lot of Clarence Gilbert in him. He did enjoy better assist numbers than Gilbert ever did, as he really was a bit more of a true point guard, but Stokes was pretty much the definition of a “true” point guard. He was by no means great at what he did, but he was a distributor first, whereas Clemons was a shooter.

When I first started this comparison, I figured what I would see was a dropoff of 3-4 PPG in the tradeoff between Stokes and Clemons, but now I’m not so sure. For one thing, taking NEP (Net Equivalent Points) into account, Stokes had a better per-minute average in 2001-02 than Clemons did in 2002-03. Clemons took 14.8 shots per 40 minutes (for an avg of about 16.9 points per 40), Stokes 10.4 (12.2 points per 40). (Honestly, it seemed like Clemons took a lot more shots than that...he was Gilbert-esque in his possession-wasting shot-jacking.) On the other hand, Stokes averaged 6.8 assists per 40 minutes, while Clemons only averaged 4.4. If Stokes were point guard, somebody else would be taking the 3-4 extra shots per game, and considering Stokes’ assist rate, they’d have probably made two of those shots (especially considering most other players on the team averaged more PPS than Stokes or Clemons did). So do Stokes’ assists make up for Clemons’ points scored? Surprisingly, I say yes, even when you take into account the fact that Clemons played more minutes than Stokes likely would have, meaning guards Jimmy McKinney and Josh Kroenke would have ended up with a smidge more playing time.

There’s something else to take into account here—Clemons’ roller coaster ride. He was All-Big XII caliber until mid-January, a competent PG until late-February, and a liability after that, when he was playing with a broken hand (and still shooting a lot). So you have to figure that, even though Mizzou would likely have averaged roughly the same PPG with Stokes, it would have been distributed a bit differently. For the purposes of this experiment, I say we would have been about 1 point worse with Stokes the first month of the season (Nov-Dec), 2 points worse the second month (Dec-Jan), no different the third month (Jan-Feb), and 3 points better the fourth month and beyond.

So what about defense?

Wesley Stokes averaged 2.8 steals per 40 minutes during his simulated junior season, while Ricky Clemons only averaged 1.6. However, if memory serves (and there’s a chance it doesn’t—this is four years ago, after all), Clemons was a better on-ball defender (Stokes took more risks), and combined with Clemons’ slight advantage in the rebounding category, it’s hard to assume that Mizzou would have been any better or worse defensively. (If anybody has any different view of Stokes v. Clemons in the defensive category, feel free to share.)

So...keeping the opponents’ scoring the same and making the offensive adjustments I listed above, how does the season shake down? Well...exactly the same, actually. However, my own recollection of that game is that there is absolutely no way we would have won without Ricky Clemons, so we lose that one. Our conference record is exactly the same, and we reach the post season 17-10, or one game worse than the 18-9 we managed with Clemons. If you remember correctly, we made quite the run in the Big XII tourney that year.

3/13 vs Nebraska
Old Result: MU 70-61
New Result: MU 73-61

3/14 vs Oklahoma State
Old Result: MU 60-58
New Result: MU 63-58

3/15 vs Kansas
Old Result: MU 68-63
New Result: MU 71-63

3/16 vs Oklahoma
Old Result: OU 49-47
New Result: MU 50-49

Clemons really was a liability by this point, and Stokes probably could have contributed more than Clemons at this point in the season. So while we made the tourney finals with Clemons, we might just have beaten OU with less of a point guard liability. So there you go. 21-10, Big XII Tournament Champions. That’s the same record we had going into the NCAA Tournament in Reality, so for the sake of continuity, let’s say we got the same tourney placement in Clemons-less Reality. The committee loves strong finishes, so there’s maybe a chance we’d have gotten a 5 seed, but we’ll say we got exactly the same draw.

3/20 vs Southern Illinois
Old Result: MU 72-71
New Result: MU 75-71

3/22 vs Marquette
Old Result: Marquette 101-92 (OT), 80-80 end of regulation
New Result: MU 83-80

Keeping the same 3-point adjustment (which might or might not be fair), the SIU now does not come down to a 3-pointer at the buzzer (damn, did we come close to losing that game...and being that my father-in-law went to SIU, and my wife and I had just started dating at that time...yeah, that would have been utter hell). As for the 2nd Round game against Marquette...the mere fact that Wesley Stokes wouldn’t have gone 2-for-15 is probably worth at least a point. So let’s say it’s 81-80 Mizzou when Dwayne Wade misses a pull-up jumper with under 10 seconds left, and Marquette has to foul Rickey Paulding on the rebound. Paulding, who couldn’t miss for most of the game, makes both FT’s, and it’s 83-80. Marquette misses a desperation heave, and Mizzou is on to the Sweet Sixteen for the second straight season.

Honestly, that’s pretty realistic, isn’t it? Considering how far we got with nothing from the PG position, getting a bare minimum from our PG in a game where Rickey Paulding outplayed Dwayne Wade could have possibly resulted in what was 80-80 after regulation swinging ever-so-slightly in our favor.

Of course, now we get into some serious conjecture (but hey, that's what I'm best at). After defeating Missouri in the 2nd round, Marquette disposed of Pittsburgh in the Sweet Sixteen. Instead of just saying “That means Mizzou also would have beaten Pittsburgh,” let’s look at it this way. The 2002-03 Pittsburgh Panthers were 28-4 (13-3 in the Big East) when they played Marquette. They did not have a go-to scorer (five guys—Julius Page, Brandin Knight, Chevon Troutman, Jaron Brown, and Donatas Zavackas—averaged between 10 and 12 points a game). They were a team that took lots of 3-pointers (17.3 per game) and lots of free throws (22.7 per game). They averaged a strong 36.4 rebounds per game. Of all of Mizzou’s 2002-03 opponents, Pittsburgh’s combination of physical inside play and 3-point shooting makes them most like the Oklahoma Sooners. If you average out the Marquette-Pitt score with Mizzou's battles with OU (Marquette 77-74, Mizzou 67-52, Mizzou 50-49), you get a 65-58 Mizzou win. If you have WhatIfSports simulate it (with Clemons), you get...well, you get an 85-82 Mizzou win one time and a 75-59 Pitt win another.

But considering how hot Rickey Paulding had gotten, considering Mizzou was battle-tested and capable of physical play (just ask OU), and considering Mizzou had peaked in mid-March for three straight seasons, it's not out of the realm of possibility that they could have made it to the Elite Eight, where they would have played Kentucky. We know what happened in the real Marquette-Kentucky game—Marquette destroyed UK—and while it’s possible that UK would have laid just as big an egg against Mizzou, it's not a given.

As a whole, UK didn’t shoot quite as many 3-pointers (though they made a strong 35.6% of them) or FT’s as Pittsburgh did. Their strength was mostly in rebounding (36.8/game) and FG% (48.9%). They were led by sharpshooters Keith Bogans (15.7 PPG) and Gerald Fitch (12.3 PPG) with a strong interior game led by Marquis Estill (11.6 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 1.8 BPG). In all, just looking at the general strengths of the team and the quality of the team overall, I guess you’d have to compare them to Kansas from Mizzou’s list of opponents. Marquette whipped UK (83-69, though it didn't seem nearly that close), and the (adjusted) scores of the three MU-KU games averaged out to a 73-73 tie, so it's also not out of the realm of possibility that a Clemons-less Mizzou team could have beaten them too and advanced to a Final Four matchup with Kansas.

However, I wanted to prove that I wasn’t just out to say that “If not for _____, we’d have made 30 Final Fours and won 10 National Titles,” so in my first experiment, I can't have Mizzou making its first ever Final Four. Let's just say they bow out in the Elite Eight for the second straight year. That's still a more successful 3-year tourney run (9-3 record, 2 Elite Eight's) than Mizzou has ever had.

That suggests that 2002-03 could easily have been better without Ricky Clemons. So what about the future?

2003-04 Season

You have to figure that, after averaging 18+ PPG (taking more shots because of Clemons' absence) and wreaking havoc in 4 NCAA Tournament games, Rickey Paulding would have declared for the 2003 NBA draft. It would have been stupid not to. The tournament would have clouded teams’ collective judgement enough that he probably would have gone in the #15-25 range. As a point of reference, Louisville’s Reece Gaines went #15 to Orlando, Aleksandar Pavlovic went #19 to Utah, Duke’s Dahntay Jones went #20 to Boston, and Carlos Delfino went #25 to Detroit. Knowing what his stock would have been at with a Final Four run and great stats, that seems pretty realistic. Arthur Johnson would not have declared, as I don’t really see much of anything that would have bumped his draft stock into the first round whether he was a junior, senior, senior citizen...whatever. Unathletic 6'9 centers who can't even fake PF skills don't go in the first round, no matter how good they are (disclaimer: I loved Arthur Johnson).

Also, after being suspended for the first semester games for academic reasons, Wesley Stokes was dismissed altogether from San Diego State in January of his senior season. We’ll assume the same thing would have happened at Mizzou.

In other words, with a lineup sans Rickey Paulding (and Randy Pulley, who we wouldn’t have recruited) and plus no additional point guard help (since we wouldn’t have known Stokes was out until the school year started), 2004 would most certainly not have been any better.

Being extremely conservative, I would say there would be about a -3 PPG difference between 2003-04 with Paulding and without him (think of it as a 6-point deduction for losing Paulding and a 3-point addition for not having to go through Rootsgate). Subtracting 3 PPG from the offense and keeping defense the same (Paulding was great on the ball, but he didn’t force many turnovers), only one game result would change: we’d lose to Oklahoma State 92-91 in 2 OT’s, making us 15-14 after getting destroyed by Kansas in the Big XII tourney. You have to figure we’d have still played (and lost to) Michigan in the first round of the NIT as well. All in all, the 15-15 season would have still been disappointing (especially for a team that went to the Final Four the previous year), but with a thin bench (7 players getting PT once Kleiza went down) and no proven scorer aside from AJ, the disappointing season wouldn’t have been nearly as surprising.

And, chances are that on November 4, 2004, the program wouldn’t have been put on three years of probation.

2004-05 Season

Really, the way things shook down, the 2004-05 Mizzou roster might have ended up looking exactly the same with no Clemons and no probation. The 2004 recruiting class (Jason Horton, Marshall Brown, Kalen Grimes, Glen Dandridge) was large and highly-touted. Being that the case, we assume no change in results—this would have resulted in the second straight NIT bid after the 2003 Final Four. However...

2005-06 Season

Here’s where things might have changed, depending solely on the decision of a high school senior from Poplar Bluff, MO. As any Mizzou fan who follows Missouri athletics and recruiting knows, Tyler Hansbrough’s first season at North Carolina was 2005-06. He committed to North Carolina in late-August 2004, and it was presumed (by Mizzou fans, at least) that the single biggest reason he didn’t choose Mizzou had to have been the lingering NCAA punishment. What big-time recruit was going to come play for Mizzou when they might be banned from the postseason? Well, without the specter of NCAA punishment, Mizzou stood a much better chance of landing Hansbrough.

And if he did come to Mizzou? Well, that would considerably change things up for 2005-06, not only for what Hansbrough would have added (scoring), but what he would have taken away (worthless minutes by Kalen Grimes, Leo Lyons, and Kevin Young).

Granted, a team with Tyler Hansbrough would still have defined weaknesses—namely, depth and point guard play. Four players would have averaged close to 30 minutes per game and with only a couple other even remotely capable of giving quality minutes off the bench, there was no room for error. And let’s face it, every point guard that Quin recruited was worse than the last one. And Tyler Hansbrough, for all of his strengths, can’t play point guard.

And when you think about how amazingly bad this team was through much of late-January and early-February, no one player could have totally prevented some sort of collapse.

For the sake of putting numbers to things, let’s say that Tyler Hansbrough was worth an 8-point improvement. It might not have been that much, but who knows? First of all, this means Mizzou avoids embarrassing itself and beats Sam Houston (and then Drexel) and advances to the Preseason NIT semis in New York. Assuming Mizzou is two points better than Drexel we’ll say Mizzou finishes third, losing to Duke and beating a UCLA team that only beat Drexel by 1, and even with a loss at Davidson and a blowout loss to Illinois, they cruise into conference play at 11-3.

After defeating Kansas, Mizzou is 15-3, 4-0 in conference, and ranked probably in the #12-18 range. However, not even Tyler Hansbrough is enough to prevent the wheels from falling off at this point. I do realize that part of the reason for this gigantic slide (in real-life) was that the team quit on Quin and the firing rumors were too much to ignore. That always magnifies slides. But there’s just really no way measure that, and besides that, of the 10 games Mizzou lost following the Kansas game, only three were by less than 10 points. So we’ll say that a massive slide still took place. Mizzou loses 6 in a row, then rights the ship, finishing 4-2 (including huge wins against ATM and at Iowa State) and saving their fading NCAA hopes for now. Mizzou is 19-11 (8-8 in conference) with wins over Kansas, Texas A&M, Arkansas, and UCLA, an RPI of roughly 60-65, and it’s on to the Big XII tournament.

An 8-8 finish would have put Mizzou right back in the place where Quin Snyder felt most comfortable—tied for 5th in conference, this time with Colorado. Mizzou would win the tiebreaker due to a 5-5 division record (CU’s was 4-6), meaning they’d get a rematch with 12-seed Baylor in the first round. Let’s say they indeed get revenge on Baylor, then lose to 4-seed Texas A&M in the quarterfinals. That puts them at 20-12, RPI of roughly 55-60. Considering in real-life, Colorado was left out of the tourney with a 20-11 record and 59 RPI, logic dictates that Mizzou would have been left out too. Maybe they sneak in because of Quin’s success in the tourney, but maybe not.

So you add the best power-forward to come out of Missouri in who knows how long, and it puts you squarely on the tourney bubble.

And what if Quin hadn’t landed Hansbrough? Well, he would have extra scholarships to give out, and maybe he’d have landed somebody like Chad Millard or Luke Zeller (or maybe Brandon Rush), but this team had too many fatal flaws, particularly at PG, for anybody other than Hansbrough to lead them back to respectability.

2006-07 Season

So that leads us to the present day. Assume that Quin would have brought in roughly the same class he was looking to bring in last year before his firing (plus maybe Ben Hansbrough). Assume also that, with Quin staying, Thomas Gardner stays for his senior season. So you have a starting five of something like…

PG – Jason Horton/Armon Bassett (who is doing well at Indiana)
SG – K. Lawrence/M. Lawrence/Ben Hansbrough
SF - Thomas Gardner
PF – Marshall Brown
C – Tyler Hansbrough/Kalen Grimes

With Tyler, you probably come up with a 4th place finish in the Big XII, better than K-State/OU/Tech but probably not nearly as good as KU/ATM/Texas. Without Tyler, Mizzou is fighting it out with OSU for 7th or worse.

Summary (finally)

Okay, so roughly 30,000 words later, what can we conclude? Well, what I thought I’d find by doing this was a 2002-05 dropoff followed by a decent resurgence in the Tyler Hansbrough era, where Quin firmly established Mizzou as an annual 4th-6th place finisher and NCAA threat. What I actually found is that comparing Clemons to Stokes was a lot more favorable to Stokes than I would have remembered. There’s nothing saying we would have made the Final Four that year or anything, and that definitely wasn’t the conclusion I was looking for, but another year of postseason success probably would have taken place in 2003, followed by a significant dropoff in 2003-05 following the departures of Paulding and AJ (that Echols/Ferg/John class killed this team’s depth, didn’t it?) and the complete lack of a point guard (Jimmy McKinney not developing into the hero everybody thought he would be didn’t help).

Say all of this actually took place in the best-case scenario. Say we did actually make the Final Four in 2003. Hell, say we beat KU and made the NCAA Finals in 2003. Come 2005, we’d still have been betting the future of our program on Tyler Hansbrough. If he chose UNC, then we’d have ended up with the same mediocre team we had in 2004 and 2005, only Quin’s cachet of a Final Four berth and no probation might have kept him here at least a couple years longer.

To me, this What If game has shown that, really, Quin’s fatal flaw was recruiting and the lack of point guards, not Ricky Clemons. Missouri was set up to succeed in 2002-03, and they actually might have more without Clemons than with him. But no matter how much weight you put into the black cloud that shrouded the team in 2003-04, that team was going to disappoint with Jimmy McKinney and Spencer Laurie (and Randy Pulley) at the helm. And when they lost the class of Paulding/AJ/Travon, they had not recruited enough talent or depth to sustain the program to even the point where point guard was their sole weakness.

In his first few years, Quin had his teams peaking in mid-March, and that was always great to see, but you don’t continue to overachieve in the NCAA’s—you either improve your program as a whole or you regress to the mean. Ricky Clemons or no, Quin’s Duke-esque style of freedom and autonomy would never have worked with the second-tier players he drew to MU. Quin was always known as some recruiting dynamo, and he recruited some good talent, but the Duke system needs either 5+ McD’s AA’s, or the best point guard in the country (Coach K’s three titles came with Bobby Hurley and Jason Williams at the helm...anything less, and they didn’t win).

Now that I’ve seen what Mike Anderson is doing here, I suggest that we’re better off having lived through Clemons and probation just for a fresh start. Mike Anderson’s system is exciting, and it’s built to succeed in the Midwest. His system is built on speed and execution, not pure basketball talent. You can recruit top-shelf talent here, but you’ll never recruit as much of that talent as KU and Texas will. You have to, like Billy Gillispie at Texas A&M, have a system in place that maximizes the talent around you instead of just displaying it. And while we had to live through years of embarassment (“Them crackas shakin’!”), the long-term payoff will end up better simply because of everything that happened that forced us to move on in 2006 instead of waiting until 2007 or 2008 or later.

Next up: What if Kelly Thames hadn't torn up his knee? That's right, stay tuned to Mizzou Sanity...where I'll take all of those old festering wounds and rub the salt in real nice.