After 12 games, The Missouri Tigers men’s basketball team is 11-1, their best start since the 1991-1992 season. With the first dozen games in the books it has been a very eventful two months for Tigers hoops. Here are some of the top storylines so far this season:
- Preseason expectations: With the success of the football team, the basketball team flew under the radar in Columbia. But as the polls showed there were high hopes for coach Mike Anderson’s team. They were ranked No. 15 in both the AP Poll and ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll before even playing a game. The Tigers were expected to compete for a Big 12 title with teams such as Kansas, Kansas State, Baylor and Texas.
- The Tony Mitchell Saga: When the Tigers signed Tony Mitchell he was going to be the highest rated recruit to arrive to Columbia. The 6’8” forward was expected to contribute immediately and fit in to the Tigers style of play. But the Dallas native was ruled ineligible to play in the fall semester due to academic issues in high school. There is still a chance that Mitchell will play this season in time for Big 12 play, but as of now no one really knows the chances of that happening.
- Success south of the boarder: Once the regular season began the Tigers got off to a sluggish start. They survived a scare in the season opener against Western Illinois. After a home victory over North Florida, the Tigers traveled to Mexico to take part in the 2010 Cancun Challenge. The Tigers defeated Wyoming and La Salle in back to back nights to start the season 4-0. With several new faces such as junior college recruit Ricardo Ratliffe and freshman Phil Pressey, the Tigers started to build chemistry.
- Lessons learned in Kansas City: In an early non-conference test the Tigers traveled west on I-70 to play Big East powerhouse Georgetown in Kansas City. The Hoyas jumped to an early advantage, and at one point lead by 18 in the first half. But the Tigers came storming back to grab a lead with under a minute remaining. However a combination of missed free throws and poor clock management, allowed the Hoyas to even the game up in the final seconds. After that the Hoyas pulled away in overtime and prevailed 111-102. Despite a heartbreaking loss, a game against a strong opponent like this should prove to be useful in March.
- Denmon plays with heavy heart: A day after his cousin was shot and killed in Kansas City, Marcus Denmon’s late game heroics lead the Tigers to a thrilling home victory over Vanderbilt. With the game tied in overtime, Denmon’s steal and score with 5.8 seconds left helped Missouri to an 85-82 victory. The junior guard has led the Tigers in scoring this season averaging 16.7 points per game.
- Shorthanded in backcourt: With the combination of Denmon, Michael Dixon, Kim English, Phil Pressey and Matt Pressey, the Tigers have five quality guards who could be part of the rotation. But as of late these players have had trouble all being able to play. First Dixon was suspended for two games for violating a team rule. When his suspension ended Phil Pressey broke a finger on his right had and was ruled out for two weeks. It is crucial that all five will be available to play once the Big 12 schedule rolls around.
- Braggin’ rights: For the second consecutive season, the Tigers beat the Illinois Fighting Illini in the annual contest in St. Louis. The game went back and forth throughout until a final minute scoring explosion by the Tigers, which included a four-point play by starting forward Laurence Bowers. A win like this shows the Tigers have enough depth to compete with any team in the country.
With Big 12 play looming, the Tigers can say the beginning of the basketball season has been successful. The group they have right now has improved each game. With or without Tony Mitchell the Tigers are in the running for a Big 12 championship and a long run into the tournament in March.
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