As the final seconds ticked off in overtime last week in Kansas City, the players on Missouri’s mens basketball team looked lost, wondering how a four-point lead, with 20 seconds left in regulation against Georgetown, evaporated.
Sullen fans quietly made their way to the exits of the Sprint Center, now reduced to angrily muttering choice words under their breath, compared to 15 minutes earlier when they combined to produce as favorable an atmosphere as Missouri will see this year.
Everyone was heartbroken, except for one: coach Mike Anderson.
“(Georgetown) shot the ball unbelievable," Anderson said. "Anytime you go 18 for 18 from the free throw line and you’ve got to go to overtime to win, that tells you a little bit about our basketball team.”
Ever the optimist, Anderson knows this battle contained several teaching points for the Tigers —— the most obvious being how to protect a lead against top-caliber teams.
This isn’t football, where one slip-up puts an irreparable dent in a team’s national title aspirations. Nay, this is basketball, where as long as you have a little number in front of your team’s name, you’ll have a shot to go deep into the postseason.
Three months from now, on Selection Sunday, last week’s game will essentially have meant nothing. A win would have been a bonus, one to put in the “Good Wins” category, but a loss doesn’t hurt.
As long as the team maintains its aggressiveness without losing control, the combined speed of junior guard Marcus Denmon and sophomore guard Michael Dixon on the outside, as well as a renewed, legitimate inside presence with junior forwards Ricardo Ratliffe and Lawrence Bowers, should allow Missouri to emulate its Elite Eight success from two years ago.
In basketball, teams (not the BCS) control their path to destiny. For Missouri, and the rest of the Big 12, this year promises to be a wild ride.
When I learned Missouri would be playing Iowa in this year’s Insight Bowl, I didn’t know what to think.
On the other side of the border, Iowa doesn’t know what to think about itself.
A team that entered the year with national championship aspirations finds itself in the Big Ten Conference’s sixth-best bowl game.
No doubt about it, the Hawkeyes, and the relatively low number of fans that will accompany the team to Tempe, will be deflated -- not only because of the team’s 7-5 record, but also by how the bowl selection process carried out.
Two New Year’s Day bowls passed over the Hawkeyes in favor of Penn State and Michigan, which both possessed identical records. After coming to grips with the Insight Bowl, Iowa fans were still excited by the possibility of kicking off a rivalry with Nebraska, who will join the Big Ten next year.
Sorry to deepen your depression, Iowa.
This year marks the 100th anniversary since the last meeting of these teams, and the Tigers will be anxious to prove themselves against anybody the Big Ten has to offer.
So while Missouri figures to have an advantage both in terms of talent and morale, the Tigers shouldn’t forget that in all five of Iowa’s losses, the opposing team scored a game-winning touchdown in the final five minutes.
Prediction: Missouri 24, Iowa 20