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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Haith positive as NCAA tournament looms

Brown’s stellar year doesn’t stack up to Mizzou’s résumé.

Feb. 19, 2014

Jabari Brown hasn’t filled out an NCAA tournament bracket in years.

After his half-year stop at Oregon, when Ducks didn’t make the 2012 tournament, Brown sat out the first half of last year’s campaign for Missouri. The Tigers eventually fell in the first round of the tournament to Colorado State, a game in which he scored 14 points on 3-of-10 shooting.

In short, the tourney hasn’t been kind to Brown, at least not since high school. Back then, filling out a bracket was a random guess.

“I just used to always watch the teams and the players and just try to make a judgment,” the junior guard said. “Nobody really knows what’s gonna happen with all the upsets.”

Brown has been carrying the Tigers on his back while trying to pencil in Mizzou to a sixth-straight Big Dance.

His personal résumé looks astonishing: He averages 1.22 points per field goal attempt — the most in college basketball — and has set career marks in rebounding (nearly five per game) and 3-point shooting (nearly 46 percent).

But the Tigers’ résumé with only six games to play is far less convincing. They’ve limped to a .500 Southeastern Conference record and are on track for double-digit losses with a 18-7 overall mark.

Though quality wins against West Virginia, then-No. 18 UCLA and North Carolina State look promising, they’re no salvation from damning losses to Illinois, Vanderbilt and Ole Miss.

But coach Frank Haith isn’t too concerned. In fact, he’s not looking to talk up Missouri’s tournament brag sheet.

“I don’t pay any attention to any of that stuff,” he said of the tournament brouhaha. “All that stuff will take care of itself if you do your job.”

Missouri gets its second shot at Vanderbilt on Wednesday, this time at Mizzou Arena and coming off back-to-back wins. A victory means the Tigers will have swept a crucial homestand entering the backstretch of their conference schedule.

Those two wins, which broke a three-game losing streak against some of the SEC’s top teams, have set Mizzou on a course Haith finds favorable. The third-year helmsman harps that his team should be playing its best basketball as the conference and NCAA tournaments approach.

“We had two really good games,” he said. “There’s reason to feel good about where we’re at.”

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