Crowd at Mizzou Madness a testament to excitement surrounding Mizzou basketball

Michael Porter Jr. and Sophie Cunningham stood out in scrimmages during Saturday’s event.

Missouri basketball players are introduced during Mizzou Madness on Oct. 21 2017.

On March 9, 2017, Missouri men’s basketball found itself in an abysmal spot. The team had just lost in the second round of the Southeastern Conference basketball tournament, it was without a coach and it had just finished a campaign that saw only eight wins in 32 games.

There was little energy surrounding the program and not much for the fan base to be encouraged about.

Saturday’s Mizzou Madness showed just how much can change for a college program in a few months.

An exciting Homecoming weekend in Columbia received an emphatic jolt with the preseason scrimmage event hosted by Missouri men’s and women’s basketball.

Following Missouri football’s win at Memorial Stadium, many fans made the walk over to Mizzou Arena to enjoy the spectacle.

“We couldn’t be more excited for another season,” fan Sarah Saltzman said before the event began. “It’s so nice to see the passion that’s already surrounding this team.”

The atmosphere for both player and coach introductions was nothing short of electric. Fans were eager to reunite with last year’s players and to see Missouri’s star-studded recruiting class for the first time in person.

“That was unbelievable,” junior forward Kevin Puryear said. “I had chills while I was waiting in the tunnel.”

While the men’s team captivated fans with its recruiting class, Missouri faithful cheered loudly for coach Robin Pingeton and the Missouri women’s team, too.

The action on the court began with a hot-shot contest. Junior Cierra Porter led a team that included Cullen VanLeer and a student from Missouri’s basketball cheering section, Zou Crew, to victory by knocking down a half-court shot.

In the dunk contest, freshmen Michael Porter Jr., Blake Harris and Jeremiah Tilmon competed against reigning dunk contest champion senior Jordan Barnett. Much to the crowd’s delight, Porter emerged victorious with this slam:

Each team held a separate intrasquad scrimmage, where junior guard Sophie Cunningham and Porter Jr. shined brightest in their respective games. Both players looked the part of team leader, commanding the contest and leading their squads on both ends of the floor.

The consistent narrative among players on the men’s team was that the excitement on Saturday was just the beginning. The team faces Kansas on Sunday at the Sprint Center in Kansas City in a charity exhibition game. Missouri women’s basketball will scrimmage Southwest Baptist on Nov. 2.

“We’ve got a great test tomorrow,” men’s basketball head coach Cuonzo Martin said to the crowd at the event. “Hopefully we’ll see all of you there.”

After Saturday’s event, Porter Jr. expressed his thoughts on the Border War rivalry.

“I think it’s one of the best rivalries in sports,” Porter Jr. said postgame. “Missouri and Kansas should play every year. Our main goal is to win tomorrow.”

Edited by Eli Lederman |elederman@themaneater.com

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