Column: Doubt the Tigers at your own risk
Mar. 13, 2012
The opinions expressed by The Maneater columnists do not represent the opinions of The Maneater editorial board.
Go ahead. Raise your questions about this Missouri team. Doubt its chances to dance this March Madness season. Surely, you wouldn’t be alone.
Use that argument about size that critics have used from the beginning, from before the team went on a stunning 30-4 record capped by last weekend’s Big 12 Conference Tournament championship. You have a fair argument there, no one on this roster cracks 6 feet 10 inches. Only two in this starting rotation are taller than 6 feet 8 inches.
Save for Thomas Robinson, you point out that this is a team that hasn’t seen forces like Anthony Davis or Jared Sullinger. You say that this is a team that cannot match up.
But as you argue that, remember: This is a team that can bolt. It’s shown all year what makes it one of the more enjoyable teams to watch in the country. It’s become a thing of eye candy to watch sophomore Phil Pressey (“I can’t imagine there being a better point guard in the country,” coach Frank Haith said).
Pressey, along with three other guard companions in the starting five, can make this attack dart but, even more importantly, he has shown in the second half of the season that he can slow the tempo and allow senior guards Marcus Denmon and Kim English to fire away.
For all the matchup dilemmas the Tigers have faced this season, they’ve presented their own in the form of junior guard Michael Dixon, probably the most valuable sixth man in the country and arguably one of the most problematic curveballs any team presents to its opponent.
You point out that this is a team with only seven members in its rotation. You say that this is a team that will be running on fumes before long.
You have a fair argument there, after all, this is a roster of humans, not exempt from the laws of physical capacity.
But as you argue that, remember endurance was questioned long, long ago and, well, this team shows no signs of slowing down. Players have provided consistent minutes all year, regardless the circumstances.
Just during this past weekend, Missouri looked dominant even when Denmon dealt with a bothersome ankle and with English wearing a thigh pad over a bruised quad. (“I would’ve played even if they had to amputate my leg,” he said after getting tournament MVP.)
“We have a great training staff,” Haith said. “Pat Beckmann was outstanding. He kept those guys up doing treatment. I think he got very little sleep. But you saw it. Kimmie wasn’t 100 percent. Marcus wasn’t 100 percent. Both those guys played well.”
If you’re persistent, you point out that sheer odds are against a team like this. You say that this is a team destined for doom. Teams like it just don’t go all the way. The makings just aren’t there.
People like you have tried this argument all year. And yes, at times, I have shared your side. But people on your side have only been made foolish.
You are among the many whom have stacked the odds against this team all year, beginning with the preseason projectors to the tournament committee that dubbed it the No. 2 seed in the West region, the eighth seed overall, the first 30-win squad to not be a No. 1.
It’s the time of year where you choose to side with logic.
But as you do that, remember: This team has warned you.