March 28, 2009
Thursday night, a friend and fellow basketball watcher -- no slouch
here, either; the man knows his college basketball -- summed up quite
nicely what most casual fans were probably thinking about Missouri
halfway through their Sweet 16 upset of Memphis: "Who are these
guys?" He knew Missouri's deal. He knew their style and their head
coach, Mike Anderson, and he knew that Anderson had coached at UAB in
his last gig. But he couldn't name a single Mizzou player.
I can't imagine that was unusual; Missouri might have been the least-well-recognized team remaining in the tournament. Its star and leading scorer is ... DeMarre Carroll? Who? If you're not a college hoops nut, you probably didn't know that.
Today, Mizzou lost a close game to UConn in the Elite Eight. It was bound to happen sooner or later. But on its way out the door, let's all give Mizzou a polite, figurative golf clap. The Tigers deserved it.
OK, so Missouri wasn't a mid-major. It only lost six games all season! This was a good basketball team. But its win over Memphis felt more improbable than any other Sweet 16 result. 102 points on the country's best defense? In a tournament defined by its utter chalkiness, that's a bonfide upset. Which brings me to the next reason we'll miss the Tigers: that their style, when it works, can potentially yield 102 points against the country's best defense. Very, very few teams can say that, and most of them are still fighting for a spot in the Final Four.
Alas, we lose Mizzou first. Farewell, sirs. Stop running windsprints for a few weeks. You deserve it.