Missouri Fans: Nothing to Worry About
by Doug McKinney
It’s been a tough week for Missouri fans. As Tiger fans try to get the
after taste of a 14-27 loss to Arkansas in the Independence Bowl out of
their system, it’s been painful for them to turn their attention back on the
hardwood. Ever since a December 13 loss to Gonzaga (80-87), Missouri (5-4,
0-0) has lost their last four out of six games and in their latest setback,
a shocking 67-71 loss to Belmont (I know what you’re thinking, who?), Mizzou
fans even booed their beloved Tigers. Hold on a second Mizzou fans.
While there is no reason the Tigers should be playing this bad as of late,
there is also no reason the Mizzou faithful has anything to worry about.
Yes, I know the Tigers were ranked in the top 5 in the preseason by every
publication out there (they were 4 in Hoopville) and now they’re not even
ranked in the top 25. And yes, I know there is no way they should be losing
to teams like Belmont (once again, who?). And even with all the allegations
of coach Quin Snyder running a dirty program (The Ricky Clemons story…that’s
a whole ‘nother issue), I’m still going to say Missouri fans: You have
nothing to worry about. I said this at the beginning of the season, and
I’ll say it when they’re struggling: The 2003-2004 edition of Missouri Tigers
basketball is still a favorite to win it all.
Let’s look at some of the reasons why Mizzou is still a contender.
1. Quin Snyder
Snyder quickly became a fan favorite after his rookie
campaign in 99-00, when he took the Tigers to the NCAA tournament and has
been doing so every year since. With his young look and exciting style of
play, fans have been flocking to the Missouri bandwagon, and why shouldn’t
they? After all, Snyder knows how to win. In his second year at Mizzou,
Snyder took his improved Tigers squad to the second round, followed by an
Elite 8 appearance in 01-02. Last season the Tigers had the daunting task
of facing Final Four team Marquette in the second round and lost in a hard
fought battle. Nevertheless, not only does Snyder know how to get his team
to the postseason, but he also knows how to get his team to win in the
postseason play. Most importantly, Snyder knows how to get his team out of
this position. It starts with the coach people.
2. Missouri’s returning group from last year
The Tigers return over 80
percent of their scoring and over 90 percent of their rebounding from last
year. And in that group is included guards Ricky Paulding, Josh Kroenke,
and Jimmy McKinney; frontcourt members Arthur Johnson and Travon Bryant.
All five of these players are so talented, that any one of them would start
on any other team in the nation. Guaranteed.
3. Insert Jason Conley
A VMI transfer, Conley gives the Tigers yet another
scoring threat. The 6’5 junior guard is a multi-dimensional scorer who has
the ability to hit the three ball as well as penetrate the lane to create
scoring opportunities. He hasn’t had too many opportunities to showcase his
talent yet, but don’t you worry. He will soon enough.
Now that you know why Mizzou is still a contender, we can look at a number
of factors in what they have to do in order to be successful. We know they
have a great core of players and a great coach, but if they do the following
they’ll be in good shape.
1. More Bench Production
In their loss to Belmont, the Tigers got one
measly point from their bench. One point?!?! Yes, so that means out of the
67 points they scored, 66 came from their starters. In their loss to
Memphis, the bench only supplied five points; in their loss to Illinois the
Tigers could only manage six bench points; and you get the idea. And look
at the stats when they win. When Mizzou beat Iowa, they got 40 points from
their bench. Forty points will help the Tigers out much more than uno.
2. Big 12 is a Big Deal
One of the problems being one of the nation’s top
teams is that Mizzou is in one of the nation’s elite conferences. Big 12
action starts Wednesday when Missouri travels to face Iowa State before the
Tigers come back to Columbia and host Texas A&M. It’s essential they start
off hot and gain confidence before they face teams like Oklahoma and Kansas.
3. Insert Jason Conley
You’ve heard about him and I know you’re waiting
for him to breakout, but he hardly gets the ball. Message to Missouri
players: give him the ball! Conley has only 28 attempted field goals this
year. Only 28? Geez, the guy led the nation in scoring at one point. Give
him the ball and you guys will win.
Please people, don’t buy into the off court issues for Missouri, it’s has
nothing to do with the Tigers play as of late. They’ve got what it takes to
make a run for the title and that’s what’s important. So to the infamous
Antlers of Missouri and company keep on cheering you beloved Tigers.
Because when March comes, Missouri fans won’t remember what tough weeks are