This Just In: Missouri Tigers Basketball Is Back

Charles PennContributor IFebruary 11, 2009

After a sloppy first half of basketball displayed by the Missouri Tigers, they were able to put it all together in the second half to comeback from a 14-point deficit in a huge win at home vs. the defending National Champion Kansas Jayhawks. DeMarre Carroll led all scorers with 22 points to go with seven rebounds. With the score being tied at 60-60, Missouri's Junior Point Guard Zaire Taylor made the game-winning shot with 1.2 seconds left on the clock to give the Tigers a 62-60 victory.

The Missouri Tigers are now 21-4 overall, and 8-2 in the Big 12 conference. They are still third, but only one and a half games behind Oklahoma for the Big 12 lead. Missouri currently has an RPI of 22 with key victories over Texas, Baylor, USC, and California. The Big Dance looks mighty bright for the Tigers as they have not made the big dance since 2003.

With the Tigers taking Round One of the Border War vs. Kansas this season, is this team for real?

As Missouri continues to conquer through the toughest part of the Big 12 schedule, their next game is against Nebraska at home on Saturday and then the rest of the schedule looks like this:

2/21@ COL1:30 PM
2/25KSU9:00 PM
3/01@ KU2:00 PM
3/04OKLA9:00 PM
3/07@ TEX A&M2:00 PM

The Missouri Tigers will be battle tested and ready to handle the brutal schedule before the Big 12 Tournament. The two real tests will be on the road in Lawrence vs. Kansas and at home against No. 2 ranked Oklahoma.

Missouri has not won at "The Phog" since 1999 and Kansas currently holds the longest home-winning streak in college basketball. If the Tigers want to end the streak, this year is the time to do it, but it will not be easy. The Senior leadership will have to carry the rest of the young troops if they want to sweep Kansas.

After Kansas, Missouri will play Oklahoma at home. The No. 2 ranked Sooners have been rising sky high thanks to Blake Griffin, who will likely be the No. 1 pick if he declares for this year's draft. Griffin has a nice supporting cast too. The freshman phenom Willie Warren, Austin Johnson, Tony Crocker, and Blake's brother Taylor Griffin. If Missouri wants to beat Oklahoma, the key will have to be for them to convert defense into offense. Otherwise, it could be a long night for Missouri.

At the end of the regular season, Missouri should have a bye week as the No. 3 seed in the Big 12 Tournament and make an appearance in the Big 12 Title Game. Their track record should be good enough to make it to the big dance and become a Sweet 16 team (depending on which region and seeding they will be placed in).

The flaws that Missouri needs to get rid of in order to be a contender is to get rid of bad shot selection. There were too many bad shots taken in the first half and part of the second half. Unnecessary fade-aways and forced layups almost hurt the Tigers last night, but thanks to a stifling defense that forced 28 turnovers, the offense had many opportunities to make enough baskets to win.

I understand that the Tigers have a small overall lineup, but Leo Lyons needs to get tougher in the post. He took too many jumpshots and when he went one-on-one against Cole Aldrich, it looked like he was intimidated. If the Tigers want to get to where they need to go, he has to show up and play a lot better in big games.

Free throw shooting is another flaw that Missouri needs to work on. Missouri only made 18 out of 27 from the free throw line. The Tigers are currently 10th in the Big 12 in Free Throw shooting percentage. If they want to make it far in the NCAA Tournament, the free-throw shooting will be crucial, especially in close games.

The biggest attributes the Missouri Tigers can live by are that they are an up-tempo, fast-break offensive team with a suffocating pressure defense led by Coach Mike Anderson. Anderson's style of coaching is similar to former Arkansas coach and Hall of Famer Nolan Richardson, who led the Razorbacks to a national championship in 1994.

The Tigers are fourth in nation in scoring averaging 83.3 ppg and they limit opponents to just under 65 ppg, which is second in the Big 12. The Tigers lead the Big 12 in steals with 11 ppg and assist/turnover ratio with 19:12.

If the Tigers can play consistently to the pace they are capable of, they will be a dangerous sleeper team heading into the NCAA Tournament.