The Missouri Tigers came into Kansas City on Thursday night to kickoff the first round of the Big 12 Tournament against the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
However, the Tigers did not know beforehand that this game would inevitably be their last of the 2007-2008 season.
But, were we really that surprised?
The Tigers finished with an overall record of 16-16. Among some of the more impressive wins this season included Maryland, Purdue, Texas, and Kansas State. Those would have put together a decent resume' if it had not been for the dozen other embittering losses the Tigers faced this season.
The downfall of the Tigers' season were numerous and they started on day ONE.
The pre-season suspension of Forward Kalen Grimes definitely cost the Tigers an experienced post-player. But despite this, Forwards Leo Lyons and DeMarre Carroll seemed to make due in the paint and exceeded far past anyones expectations. Still, we'll never know what difference the beastly post presence of Grimes could have made.
About halfway through the season, when we thought that it couldn't get any worse, Stephon Hannah breaks his jaw in a bar fight and is kicked off the team while 4 other players are suspended temporarily for breaking team rules. The majority of these players were starters. This was definitely a step back in the program, but it was dealt with appropriately and didn't get out of hand.
Even with all of this drama occuring, the Tigers still played teams close. That was one thing that was a definite improvement from last year. While Mizzou still lacked that clutch player and were severly sidelined by the suspensions, they were able to stay close with even the toughest teams and hold their own.
Mizzou fans are probably still not happy about how this particular season concluded, but there are many things to be optimistic about.
First and foremost, the Quin Snyder era recruits are gone.
Another postive is that the players that will be back for the Tigers next year will be guys that will provide a very solid foundation to build around. These will include Leo Lyons, Keon Lawrence, JT Tiller, and Matt Lawrence.
Also, Coach Mike Anderson will have his first true year of integrating his own recruits into the program. Maybe now the Tigers will actually be able to implement their "40 Minutes of Hell" instead of many fans screaming from their seats, "What the hell is this?"
This year, perhaps we weren't quite able to get over the hump. We could play with our opponents, but the Tigers couldn't find that one genuine quality that made them a team to be reckoned with. Usually, all teams face this dilemna at one time or another and time is usually a sure-fire remedy to build up a decent program again. Mizzou is definitely in the process of regaining its former winning composure of long ago. People will not want to hear it and it may get frustrating at times, but patience WILL pay off for this team.
It is true that we haven't been to the NCAA Tournament since 2003, but fear not Missouri fans. As fans, we have a lot to look forward to. This is a team that is making leaps and bounds forward.