Missouri Basketball was off the radar and possibly beyond repair when Mike Anderson took over for the disgraced Quin Snyder. Now, three seasons later, a program that enjoyed the prominence of the Norm Stewart era and the first few years of the Snyder era has climbed back onto the national scene.
Picked to finish seventh in the preseason Big XII poll and coming off a 16-16 10th place finish, many began the 2008-2009 questioning whether or not Mike Anderson could get the job done. Those questions have since been replaced with ones wondering how many years and for how much money his contract extension should be.
With seven newcomers to his team, many figured this would finally be the year to see the "40 minutes of Hell" played in Columbia. A school record 31 wins, a conference tournament title, and an Elite Eight berth later, fans that were lost have come back to the program, and excitement is higher than ever for the Missouri basketball program.
There was early promise for the season, especially when the Tigers entered the top 25 for the first time in five years in mid-December, but the day after they did so, Illinois humiliated Missouri and the fanbase was once again asking questions.
The next stumbling blocks came after non-conferences games, when Missouri travelled to Lincoln to face Nebraska for the conference opener, and promptly laid an egg in the first half.
The team rallied in the second half, but it wasn't enough and Mizzou fell to 0-1 in the Big XII.
The team appeared to turn a corner during a nailbiter at Texas. Zaire Taylor hit a runner just before the buzzer and Mizzou hung on for a very impressive win.
From there, the Missouri fanbase didn't know what hit them, as the team continued to win, including a memorable comeback win over the rival Kansas Jayhawks.
Next year's team will surely miss DeMarre Carroll, Leo Lyons, and Matt Lawrence, but Lawrence Bowers, Keith Ramsey, and Justin Safford have each shown promise underneath.
Kim English gave us all a glimpse of how Mizzou would replace Matt Lawrence when he dropped 15 points in six minutes against Marquette in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
The best part for Missouri fans is knowing that five of this year's contributors were freshmen, and each has shown his potential for excellence.
The Mizzou faithful will always remember this past season as possibly the best in school history, but with the team's youth and energy, they also will remember that it could be just the beginning.
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