Justin Safford's Injury Leaves Smaller Margin of Error for Missouri Tigers

Nathaniel BallanceContributor IFebruary 25, 2010

COLUMBIA, MISSOURI - FEBRUARY 14:  Justin Safford #23 of the Missouri Tigers looks to make a free throw against the Nebraska Huskers during the game on February 14, 2009 at Mizzou Arena in Columbia, Missouri. (Photo by: Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images


When Missouri forward Justin Safford crumpled to the wood floor of Mizzou Arena Wednesday night after completing a half-court alley-oop play against Colorado, my mind assumed the worst.

Shortly after, Nick Berandini tweeted that the injury wasn't all that serious, and I relaxed a little.  But that tweet was soon updated to inform us that Safford was indeed done for the season with a torn ligament in his knee.

And with that, a Tiger team that already could lay claim to being undersized, solidified that claim. 

Safford, while never one to light up the stat sheet has always been a solid contributor for Mike Anderson's fastest 40 minutes in basketball.

He was comfortable in Anderson's system and played hard and smart. 

With Big 12 powerhouses Kansas State and Kansas remaining on their regular season schedule, Safford's size would have helped against both teams, as both have front court depth and talent.

Mizzou has struggled to keep even moderately talented frontcourts from dominating them on the boards this season, so the loss of their third-leading rebounder will hurt. 

But rebounding does not play a huge part in Mizzou's success, as the Tigers win in spite of their low rebound totals, relying more on creating points off turnovers and maintaining high three-point percentages.  Losing Safford won't change their philosophy, but rather reinforce the need to perform well in their strength areas.

Mizzou most likely has wrapped up a spot in the NCAA tourney next month, regardless of how they play out their schedule.  And they probably are good enough to win a game or two once they get there.

But, Missouri simply isn't as talented as it was a year ago, when DeMarre Carroll and Leo Lyons fronted the squad that went to the Elite Eight. However, they still play just as fast and are just as deep. Their success will continue to be tied to creating havoc for opposing teams and connecting on their three-point attempts.