Tempering Expectations: Is Missouri Really This Good?Posted by dnspewak on November 23rd, 2011
Forget the controversial hiring of Frank Haith or the ensuing scandal in connection to his Miami days. Forget the Laurence Bowers injury or the Mike Anderson departure. Missouri put every criticism to rest this week with two blowout victories in the CBE Classic. It was stunning enough to watch the Tigers dismantle a consistent Notre Dame program by 29 points on Monday. The Irish are young, but they’re trying to replace Ben Hansbrough and they probably just got overwhelmed by an experienced MU team. Right?
But one night later– after Missouri then beat Pac-12 favorite California by 39 points — there were no good words to describe the Tigers’ performance. They’ve been brilliant. CBE Classic MVP Marcus Denmon scored 26 points against the Irish and managed 18 against the Golden Bears. Even in a relative “off-night” (6-13 overall, 2-8 from three-point land) against Cal, he still finished with four assists. Revitalized senior Kim English led the team with 19 points, but more impressively, he took four charges in the first half. MU shot 58% from the floor during the tournament, tallied 30 team assists and dominated the defensive end by forcing turnovers. The Tigers had run away with both games by the second TV timeout.
The way Missouri played on Monday and Tuesday, it looked like a National Championship contender. Like the runaway favorite in the Big 12. The college basketball world was buzzing, and Steve Moore was trending on Twitter after making a rare three-pointer. Let’s not get too overeager here, though. We all knew Missouri was a good team with some deficiencies coming into the season. The Tigers were able to overcome their lack of size and depth this week because of how quick they were relative to Notre Dame and California, but those two teams don’t necessarily have intimidating frontcourts either. Cal has decent forwards, especially Harper Kamp, but it’s not the most physical group in the world. If MU lines up against a team with, say Thomas Robinson, Perry Jones or David Loubeau, it may have some issues.
Also, remember that the Tigers finished 1-7 on the road in the Big 12 last season, and both CBE games were played in Kansas City in front of a partisan crowd. We still need to see if MU can win on the road, and we’ll find out during a trip to Old Dominion on December 30. Just because we’re playing devil’s advocate here doesn’t mean Missouri’s two wins this week are any less impressive. The players have clearly rallied in the face of adversity for Haith, and so far they look like a completely different squad. Basically, they look like they’re having a blast out there, and that’s good news for MU after all the changes its program dealt with this summer.