Go back to March 2011: Missouri, after just sneaking into the field of 68, had just been trounced by Cincinnati, capping off an unremarkable season in unremarkable fashion. The Tiger faithful may have had more ambitious goals entering the year, but they could hardly complain. Their team had recovered admirably from the calamitous Quin Snyder reign and were establishing themselves as a secondary Big 12 power. Head coach Mike Anderson demanded relentless defensive intensity and valued athleticism, ensuring a brand of exciting basketball that didn’t always accompany wins. If that wasn’t enough, after Arkansas came calling, Anderson soundly denied rumors that he would jump ship, claiming instead that he intended to retire in Columbia. Armed with a committed coach and a roster bursting at the seams with returning talent, Missouri was in position to challenge longtime rival Kansas and rising Baylor for conference supremacy.
What followed made for one of the most compelling storylines of last college basketball season. Anderson took the job in Fayetteville and Missouri was left scrambling for a replacement. After being rejected by their first few choices, the administration hired Miami’s Frank Haith, a decision which was met with a resounding “Huh?” Haith’s record with the Hurricanes (a .384 ACC winning percentage and one NCAA tournament appearance in seven seasons) would have made you think he was more likely to get the can than an offer to move to a superior program. Shortly thereafter, the college basketball gods rubbed a little salt in Missouri’s wound, as Haith was implicated in the Nevin Shapiro scandal, leading some fans and members of the media to call for a suspension. Add in a season-ending injury to forward Laurence Bowers, and the relatively high expectations for Tiger basketball plummeted. Unless you’re a newcomer to college basketball (in which case, welcome), you know how the story ends. Missouri rode a 14-0 start to a Big 12 Tournament title and a #2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The guard-heavy offense flourished in Haith’s system, finishing as the most efficient in the nation. Its first-round shocker against Norfolk State notwithstanding, Missouri can reflect fondly on the 2011-12 season.