One State, One Spirit Classic Puts Joplin in the Spotlight

Posted by dnspewak on November 1st, 2011

On the surface, Sunday’s One State, One Spirit Classic between Missouri and Missouri Southern in Joplin, Missouri, looked a lot like an exhibition basketball game.

The coaches stomped around the sidelines in protest of the officiating. The players dove on the floor, drew charges, dished out assists and threw down a few dunks. But there was something different about this event. The atmosphere was festive, but the emotion of the Joplin tornado in May still lingered. When the public address announcer called for a moment of silence for the victims, nobody moved an inch. This wasn’t a detached gesture. Not here. Not inside the Legett and Platt Athletic Center, which sat thousands of people who lost their homes, businesses and loved ones last spring.

Marcus Denmon and Missouri Left Joplin With More Than an Exhibition Win (AP/M. Schiefelbein)

Preseason #25 Missouri won by 46 points, but nobody cared. Not even the Tigers. All eyes were on the Lions, the tornado victims, and, most importantly, the relief effort.  As both MU guard Marcus Denmon and coach Frank Haith mentioned after the game, most of the crowd cheered on every basket— by both teams. The atmosphere was festive, upbeat and positive, a stark contrast to the solemn aftermath of the tornado.


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Big 12 Morning Five: Halloween Edition

Posted by cwilliams on October 31st, 2011

  1. Jayhawk fans received some frightening news on the eve of Halloween (see what I did there?) when Bill Self announced Tyshawn Taylor and Elijah Johnson will be suspended for Kansas’ two exhibition games. While Self mentioned they have been “terrific since school began,” he stated they broke a team rule that he had warned carried severe punishment. Kansas will still likely coast in these exhibition games, but in a season where there are more question marks for the Jayhawks than usual, this is not the best way for KU to start its season.
  2. Missouri defeated Missouri Southern 114-68, in the One State, One Spirit Classic, in Joplin, Missouri. But the outcome of the basketball game was the least important aspect of the event. Despite the Tigers winning the actual game, score this one a victory for the entire state. The game provided a two-hour distraction from a community still suffering from a F5 tornado that devastated the entire city. What a way for the Big 12 college hoops season to kick off.
  3. Legendary Oklahoma and Oklahoma State play-by-play announcer  Bob Barry, Sr., passed away on Sunday. Barry began his announcing career at Norman High School, where his unique voice and dynamic personality made him a local legend, and caught the eye of Oklahoma’s head football coach Bud Wilkinson, who eventually hired him for Oklahoma athletics. Barry, Sr., did basketball play-by-play for both Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. OU President David Boren stated that Barry was “loved by Oklahomans across the state.” Rest in peace, Mr. Barry, and our thoughts and condolences are with your family.
  4. has an article up stating that the Big 12 is not yet done with expansion, despite conference commisioner Chuck Neinas stating they were. Also, he goes on to say “don’t count out Louisville to Big 12 just yet”, and calls Neinas’ claim that the Big 12 has not considered expanding to 12 “utter nonsense.” If any of these allegations are true, one thing is for sure: Big 12 basketball would have another fantastic team in its conference.
  5. One of the more cleverly named college basketball websites,, has come out with their Big 12 preview. The article discusses how the Big 12 title is up in the air, and it’s attainability is realistic for almost every Big 12 squad. Also, they discuss how the Big 12’s recruits are getting better and more prestigious each year, especially at Kansas and Texas.
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Morning Five: Halloween Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 31st, 2011

  1. As we’re now officially only one week from the first real games on November 7, practices have moved from the getting-to-know-you phase to setting of pecking orders and definition of roles. Unfortunately, one of the side products of two weeks of full-on practice is injuries, and a few notable names have already gotten banged up in the last few days.  Louisville freshman Wayne Blackshear will miss the entire season after tearing the labrum in his right shoulder; he had already missed most of the summer with an unrelated left shoulder injury and had only been cleared to return to practice just last week.  The McDonald’s All-American was expected to help the Cards supplant the loss of Preston Knowles’ scoring abilities, as Blackshear is an impact scorer from the wing. With all of the walking wounded on Rick Pitino’s team these days — Rakeem Buckles, Stephan Van Treese, and Jared Swopshire have all had injury issues — you have to wonder if the Cardinals will be able to field a complete team this year.
  2. In other injury news, Vanderbilt All-American candidate Festus Ezeli gave Commodore fans a fright last week when it was reported that the center sprained the MCL and PCL ligaments in his right knee and will require six to eight weeks for its rehabilitation. As we noted on the SEC microsite Friday, Ezeli’s absence from the Vandy lineup will force head coach Kevin Stallings to trust in his backups, senior Steve Tchiengang or redshirt freshman Josh Henderson, neither of whom have the athletic ability nor experience that the all-SEC player brings to the post.  In news considerably less consequential, Connecticut superstar freshman Andre Drummond received a concussion and a broken nose in practice on Friday that will likely keep him out of this week’s exhibition game against American International College. Drummond isn’t expected to miss more time than that, but he will have to wear one of those protective plastic face masks for the next six to eight weeks as his nose heals.  It’s already difficult enough for a freshman to become accustomed to the speed and athleticism of college basketball; it’ll be interesting to see how wearing that annoying mask might impact Drummond’s play in the early going this season.
  3. While on the topic of UConn, the NCAA officially announced late last week that schools wishing to play in the 2013 NCAA Tournament will need to meet a two-year APR threshold of 900, or a four-year APR threshold of 930, in order to qualify. A university source told that the school’s men’s basketball APR score for 2010-11 is expected to be approximately 975, which when averaged with 2009-10’s 826, will not be good enough (900.5). The four-year rolling average (888.5) would also come up short, which begs the question as to whether the NCAA will stick to its guns by keeping one of the sports’ marquee programs out of the Dance in 2013, or whether it will allow the Huskies a waiver opportunity by virtue of it showing ‘improvement’ or some other remedial measure.
  4. Late last week California head coach Mike Montgomery revealed that the surgical procedure he underwent recently was because of ‘high-grade bladder cancer’ and that he’s now 100% free of the disease. The 64-year old coach told assembled media in Los Angeles on Friday at the Pac-12’s Media Days that his doctors found the disease at the perfect moment to ascertain its danger and treat it before it got out of control.  With Montgomery bringing back perhaps his best team to Berkeley this season, we certainly hope that the irascible coach continues on a path of sustained wellness and remission from cancer so that he can concentrate on hardwood and basketballs rather than hospitals and bedpans.
  5. We plan on having more on this later today on the Big 12 microsite, but if you stumbled across ESPNU yesterday during your NFL Sunday, you may have been surprised to find Missouri playing something called Missouri Southern on that channel.  The One State, One Spirit Classic took place yesterday evening in Joplin, Missouri, site of Missouri Southern State University and ground zero of a deadly F5 tornado that rocked the town on the late afternoon of May 22 earlier this year. Over 150 people were killed and hundreds of Joplin homes and businesses were decimated that day, so Sunday’s exhibition game between the state’s flagship program and the local D-II school embodied the spirit of Show-Me Staters in an outpouring of support that will never be forgotten.  ESPN’s Dana O’Neil interviewed MSSU player Jordan Talbert about his reflections on that horrifying day (linked here because ESPN thought that the giant logo on the microphone didn’t identify who made the video clip clearly enough).
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Missouri Visits D-II Missouri Southern For Tornado Relief Efforts Sunday

Posted by cwilliams on October 24th, 2011

On May 22, 2011, tragedy struck in southern Missouri. A multiple-vortex tornado (I have no idea what that means, but it sounds intense) hit Joplin, Missouri, creating a devastating amount of damage. Experts tout is as one of the deadliest tornados in American history, and likely the most expensive the state has ever seen. Joplin officials estimate it will take $3 billion to rebuild the city, and the insurance payout is expected to be $2.2 billion. As the flagship university of the state, the University of Missouri has taken an active role in the recovery of Joplin. Whether it has been donations from boosters, athletic fundraisers, or apparel funds going to the tornado relief funds, Missouri has found a number of ways to help the struggling town. Perhaps the most interesting way, though, is the scheduled exhibition game called One State, One Spirit between Missouri’s basketball team and Missouri Southern, the primary university located in Joplin. The Tigers are scheduled to battle MSSU next Sunday afternoon, October 30, at 5:47 PM CDT (a moment of silence will be observed at 5:41 PM, the exact moment of touchdown). This is unique for many reasons. Normally, powerful D-I programs like Frank Haith’s Tiger squad do not travel to play at a Divison II school’s campus. Additionally, ESPNU has picked up the game, the first time Missouri Southern has ever appeared on an ESPN network. All proceeds from the exhibition will go to the tornado relief funds.

Joplin Tornado Damage, Courtesy

What intrigues me, however, is the lack of focus on the actual game. Sure, it’s an exhibition, and sure, Missouri will probably earn an easy win, but that doesn’t stop the pundits from on-court predictions and projections. Even in an exhibition game, fans discuss which players will break out, who will look rusty, and any former AAU or high school teammates that make for intriguing match-ups. In an exhibition season opener where Missouri has more questions than answers, the focus during this basketball game will be on everything but basketball. And that’s exactly how it should be. When a national tragedy with massive local implications like the Joplin tornado occurs, it’s great to see a sporting event serve the purpose of a recreational distraction and a relief aid fundraiser rather than a serious competition. Both teams could shoot 12% next weekend and commit a combined 50 turnovers and this will still be a fantastic game because of what is underlying the game, not the game itself.

RTC will be courtside for this game next Sunday, and we hope you’ll join us for it.

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Morning Five: 06.02.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on June 2nd, 2011

  1. UConn head coach Jim Calhoun cannot go to any public engagement this offseason without considerable analysis as to what his future plans may hold.  The latest such situation was Wednesday, where the three-time national championship coach spoke at the commencement ceremonies of one of his first employers, Dedham (MA) High School.  Despite a lightning storm in the area, Calhoun said that he envied the 176 graduates “for all the great things that [they] have left ahead” of them, but in an interview afterward, he said he wasn’t even thinking about his future at this time.  Unless Calhoun plans on pulling a Dean Smith and leaving the UConn program in the hands of his assistant coach, George Blaney (playing the save-the-day role of Bill Guthridge), we don’t see him retiring yet.  Having now had two months to reflect on his latest title and career, we think he knows what he’s going to do at this point — it’s just a matter of when he wants to announce it.
  2. We’re not sure we’ve ever seen something like this before, but in the wake of the Jim Tressel mess at Ohio State, Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne is asking Wildcat fans around the country to drop dime on UA players if they “ever know of a situation where a student-athlete is receiving an extra benefit (something that the rest of the student body would not receive).”  It’s certainly an innovative approach to a ubiquitous problem, and Byrne deserves accolades for at least acknowledging the possibility that Arizona players might do the wrong thing every once in a while.  Still… can you ever imagine an AD at an SEC school doing something like this?  They’d rather eat their own babies than support such a transparent nod to ethics.
  3. Speaking of the Southeastern Conference, the coaches on Wednesday voted in support of scrapping the East and West division format that it has had for two decades.  The reasoning behind this change is to reward the top four teams in the conference regardless of division by giving those schools byes into the SEC Tournament’s quarterfinals, and through some vague and undefined notion, help the overall profile of the league when it comes to postseason selections.  Considering the stark imbalance in recent years between the two SEC divisions — nine East teams have made the NCAA Tournament in the last two seasons versus none from the West — we’re having trouble understanding how removing two byes from the weaker division actually helps the conference profile.  Consider a 9-7 Mississippi State team, the West division winner, in 2009-10.  The Bulldogs received a bye to the quarters and were able to rest while #3 Tennessee (11-5, East) and #4 Florida (9-7, East) played in the first round on Thursday; MSU was then able to beat UF and #2 Vanderbilt (12-4, East) in succession before dropping an overtime game to #1 Kentucky (14-2, East) in the finals.  Although the Bulldogs didn’t get an NCAA bid, its bye to the quarters undoubtedly helped its postseason profile, and if they’d been the overall #5 seed instead, we’re not convinced that they’d have been able to make a similar run.
  4. From the players behaving badly department (noticeably quiet lately, to be honest), Syracuse’s Fab Melo was arraigned on Wednesday for a misdemeanor charge of criminal mischief related to “reaching through the open driver’s side window of a 2003 Chevrolet Impala, and breaking the turn signal control arm making the turn signal, headlight high beam control and windshield wiper control inoperable.”  Well, that’s certainly one way to do it.  The driver in question was allegedly a female SU student who has also filed a restraining order against Melo.  Something tells us that Melo is already running the stairs of the Carrier Dome over this.
  5. In the aftermath of the horrific tragedy in Joplin, Missouri, Frank Haith’s program and local school Missouri Southern are attempting to put together a charity basketball game in October to raise money for the victims of the three-quarter mile-wide tornado last week.  Mizzou already has its maximum allotment of two exhibition games scheduled for next season, but the Tiger program is applying for an NCAA waiver to allow it to play the Division II program in Joplin.  As Missouri Southern head coach Robert Corn said in response to the waiver, the NCAA has “no heart” if the governing body chooses not to allow it.  Agreed.
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