Monday Musings - The "What's Next?" Edition

So I wrote the title to this, and then sat there and looked at it.  And looked at it....and looked at it.  Evidently, I dont even know what is next at this point.  As we look at the entire Mizzou sports scene, there are certainly a lot of positives right now, including the real emergence of another national-caliber program in the women's softball team.  More on that, plus a review of all the action of this past week in all sports as the winter time winds down and the spring hits full bore.

Men's Basketball:

First off, the fact that Mizzou is 28-6 (34 games) and could still win/play 6 more games (meaning a total of 40) seems a little strange to me.  Not strange from a sense of us being in something of unchartered territory, but just that I was not aware teams were able to play a 40-game season.

The tournament was amazingly workmanlike to me.  I never felt the team and any game was threatened, and though I wanted more output at times from some of the new folks, the team was just amazingly solid and did what they needed to do.  And while I laughed all weekend at The Boy's stat of us being (now) 27-1 when within nine at the half, it really does hold a simple and impressive truth to it.  Roll with the punches (and each team did punch as they were each coming off of upsets) and take control.  Would I love for us to take control early?  Sure...but I think I am finally to the point where I just want us to control the 1st half and dominate the 2nd half.  Though I could not help but have my excitement be diminished just a bit and have it turn to more of relief when OU lost to OSU.  For at that point, the entire tournament was pretty much laid at our feet.  Those damn expectations can change everything in a heartbeat :-)

Anyway, the seeds are in and I cannot say I am terribly thrilled with the outlook from a macro sense.  I thought we would earn a little more respect based on our RPI and good wins (made all the better by USC winning the Pac 10).  I had an outside hope at #2, but only because I really do not respect OU at this point.  I am more than willing to give them the losses without Griffin, but they have not looked great with him and I think we earned it over them.  Of course...got to love my other favorite team in UCONN being in the same bracket as the Tigers...can't win for losing. :-)  But I also felt this team deserved and earned the right to get to play in front of some of its own fans and clearly that is not going to happen.  Too bad for our program which could have used this as yet another step in our rebirth.

Bracket Thoughts:

(this will be random style)

  • I dont do the entire numbers thing, so I really cannot speak to who deserved to be in our out.  My only thought on that is I am sad for Penn State that they did not get in, as it would be a great achievement for their program. 
  • As for the brackets, I was surprised initially at the site of Louisville as the overall #1, but it made sense ultimately.  While certainly they deserve some credit for their rapid ascension, a good amount of it did fall to them via everyone else losing.
  • I think the Midwest is the toughest group. 
  • I like the first two rounds for the Tigers, but getting Memphis in the Sweet 16 was not the 2/3 I was hoping for.
  • 4 mid-majors is probably going to really chap The Boy's ass on some level
  • My first gut reaction to a Final Four is Michigan State (L'ville will lose to Wake), Memphis, Duke and UNC (though I dont really like anyone from the South)

Women's Basketball:

All you need to know about the last game the women's Mizzou team played this season can be found right here from the AP story on MUTigers.com

Earnesia Williams had her first career double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds and provided the front line of the defense that forced the Tigers (13-17) into three straight flubbed inbounds passes as Texas wiped out a 59-52 deficit in a matter of 4 seconds.

Brittainey Raven then connected on a running layup in the lane with 22.8 seconds left to win it for Texas before Kathleen Nash provided the final point on a last-second free throw.

 

Alyssa Hollins led the Tigers with 16 points in her final game for Mizzou.  Jessra Johnson poured in another double-double.  The team finishes at 13-17 on the season.  I know made a lot of their poor shooing last season, which finished from the field at 37.8/35.0/61.6  This season, they moved those numbers to 38.5 from the field and 62.5 from the line, but down to an ugly 28.3 from 3 point range.

One last note on Cindy Stein.  I began the season under the impression her current contract was up at the end of this season.  I was mistaken in that belief.  I later learned she still has one year remaining, which should account for the the decision to retain her services one more season.  Given the economic climate, combined with the short-fall the AD is facing through some unforseen circumstances and the money they are likely looking in having to put to out to retain CMA, keeping Stein is something of a necessary evil. She will return a ton from a very young team, and who knows...they may turn it around.  If not, 2009-2010 will mark the end and an eventual new direction for the program.

Softball:

Two weekends ago, the Tigers took a couple of tough losses out on the west coast.  They returned home and lost another tough one to SIU-E.  They turned it around a bit last weekend down in Springfield, though against some lighter in-state teams.  The pitching certainly came around, as Chelsea Thomas threw back-to-back no-hitters.  They level of opponent certainly stepped up this past weekend down in SC, and the Tigers stepped up their game in a pretty impressive fashion.  They swept the weekend tournament, bookended by a 2-hitter from Delaney and a no-hitter against the #15 Tarheels on Sunday morning by the senior hurler.

The hitting was BACK this past weekend, as the Tigers scored 36 runs (while giving up 10).  Rhea Taylor is rounding back into All-American form, as she went 6-13 with 5 runs scored and 5 RBI's in three games (she got the day off against Michigan State on Saturday).  Jana Hainey pitched decently on Saturday but was let down by the defense.  Thomas was not spectacular, but the offense bailed her out.

Looking ahead, the Tigers have a home double-header against W. Illinois on Wednesday before starting Big XII play in a strong way against UT. Right now, the Big XII is down a bit on the national scene, with only OU ahead of Mizzou in the national rankings and only aTm also in the top 25 (though at 25, with Baylor, OSU and UT just outside the rankings).  Of those teams (and Houston, who the Tigers also have and who are also just outside the Top 25), Mizzou will get 3 series at home (UT, aTm and OU) and 3 on the road (Baylor, Houston and OSU).  The Tigers are 23-3 on the season, and if anything is a measure of how much this program has arrived it is that SIU-E received votes in the top 25 off of their win over the Tigers.  Exciting times are ahead this spring and this team deserves our attention.

Baseball:

Tough finish to a decent week for Mizzou.  The baseball team started the week at home against Western Illinois, and defeated them for the 2nd straight week.  Once again, the Tigers truly staffed the outing, with nine pitchers each throwing one inning. The hitting stars of the 18-4 win were freshman Ryan Gebhart with a triple and another hit (and 2 RBI'S) along with Steve Grey and Andrew Thigpen who each had 3 RBI's on the afternoon.

The conference season could not have started tougher for Mizzou, as they headed down to Austin to take on the #1 (by Baseball America) Longhorns.  Friday night was rained out, but that simply delayed the typical Mizzou pitching dominance, as Kyle Gibson went the distance allowing 6 hits and 4 walks with 11 K's in a 2-0 win.  The Tiger would turn right around and drop the back half of the twin-bill as Ian Berger was a little sloppy and Mizzou could never get their offense on track in a 5-0 loss.  Sunday's rubber game featured an improving Nick Tepesch, who held the Horns down for 8 innings and left with Mizzou up 3-1 in the bottom of the 9th with a runner on 2nd base.  However, Scooter Hicks and Brad Buehler could not make the pitches and the team could not make the plays in the field, blowing the lead and giving the Horns a 4-3 win.

The game was by no means a must-win, but it certainly would have helped the Tigers as they try to get back on track in both the conference and national scene.  That trip will now send them home for a 6-game swing, starting off this week against SIU-E before hosting aTm over the weekend (and finishing with UI-Chicago next week with back to back midweek games.

Gymnastics:

What a way for the Tigers to finish their regular season.  At home.  Senior Night.  Against the #9 program in the country.  And you finish with a win over the Beavers, 196.425-195.950.  It was the second highest tally of the season for the ladies, who were once again paced by all-around champion Sarah Shire (9th of the season at 39.475).  Adrienne Perry, in her final performance of her career at the Hearnes showed why she earned Big XII All-Around champion honors last season by contributing a 39.250 to the cause.

The Tigers finish the season at 16-2, which is the best winning percentage in the program's 30 year history.  Mizzou will also finish the season liklely just ouside the top 10 as they head to the Big XII Championships, which will be contested in Ames, IA next Saturday beginning at 2:00 p.m.  Mizzou has never won a Big XII title in gymnastics, but this team performing at their best certainly has the talent to do it.

Women's Golf:

For those of you who may be new to the site, a name to get to know is Julia Potter.  The junior has long been the the most decorated Mizzou golfer and is who paces this team.  This past week, they started their spring campaign out in Vegas at the UNLV Invitational.  The Tigers finished the tourney in the 11th spot, with Potter taking a 10th place finish.  Also swinging pretty well for the Tigers was freshman Hannah Lovelock (from across the pond in England) with a top-40 finish.  Another freshman Marisa Cook, along with sophomore Lindsay Haput also competed, with junior Michelle Morgan not completing the tournament.

The ladies have a week off before heading out Eugene, OR for the Duck Invitational on 3/23 and 3/24

Diving:

The NCAA Zone Diving competition took place this past weekend in the Diving Well at the Mizzou Natatorium, and resulted in the Tigers sending two-time All-American Kendra Menychuk back to the NCAA's.  Greg Destephen and Dante Jones dove pretty well for the weekend, but were unable to return to the Big...um...Dive, marking the first time the men's program will not be sending a diver to the championships since 2004.  For Melnychuk, she and her teammates will be headed to College Station, TX (popular place these days, more on that in a bit) next week to participate in the NCAAs.

Men's and Women's Indoor Track:

The indoor season wrapped up for the Tigers, as both sent participants to the NCAA Championships in College Station, TX.  For the men, paced by a 3rd place finish by Chris Rohr in the weight throw and 4th place finish by Nick Adcock in the heptathlon, the Tigers finished 20th in the nation (good for some decent Sears Trophey points), while the women finished tied for 60th thanks to a good finish by Krishna Lee. 

Rohr's finish of 3rd could be seen as a little disappointing as he came into the event as the top-rated thrower.  But while he did not achieve a personal best, he was just under it and would have had to have thrown a huge toss to win, as he lost by almost 2 feet.  Adcock had a solid finish and Lars Rise just missed earning points for the Tigers, while Brian Hancock did make the platform in the pole vault.  Krishna Lee used the 8th place finish to earn the lone point for the ladies, as 800m Shannon Leinart was about 9 seconds off the qualifying time she would need.

The outdoor season will get going in just a couple of weeks as the Tigers will head over to Walton Stadium to start the Missouri Relays.  They will also host the Jefferson Cup against Virginia, while also hosting the annual Tom Botts Invitational.

Random Thoughts:

  • No Musings (from me at least) next week, as I leave for Playa Del Carmen, Mexico at 6:00 a.m. on Saturday morning for a little vacation.  No word on whether I will be able to see the potential 2nd round NCAA game for the Tigers
  • I will be honest...I was about basketball'ed out by Sunday afternoon.  Nothing better than turning the home stereo up to 11 and watching The Dark Knight.
  • Congrats to Marty Brodeur, who continued to show how clutch he could be.  With one chance to tie the all-time wins record in his childhood home of Montreal and with the owner of the record only able to be in attendance for this game (Patrick Roy), Brodeur did what he has always done, and just won.  I am guessing the record falls for good coming up this week, and hopefully at home in New Jersey.
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