I wish I was around for the live thread for this game. How exciting. Thank goodness for ESPN3 though.
1. Mizzou has what Clark Kellogg calls "spurtability". I'm one of those people who thinks the NCAA tournament, as unique and as wonderful as it is, degrades the regular season a little. I'm doing my level best to enjoy this truly magical season for what it is without looking too far ahead to "brackets" and "seeding" that only end up sending my anxiety skyrocketing and taking my focus off what is going on right now. Fortunately, with Kansas on the near horizon even the fans--much less the players--can't get too terribly far ahead of what's going on right now. Having given that preamble, I'll give one little nugget that leaves me hopeful about Missouri's tournament chances. It isn't the "senior leadership" that commentators love to go on about. We've seen experienced teams play tight when the moment becomes a little too big, while some inexperienced teams play great precisely because they're "too stupid" to know how big the moment is. It isn't talent either. Missouri is plenty talented, but I doubt there is a first round NBA talent on the roster. Nope. What leaves me hopeful about Mizzou is spurtability--that ability to get on runs that, for the most part, the other team can't really defend, only try to limit. I remember Kellogg coining this term with the '97 Arizona title team. As evidenced yesterday, in a game that is sputtering along without much flow, out of nowhere Missouri can hit you with a run--and all a defense can do is try to keep it from getting out of hand. To my mind, the biggest component of wading through the opening weekend minefield is the ability to spurt against "inferior" opponents. 14-0, 15-0 runs are harder to come by against quality defenses, but as a high seed in the early rounds you need separation if for no other reason than to keep the upset vultures at neutral site arenas from circling.
2. Don't weep for Baylor. They are built for tournament play. I'm not so sure that I agree that their problem is toughness. They're not the toughest team around for sure, but they're not punks. I think their issue--such that they have "issues" with losses to KU and Mizzou--is that their talent isn't the most complimentary. It's hard to be great in the regular season with a front court-dominated team in college hoops, which is so guard friendly. (It's not impossible--KU and UNC does it all the time.) Their guards are turnover prone, not only do they personally turn it over, they put their bigs in situations where they are likely to turn it over. For all the barbs thrown at PJIII, it really is kinda easy to take an inexperienced big out of his comfort zone. (That's no excuse for his disappearing acts on the boards and on defense.) A team that can't figure out how to involve a young big man, especially when they don't run, and they don't have guards who limit turnovers, isn't terribly uncommon. Having said all that, come March they're likely to look a lot like they did in non-conference. They're not going to see many teams that can match their perimeter quickness like Mizzou or leverage them into horrendous shots AND keep them off the glass like Kansas--both of whom know the Baylor playbook as well as Baylor. Don't be shocked if they make a run, maybe even farther than us. Tournaments aren't about overall quality. They're about matchups.