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Mizzou 25: Harold "Spider" Burke Regional (Quarterfinal #4)

UPDATE, 1:15pm (3/14). Pell is up 6 now, so I'm calling it after 82 votes. My boy Atkins came close, but Pell moves on to face Demontie Cross.

It's Mizzou 25, the tournament to decide the best, most influential, most likable Mizzou athlete of the past 25 years! It's like Who's Now or The Greatest Highlight, only, uhh, cool.

Mizzou 25 is set up in four 8-athlete regions: the Norm Stewart Region (basketball), the Larry Smith Region (football), the Joann Rutherford Region (all sports), and the Spider Region (fan favorites). Here's the Mizzou 25 bracket in all its resplendent glory.

One matchup left, and then it's on to the Sweet 16! Here are the matchups for the Spider Regional...for this regional, vote with your heart, not your head.

3/10: Jed Frost (Basketball) vs Pig Brown (Football)
3/11: Devin West (Football) vs Brian Grawer (Basketball)
3/12: Demontie Cross (Football) vs Christi Myers (Volleyball)
3/13: Mark Atkins (Basketball) vs Matt Pell (Wrestling)

Mark Atkins vs Matt Pell




The Boy: I am a Mark Atkins disciple. My fantasy college hoops name this year was The Mark Atkins Allstars. When I played pick-up basketball at the rec center, a friend of mine and I always made sure to be on opposite teams, so we could both do our best Atkins impressions, jogging in a semi-circle around the 3-point line and yanking one up when opportunity struck (and sometimes when it didn't).

Mark Atkins was Clarence Gilbert with slower feet and a smaller conscience. When he was cold from 3-point range, he more or less did not need to be on the court because while he was an okay defender, he was going to keep shooting if you didn't take him out. Oh, but when he was hot...

When I came to Mizzou in '97, Atkins' time had already come and gone. I was shocked to find out that so many people my age still loved Atkins as much as I did, and it made me wonder why. Turns out, for slow-footed high schoolers (like myself and apparently many others) whose only skill was being able to make the occasional 3-pointer, Atkins was the ultimate Mizzou athlete. He made us think "If only I were 6'4, I could soooooo do what he's doing."

It helped that he rose to the occasion. He made 2 3's in the last minute of regulation to force OT in the '93 Braggin' Rights game. Two months later, in the first Mizzou game I ever saw in person, all Atkins did was make 7 3-pointers on his way to 24 points and a 104-94 win over OU at Lloyd Noble. With one skill and a nasty attitude, Atkins was the microwave for that '94 team, and he won over a lot of one-skill kids in the process.
chitowntiger: When thinking about Matt Pell, Scottie Pippen pops into my mind. Much like Michael Jordan was the Chicago Bulls, Ben Askren was the star of the Tiger Wrestling, and deservedly so. However, the Bulls would not have won their titles without Pippen, and Missouri would have been just as lost without Pell.

When Pell came to Columbia from Luxemburg, Wis., he would have been a natural at 174 pounds. Of course, Ben Askren was at that weight, so he spent his redshirt year at 157. The next year, Pell was happy to sacrifice for the team, moved up to 184 and qualified for NCAAs. In his next season, he cut down to 163, and shocked the wrestling world by earning All-American status. Large expectations loomed for Pell during the 2006 NCAAs, but he did not fare as well. Despite having a stellar season, he suffered a first-round upset and did not make it back to the medal stand. For his senior season, Pell steamrolled through the competition at NCAAs, racking up four pins and a third-place finish. The bonus points he earned put the Tigers over the top for a third place, Mizzou’s highest place ever.

His career at Mizzou was history-making, but statistics are not what makes Matt a fan favorite. His constant drive to do what was best for the team is. Every Mizzou wrestling fan was frustrated with his junior NCAAs because we knew of his potential. Seeing him take third with a thrilling pin during his senior season was just as satisfying as Askren’s second national championship, because it was a realization of all that we knew Pell could do. Unlike Pippen, Pell would never sit out with 1.8 seconds left.