Part Two of our basketball preview comes from The Beef.
So what role do I get to play in this week-long Mizzou hoops preview? Why that of Bob Bummer of course. Would you truly want it any other way?
Right after the Alamo Bowl, I wrote a piece where I "waxed poetic" about expectations and how they worked to degrade my enjoyment of a 10-win season of the football team. Now, I sit here with the basketball program coming off a 31-win, Big XII Tourney champ season and an Elite 8 appearance and returning perhaps the most likable crew in MU basketball history. I have been around the some of the fan sites and have seen much of the pushback of the Tigers being picked 7th and what-not. So to start, lets reflect back and see if we can apply it to this coming team.
In the end, I am not here to tell you how to be a fan....no one can do that. ... When you start to take success for granted, you have very little space in which to be able to enjoy a season like we all did in 2007, but a hell of a lot more space to be disappointed about it, even when it might not merit it.
Obviously taking out the dates and the fact it was written about football, I think some themes ring true here. Last year’s team was magical and something we all probably enjoyed about as much as any other Mizzou hoops team in our memory. We knew we had some pieces, but there was quite a bit still unproven and the way it came together at the end was just a site to behold. And while the UCONN loss was disappointing because it kept us from achieving something not ever done here, there was still not a truthfully disappointed fan for the outcome of the season.
But, as the Byrds once predicted, we turn turn turn the season to this year. Gone are three seniors each with their own niche in Mizzou basketball history. Few people were as loved as quickly as Demarre became (ask the common fan and they would probably tell you JYD was a 4-year guy…think about it…you know it is probably true). Leo earned a wonderful meme, and in the end, did away with some of the disappointment and underachieving strapped to him in his early days. And Matt Lawrence finished his career as the consummate role player, and who doesn’t love a role player? However, their departure also takes about 40 points, 15.5 boards per game and about 36% of the minutes played per game. That is just under half our scoring and well over a third of our rebounding redistributed to professional basketball all over the world.
Again, I cannot think of a team with more likable characters returning than this one. J.T. Tiller and Zaire Taylor are receiving some due accolades for the backcourt they will create. Keith Ramsey and Laurence Bowers have a tremendous knack for firing up the crowd with a huge dunk or block. Everyone really is high on Justin Safford and the great improvement he showed from a shaky freshman campaign. Marcus Denmon forever endeared himself to Mizzou fans for the buzzer beater against Memphis on the grandest stage. And Kim English…well…he truly is one in a million when it comes to a great many things.
The fact is, however, we are expecting some impressive improvement from this crew, and I fear we might be reaching just a bit. I will certainly say a nice thing about a system is that totals and averages are not as likely to move much from year to year (especially if the system and recruiting is solid). But, the Bob Bummer in me says the system has yet to have to replace the kind of scoring, rebounding and leadership we just lost. Leadership I am not worried about. However scoring and rebounding could be another. Don’t get me wrong, I think there are potential replacements, but we are also going to be asking a lot from these people…perhaps too much. And that all comes back to expectations. Which means I will end this piece the way I ended the piece about football. This is going to be a tremendously fun team to watch with personalities who will never be forgotten. The future is bright, and could be potentially brighter in the coming days and weeks depending on how things break. Remember to appreciate what we have rather than looking towards to what you THINK we should have. It is a tough thing to do (as the Illinois football game proves on a daily basis in Tiger-land), but I think the big picture is so bright we should not let something immediate perhaps sully it.