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CBB Game Day: Let’s send the seniors off in style!

Five seniors, their last home game.

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We’ve made it, the end of the regular season.

Today marks the end of Missouri’s 2020-21 regular season. One which saw the Tigers ranked for 11 straight weeks, largely from the play of Missouri’s five seniors. Together they’ve played over 60% of the minutes in a season which has seen Missouri basketball mean something again.

Beyond the top 25 ranking — for the first time since early 2014, and for the longest time since 2012-13 — Missouri has won 15 games in an abbreviated schedule. If you add in two likely wins against Vanderbilt and Texas A&M which were cancelled due to COVID interruptions, and a few gimme home wins against mid major opponents, the Tigers are very likely already 20 game winners already in a normal year.

The building blocks of this season started all the way back when Barack Obama was still president, believe it or not. To be specific, it was September 19, 2015 when Mitchell Smith committed to Missouri. Smith was originally a Kim Anderson recruit who tore his ACL against LSU in January of 2017, redshirted in Cuonzo Martin’s first year, and turned himself into an important reserve over the last three seasons. There are moments you see a player’s light go on, and that moment was watching Mitchell Smith compete in the Braggin’ Rights game. We make a lot of noise about Javon Pickett and his Illinois zone... but nobody plays harder in that game than Mitchell Smith. He takes charges, dives for loose balls, and if you were to keep track on most floor burns over the course of their career at Mizzou, few players would have the scars to show for it moreso than Mitch (maybe Jason Sutherland, but most of his were self-inflicted).

NCAA Basketball: Missouri at Illinois Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Mitchell embodies everything that’s right about college basketball. A guy who was the state player of the year in Arkansas his senior year. A senior class that featured Malik Monk, who is currently collecting paychecks from the Charlotte Hornets (and has been for 4 years). An elite high school player who comes up against the odds of college basketball, injuries, coaching turnover, role changes, and flourishes.

While Smith was still rehabbing his ACL injury, the program went into warp speed around him. Cuonzo Martin was brought in, along with the Porter makeover, which included Jeremiah Tilmon. Tilmon has been inconsistent over his four years but he’s truly broken out this year as the most important player on this roster. With Tilmon available, Mizzou is 15-5 and possibly still a protected seed in the NCAA tournament (Ole Miss results be damned).

Mizzou’s backcourt was remade nearly three years ago when they got commitments from Mark Smith on April 15th, 2018, and then just under two weeks later, Dru Smith committed as well. Mark has been the most consistent outside shooter for the Tigers, and a reliable defender, and Dru has turned into an All-SEC guard. They also gave us this:

Then, last April, Cuonzo Martin completed his senior class. He added Hawaii graduate transfer Drew Buggs. Buggs has been a near perfect addition for this team. Sure, they could have used someone who was a more adept scorer, but it’s hard to argue with a guy who has the team’s best +/- on a per possession basis. Buggs isn’t worried about accolades; he’s here to shore up the margins and help this team win.

And this group has changed the perceptions of Missouri basketball. And for that they deserve our thanks. They also deserve a packed house of fans cheering them and thanking them for everything. But that’s been impacted by COVID as well. In a not normal year, we get a not normal send of for a group of players who are anything but ordinary.

Mizzou plays at 2pm. Let’s send them off in style.

Check our the best stuff from this past week:

Missouri vs LSU today:

TIME: 2:00 p.m. CT

DATE: Saturday, March 7, 2021

LOCATION: Mizzou Arena; Columbia, MO

TELEVISION: SEC Network

STREAM: WatchESPN

TWITTER: @MizzouHoops

ESPN+: ROCKMNATION

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It’s College BASKETBALL SATURDAY!

CBB Game Day, March 6, 2021

Top 25 Visitor Home Time Channel
Top 25 Visitor Home Time Channel
11 Florida State Notre Dame 11:00 AM ESPN2
Indiana State 20 Loyola 12:00 PM CBSSN
17 Oklahoma State 6 West Virginia 1:00 PM ESPN2
8 Alabama Georgia 1:00 PM CBS
Indiana 23 Purdue 1:00 PM ESPN
10 Villanova Providence 1:30 PM FOX
4 Illinois 7 Ohio State 3:00 PM ESPN
21 Virginia Louisville 3:00 PM ESPN2
Texas A&M 12 Arkansas 4:00 PM SECN
Butler 14 Creighton 4:00 PM FOX
22 Virginia Tech NC State Canceled
SEC South Carolina Kentucky 11:00 AM ESPN
Mississippi State Auburn 12:00 PM SECN
LSU Missouri 12:00 PM SECN
Vanderbilt Ole Miss 6:00 PM SECN

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