It’s beyond bizarre that my favorite college basketball team is ranked second.
After an 89-88 win over the previous #3 Baylor Bears, Missouri has jumped up to #2 in the rankings and could be in line for a No. 1 or No. 2 seed.
I have watched this team fold at the worst times. I’ve seen some guy named Tyrus Edney murder them in the tournament. I saw Hasheem Thabeet and the Connecticut Huskies roll them in 2009, ending what we only thought was the start of something special with Mike Anderson.
Two years and two frustrating tournament finishes later and Anderson was out the door to his stomping grounds at Arkansas and we were left chasing Purdue’s Matt Painter. Painter accepted the Missouri job and we about fainted.
Oh, that’s right; that never happened and we ended up with Frank Haith.
THE Frank Haith.
The man who led Miami basketball from mediocrity to…mediocrity. Missouri had just completed a three-year tournament run with one Elite 8 appearance and they were settling on Frank Haith. Haith!
Well, 18 games into the Frank Haith Era and by golly we might have ourselves a coach. The Tigers upset Baylor on Saturday in Waco, a game that they never could have won under Anderson. Anderson had no concept of teaching an offense. Sure he could scheme on defense and his dedication to a nonstop full-court press was admirable, but you just can’t win without a functioning half-court offense.
For example, on Saturday while the Tigers were putting up a “W” in Waco, Anderson’s Razorbacks had jumped out to a huge lead at home against Michigan. They made their first 11 shots and were up by 20+. But as Anderson’s teams are wont to do, Michigan made a game of it and lost by two.
Missouri could not have won at Iowa State. They couldn’t have closed it out against Texas or Texas A&M. It’s not that they lacked the heart; they just lacked the proper guidance. Anderson would have had them out there getting killed on the press and taking shots before 10 seconds had even ticked off the shot clock.
It’s not a style of ball that can win.
Haith has shown he can coach Anderson’s guys up. Ricardo Ratliffe has turned into a motherhumping Beast under Haith. Kim English has developed into the kind of “glue guy” that I thought Demarre Carroll brought. Mike Dixon, Phil Pressey and Marcus Denmon are a lethally quick trio who do so many little things well.
But, these are Anderson’s guys. Can Haith bring in his guys and have the same success? So far he’s had to fill out next year’s team with transfers and a couple mid-range prospects because Anderson left the team so bereft of talent after this season (with the exception of Flip Pressey and Mike Dixon). That’s going to be the key for Haith.
It also leads me to wonder: what if this is no joke? What if Haith is actually this good? Could Missouri hang on to him if the bigger schools come calling? As much as I love ole Mizzou, I know that this isn’t an elite school. They are moving to a weaker conference and (as of right now) will have a perennial meeting against John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats, who shit NBA lottery picks. Seriously.
I thought Anderson would be Missouri for life. I was okay with that. Even though his system was flawed, he ran a clean program and a seemingly nice guy. And though we aren’t even 20 games into the Haith Era, I think I’d be okay if he stuck around for a while.