Month: March 2013

Gamecocks, Tigers, and Gators, Oh My! SEC Tournament Preview

It’s time for the SEC tournament.  For some teams, this is a tune up for the NCAA, for others, its a last chance effort to get a bid to even go to the tournament.  This is where dreams are made, or where you are sent packing with the smell of defeat following you.  So, without further ado, let’s take a look.

First off are the bubble teams, mainly Kentucky and Tennessee.  After a building year, many were skeptical if the Cats would even make it to the NCAA, and that future is still up in the air.  Kentucky is without big man Nerlens Noel, which means other freshman are going to have to step up.

With the win over Florida last week, the Wildcats might be able to get a bid, but if not, they are going to have to win at least one game this weekend if they dont wanna be NIT bound.

Moving over to Tennessee, the player to watch out for is Jordan McRae.  He isn’t in the running for the SEC player of the year for nothing.  McRae finished fourth in the SEC in scoring, averaging 16.1 points per game.  He is the reason that Tennessee was so successful in the back end of the season.  The Vols have won eight of their last nine games, which puts them on an upward streak.

The game to watch for will be against Alabama.  Tennessee must win against Alabama.  The winner of that game will be headed to the NCAA, while the loser will be senting packing to the tune of NIT.

Changing speed, lets turn and look at the two teams that could win the SEC tournament, Florida and Missouri.  Florida is obviously the best team in the conference, and was a possible NCAA champion contender earlier in the year.  But recent struggles during road games late in the season  has caused doubt to enter many fans’ minds.

Florida has Will Yegute back in the rotation, which will provide a much needed presence on defense, as well as offensive playmaking down the stretch.  The Gators have to win in the clutch, otherwise fans should be worried.  If Florida cannot close out easy games in the SEC tournament, this could foreshadow a short run in the NCAA.

Missouri is the only other team that has a definite lock on the NCAA.  Now, since I go there, I obviously want them to win.  But, there are some key elements that need to come together in order for that to happen.

First, Missouri has to play like it is at home.  If the road team Missouri comes out, the Tigers will be out of this tournament faster then they were in last year’s NCAA.  All of the Tiger’s road losses have been by three points or less, or overtime losses.  Missouri needs to keep its head and not make stupid plays in the final minutes of games.  And by Missouri I mean Phil Pressey.

Arguabley one of the best point guards in the nation, Pressey is the motor of Missouri’s offense.  The biggest thing for Pressey to worry about though, is to not make stupid passes.  He has to keep his head in the final minutes of the game and not be the hero.  Pressey also needs to limit his turnovers and to just play his game.

Second, Laurence Bowers is finally healthy.  The Tigers need to use that to their advantage and utilize his presence under the basket. Bowers scored 24 points in the last home game against Arkansas, and Missouri needs to make him a key part of its offense.

Another elemet to the offensive game for the Tigers is Alex Oriakhi.  Oriakhi has been a rebounding machine for the Tigers lately, and the more that Missouri can pound the ball inside to its big men, the better.

Overall, I don’t think that anyone has as much of a commanding presence as Florida does.  As long as the Gators don’t choke down the stretch, this is Florida’s tournament.

Mizzou Basektball Routes Arkansas on Senior Night

Senior Night.  A night where years of dedication and sacrifice are exhibited. It’s the last game on the home court, last game in front of the fans, and the Missouri seniors did not disappoint.  Led by Laurence Bowers, the men’s basketball team punished the Arkansas Razorbacks, 93-63 Tuesday night.

Before the game started, the three Missouri seniors were honored in front of a sellout crowd of 15,061.  Alex Oriakhi, Keion Bell, and Laurence Bowers were each given a framed version of their jersey as thanks for all the hard work and dedication they had given to the team.  But not just the senior basketball players were recognized.  The managers, cheerleaders, and Golden Girls were acknowledged as well.

Jumping into the game, it was close at first, but around the 11 minute mark, the Tigers just ran away with the game.  The Hogs never really stood a chance after that.

In the first half alone, Missouri out-rebounded Arkansas 26-9.  At the end of the game, the Tigers had dominated on the boards, 40-17.  The Tigers also shot 58% from the field.

Arkansas could not handle the sheer size of Missouri’s big men, or the defensive pressure, and had to resort to shooting three pointers for the majority of the game.

Bowers went out in style in his last home game at Mizzou Arena with a monster double-double of 24 points and 11 rebounds.

Fellow seniors  Oriakhi and Bell also had stellar nights, turning in ten points for Oriakhi and eight points for Bell.

After leading 48-22 at the half, Missouri continued its dominating rout of the Razorbacks, Jabari Brown contributing with 23 points on the night.

The lone Razorback that went into the double digits points wise was BJ Young, who had an impressive 27 points.  But even this didn’t help the Hogs as the Tigers butchered them, 93-63.

Following the impressive win, the three Missouri seniors addressed Tiger Nation; each one giving thanks to an organization that had profoundly impacted their lives during their college tenure.

Bell expressed gratitude for being welcomed as a transfer, saying, “ Even though I’ve been here for a short time, I feel like I’ve been here my whole career,” while Oriakhi thanked the crowd for an undefeated home season.

But Bowers final statement is the one that will resonate in Mizzou Arena’s walls for years to come.

“I love this place.  I’ve been here for five years, and its been a long journey.  If I had to do it all over again, I would definitely pick Mizzou.”

The Tigers do not play again until Saturday, when they take on Tennessee in Knoxville for the final game of the season.

Gymnastics Vaults its Way to Second Place

With the season drawing to a close, and Senior Night just around the corner, it’s heartwarming to see seniors stand up and be the leaders a team needs.  That’s exactly what Sandra Ostad did on Friday night, anchoring the Missouri Gymnastics team to a second place finish at the Arkansas Quad Meet with a season-high score on the vault.

The Tigers started the meet on the bars, and they came out swinging.  Sophomore Rachel Updike took charge, leading the team with a score of 9.825.  Fellow sophomore Laura Kappler earned a new career high mark, sticking the landing for a 9.775.  Freshman Miranda Eubank proved that she could compete with the big girls, posting a 9.800.

Arkansas led after the first rotation with a 49.225, while Missouri trailed in second place with a score of 48.875.

Tiptoeing over to the beam, the Tigers continued to perform at their best, with Updike nailing third on the beam with a score of 9.825, a team high.  Freshman Rachel Henderson was not to be outdone though, and posted a career high score of 9.750.  Senior Tori Howard showed why she was a senior, anchoring the team with a score of 9.725.

On the floor, Missouri tried to take the lead, but Arkansas was on fire, recording a score of 49.400, tying the school’s fifth best score in program history.

The Razorbacks clinched the meet with the vault, showing off event title holder Katherine Grable.  Grable, a junior, lit up the room with her fiery routine, earning a 9.95.

After that, Arkansas pulled away, and all the Tigers could do was continue to put up a solid performance to clinch second place.

Missouri ended on the vault, and was led by senior Sandra Ostad, who soared to a season high score of 9.800.  Fellow senior Howard followed with an indentical score, and Updike, inspired by both seniors, went on to take second in the event, with a score of 9.875.

The Tigers return home for Senior Night March 8 in the Hearnes Center.