Missouri’s season is not yet over. They are not satisfied, not by any stretch of the imagination.
The first thing that Kim English said in his postgame interview on ESPN was “We’ve got more work to do.” Winning the Big 12 Tournament with a 90-75 victory against a resurgent Baylor team is great, and I’m sure the members of the program and the fans of Missouri are going to be sure to celebrate this win, but they have bigger goals. They want to go to a Final Four and they want to win a national title.
The chance to do so will come. But for now, if only for tonight, the Tigers are going to enjoy this win.
And its tough not to feel good for them.
Frank Haith has been through a lot this season. Missouri’s decision to hire him was crucified by the media. I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that he was the laughingstock of the 2011 coaching carousel. That was followed by the news that Haith’s staff at Miami was involved in illicit benefits being given to recruits and to players, with the news continuing trickle out as late as February and March with the suspensions of Reggie Johnson and Durand Scott. Losing one of his best players, power forward Laurence Bowers, to a knee injury in September didn’t help matters, either.
Calling this season trying would be the understatement of the year.
And through it all, Missouri never wavered, even when they blew a 19 point lead at Kansas that would have given them the inside track towards a share of the Big 12 regular season title, their last year in the league before heading to the SEC.
A lot of coaches will do everything they can to displace the importance of conference tournaments. Jim Boeheim and Roy Williams are two of the most vocal; both are notorious for downplaying what it means to win a conference tournament with the NCAA Tournament on the horizon.
But if you want to get an idea of just how much this title means to the Tigers and to Frank Haith, all you have to do is look at his reaction after the game. Haith was in tears on the floor. He wasn’t choking up, he wasn’t getting dusty, he was crying.
Big 12 fans will assuredly disagree, but it is so tough not to feel good for this team.
And while the world saw Ricardo Ratliffe and Michael Dixon dancing on the court after the game, would anyone be surprised if this group started breaking down the game tape by the time they got on the bus to head back to Columbia?