Tigers Open Battle 4 Atlantis With a Win

Pictured: Atlantis. Not pictured: basketball battles for it. 
The Missouri Tigers spent their Thanksgiving night in the Bahamas, playing in the ridiculously-named Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, engaged in an opening round scrum with the Stanford Cardinal. It was a surprisingly tough test for the thirteenth ranked Tigers, but the night ended well for them, as Mizzou was able to take home a 78-70 victory. 

The Tigers now move on to the semifinals tonight where they will meet Rick Pitino's Louisville Cardinals, who beat Northern Iowa 51-46 last night. It presents the Tigers with a brutal test, and the rest of us with a rare opportunity, to see Mizzou matched up against an absolutely elite opponent so early in the season. 

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Rick Majerus' Health Problems Resurface Once Again

Rick Majerus in happier days.
As you've no doubt heard by now, Rick Majerus stepped down as head coach of the Saint Louis University Billikens on Friday for health reasons. But nobody really knows what those health reasons are -- not exactly.

ESPN 101 reported late Friday that Majerus is experiencing "serious heart issues," and SLU issued a press release that stated he's undergoing "evaluation and treatment for an ongoing heart issue." The combination of professional vagueness and veiled concern from close friends has many people expecting the worst -- and not just in a "he could be done with coaching entirely" variety.

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Frank Haith Receives Key to St. Louis; Rick Majerus Asks: "What The ...?

Categories: Basketball, Mizzou
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Majerus: What's a guy gotta do?
This morning at 10 a.m. Frank Haith is expected to arrive at Room 200 in City Hall where Mayor Francis Slay will bestow the Mizzou basketball coach with a key to the city.

A press release sent out yesterday from the Mayor's Office notes that Haith "led the Tigers basketball team to one of their best records in school history."

And, yes, Mizzou's 30-5 record last season was pretty spectacular, especially considering A) how few people knew who Haith was a year ago and B) how many people hated him once they knew who he was.

Still, there's one man in town who has to be scratching his head at Haith getting the key to the St. Louis.

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The Mizzou Nightmare: A Quick Exit and Impending Glory for the Jayhawks

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If you were to look back a few weeks at the Missouri Tigers, you would think things were going really well for them. They had an historically great season, they won the Big XII conference tournament, and were looking at a top seed in the NCAA Tournament

They had perhaps the best guard corps in the nation, with Phil Pressey an emerging star at point and an early-season player of the year candidate in Marcus Denmon. Their sixth man, Michael Dixon, would have been a number one guard on the depth chart in most places. Kim English had finally become the player so many believed he could be all along, displaying a pure shooting touch to rival that of any player in the nation and a defensive tenacity he had never shown before. The preseason clouds caused by the controversial hire of Frank Haith and the shocking loss to injury of Laurence Bowers had entirely dissipated. It was blue skies all the way for the Tigers. 

Look now, and Mizzou's dream season has become a nightmare. And it could still get worse. 

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SLU Moves On; Mizzou Goes Home

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Probably my last chance to use the old Tiger ball statue picture for awhile; had to get it in at least once more.
Okay, so who had St. Louis U advancing and the Missouri Tigers going out in the opening round? Show of hands, please. 

Alright, everyone look around. See those people with their hands up? Those people are liars. Do not trust them, no matter what they tell you. You do, and you'll end up with the deed to a bridge somewhere and a handful of Chinese manufactured generic Viagra. 

Kidding aside, if you had told me a week ago the Billikens would advance further into the NCAA Tournament than Mizzou would, I likely would have either laughed in your face (if I thought you were just a little crazy), or backed away slowly while keeping you within my field of vision. (If I thought you were a lot crazy.) Even before the seeds came down. 

So what happened? 

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March Madness Game Preview: SLU Billikens vs. Memphis Tigers

Rick Majerus, head coach of the Billikens. Luckily he keeps his players under tighter wrap than he does his boobs.
I wrote a print edition article this week, looking at the brackets in the NCAA Tournament, doing some complaining about the selection committee's seeding choices, and previewing the road the Missouri Tigers will have to travel -- through the first couple rounds, at least -- if they want to get their name off that list of schools with the most tournament appearances to never make it to the Final Four

I also put a little bit in there about the Billikens of St. Louis University. I talked a little about their season, their seeding, their opponent; basically, the same coverage I gave Mizzou. However, due to the space limitations of print journalism, we had to lose some of the material. The Tigers are the bigger story; they got the full coverage, while most of the SLU section hit the cutting room floor. I felt bad; the Billikens are the localest of local teams for we St. Louisans, but hey, them's the breaks. The Billikens had a very nice season; the Tigers are a top five team nationally. 

Still, in order to try and correct the (very mild), wrong I feel we inflicted upon the Billikens, I thought I should really do a fuller write up on their first-round matchup with the Memphis Tigers. So here you go. 

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Temple Set to Leave Atlantic 10 Conference

Categories: Basketball

Were this the 2013-14 season, the Saint Louis University Billikens would hold the No. 1 ranking in the Atlantic 10 tournament that's currently being staged.

Securing top seeds in future A-10 tournies isn't an outrageous concept now that perennial Temple University has announced it's heading back to the Big East Conference, its home until 2004 when the conference kicked them out for playing so poorly on the gridiron. The transition is effective for football immediately and for all other sports beginning in the fall of next year.

The move makes sense for Temple, which has made upgrades to its football program. In many ways, the A-10 (which doesn't compete in football) and the Big East are similar in makeup -- each conference comprises several smallish, private, Roman Catholic basketball-centric schools in Northeast and Rust Belt urban cores. In a basketball sense, the A-10 is the poor man's Big East.

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The Missouri Tigers' Awful Week

Last Monday, the Missouri Tigers were the number three ranked team in the nation. They were 25-2. They were tied for first place in the Big XII Conference. They were looking at a #1 seeding in the NCAA Tournament. Life was good for the Missouri Tigers last Monday. 

Unfortunately, things aren't nearly so rosy this Monday. The Tigers have now lost two in a row; a second straight beatdown at the hands of an inferior Kansas State team, and perhaps the most gut-wrenching (not to mention infuriating), loss I can recall in any sport at Kansas on Saturday. 

Mizzou's record now stands at 25-4. They have no chance of a number one tourney seed. Kansas will win the Big XII. 

It was not a very good week. 

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The Tigers' Terrible Revenge

Haven't broken this photo out for awhile. Feels good.
The Missouri Tigers have only lost two games this year; one to a Kansas State team which simply bullied them all over the floor, surprising the Tigers into losing their composure, and one to Oklahoma State. The Oklahoma State loss was a true trap game, a contest against a lesser opponent coming off a huge, important, emotional win. 

The win in question was the Tigers' victory over Baylor in Waco in late January, and they laid a mighty egg in their trip to Stillwater four days later. The defensive effort in particular was sorely lacking, and against an offense as talented as the Cowboys' that's a recipe for disaster. Oklahoma State shot almost 60% from the floor, and the Tigers simply couldn't counter, losing 79-72. 

Well, it was time for a rematch last night, and Missouri played significantly better this time. Okay, that's a bit of an understatement. They played really good. Okay, that's still a bit of an understatement, and poor grammar to boot. Mizzou went straight-up Ezekiel 25:17 on Oklahoma State last night. 

Yeah, that works. 

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Tigers Win Biggest Game of The Year; Now Can They Avoid the Letdown?

What the city of Norman, Oklahoma should look like to the Mizzou players flying in.
On Saturday evening the Missouri Tigers won perhaps their biggest game of the year. Well, okay, biggest of the year so far; the games really only get bigger from here on in. Such is the life of a top five college basketball team. Every game becomes the biggest game. 

Even so, beating a Kansas team sitting atop the Big XII rankings and ranked in the top ten nationally is pretty damned big. Marcus Denmon going Super Saiyan at the end to put the Tigers ahead? Big. Michael Dixon hitting two free throws in a row following an offensive foul to extend the lead to three? Big. Holding serve in Columbia ahead of a rematch in Lawrence three weeks from Saturday? Bigger than big. 

So yeah, it was a big, big game. Tough to say it was bigger than the Tigers travelling to Waco, Texas and taking down then-number three ranked Baylor, but it probably was. 

The problem is that, following a game that big, it's easy to look at anything less as small and not nearly so important. How Frank Haith keeps his team from falling into that trap will be his next big challenge as the coach of this Mizzou team. 

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