Having beaten arch rival Kansas and destroyed a competitive Nebraska team, the Missouri Tigers basketball team under Mike Anderson has soared to #11 in the AP poll issued on Monday afternoon (ESPN). The Tigers are on a five game tear and hold an impressive 9-2 conference record which makes them 22-4 overall. All indications so far are that the Tigers, under the leadership of coach Anderson, are headed to the big dance for first time since 2003.
This Tigers team is the first to be this dominant since Quinn Snider led the black and gold to the elite eight in the March of 2002. In a sharp contrast, the Tigers under Mike Anderson differ enormously from the way they played under Quinn Snider. The difference of play lies mainly in the way they challenge opponent’s offenses with their ultra aggressive defense.
Going back to the Snider era there was some good offence but not a whole lot of quality defense. Whenever the Tigers under Snider would face an aggressive opponent, they would fall miserably because of their lack to keep up with the defensive pace.
Since Anderson has taken over his main emphasis has been on defense. This was easy to see in the Missouri-KU game last week when the Tigers forced the Jayhawks into 23 turnovers (ESPN) and won by a last second shot.
Even though Anderson’s club is not always exceptional with shooting the ball, the aggressive defense put on by the Tigers gives their offense ample opportunities to score and thus puts Missouri in the top ten when it comes to scoring. This is a big reverse from the Missouri team of seven years back whose play was very finesse and would be dictated by their capability of shooting the three. This could be seen in their last sweet sixteen in March 2002 (CNN-sports illustrated). Even though they have some troubles at shooting, the Tigers can make the three when they need it, as they demonstrated in their game against Nebraska last Saturday. But overall, when it comes to shooting behind the arc, they do not overdo it. With his work on the Missouri defense, Anderson has clearly taken the Tigers a long way from being a finesse team to a very aggressive opponent in the Big Twelve.
Only time will tell if this is a beginning of a great dynasty but the early indications are that the Tigers are going to be a force to contend with on a yearly basis in the Big Twelve north and are definitely headed far in the tournament this year.
ESPN http://sports.espn.go.com/ncb/boxscore?gameId=290400142 “Kansas vs. Missouri Box Score” espn.go.com
Sports Illustrated http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/basketball/college/men/recaps/2002/03/21/uaa_mbh/ “NCAA Men’s Basketball Scoreboard: Recap- Missouri 82 UCLA 73” sportsillustrated.cnn.com
ESPN http://sports.espn.go.com/ncb/rankings “2009 NCAA Men’s Basketball Rankings (Feb. 16)” espn.go.com