Every team sets a goal of playing its best basketball in the month of March. College hoops’ most pivotal month starts in just six days. So now is a fair time to ask, have we seen the best Missouri has to offer yet?
“I think for forty minutes, it’s still out there for us,” Mike Anderson said. “We’ve had some games where we’ve played well, we’ve shot well. We’ve had some games where we defended well and shot well, but maybe not necessarily through the whole game.”
“Not collectively. For the first half of the Kansas game was the best flow we’ve been in offensively for the entire year, the best the ball has moved and that’s our best offense,” Kim English said. “Defensively? Rare. No. At no time have we played our best. You can look at that as a good thing, hopefully that day is coming. It could be a bad thing, but I’m hoping for the former.”
So if we haven’t seen the best of these Tigers, is there reason to expect we will over the final weeks of the season?
“This is the time of year where teams want to be playing their basketball coming into March. We’ve been working hard. We’re trying to get to that championship level that we want to be playing at,” Marcus Denmon said. “I think we’re starting to play some of our better basketball now.”
The Tigers are on a three-game winning streak. The last time they could say that was on January 5th. A 98-58 win over North Alabama was the Tigers’ ninth in a row and put them 14-and-1 on the season. Since the start of Big 12 play, the Tigers had neither won—nor lost—more than two in a row until Saturday’s 76-70 win over Iowa State capped the current three-game streak.
“There have been some games, but the games have been against inferior competition where we’re just more athletic and we’re bigger,” English said. “You really don’t take too much stock in that. You really want to see it against a good team and Wednesday’s another chance at that.”
Wednesday would mark Baylor’s visit to Mizzou Arena. The Bears are 17-and-9 and 6-and-6 in the league. They have, however, lost their last two league games and are just 1-and-4 on the road in Big 12 play. With a trip to Kansas State coming on Saturday, Missouri can go a long way toward locking up a first-round bye in the Big 12 tournament.
“These are huge games. But, I’m sorry, just because they’re the next game on our schedule,” English said. “Every game in the Big 12 is important, from the first to the 16th. This game against Baylor is huge, and whoever we play Saturday is huge.”
A road trip to Nebraska, where the Huskers are 15-and-1, and a home game against Kansas finish out the regular season. All four are winnable, but none are easy. The Tigers know the time to put their best foot forward is upon them.
“It’s coming. I can sense it’s coming,” Anderson said. “This is, to me, the fun time of year for coaches and for players. The games become bigger, the excitement, the expectation, the unknown. I really feel our guys are kind of, hopefully, feeding off one another. If we can put it all together, this is the time to do it.”
“I don’t know if there’s been a game where all of us have (played well). But I think if that game does happen where everybody’s hitting on all cylinders, I think somebody better watch out,” Laurence Bowers said. “It’s just going out there and actually doing it and not talking about it.”
The time is now. The Tigers and Bears tip off at Wednesday at Mizzou Arena.
Gabe DeArmond is the publisher of PowerMizzou.com, the Missouri site on the Rivals.com network. You can read his daily coverage of the Tigers online at http://missouri.rivals.com.