As the final seconds wound down on Saturday, in the regular season finale at Mizzou Arena, Senior Day for the Tigers, senior guard Jordan Geist had the ball with Missouri down 71-68 to Ole Miss. The crowd of 11,050, pretty feisty and loud for the game, stood in anticipation.
Missouri had led by 10 early in the second half, but the lead had evaporated, as has happened too often to the Tigers this season, and now Geist was trying to bail his team out in his final game at Mizzou Arena.
Geist dribbled and dribbled and then drove into the lane, lofting a layup. Bruce Stevens blocked the shot with authority, swatting away the ball and the Tigers’ win chances. Two Terrence Davis free throws later, the final score was Ole Miss 73, Missouri 68.
It was that kind of day, and that kind of season for the Tigers. Missouri (14-16, 5-13 in SEC play) honored Geist and Kevin Puryear pregame, senior starters, as well as walk-on senior and student section favorite Adam Wolf and senior Cullen VanLeer, who medically retired before the season but still worked with the team this year. Those seniors saw plenty of losses, but they were also part of an NCAA Tournament team last year.
Ole Miss (20-11, 10-8 in SEC) got a much-needed win for their NCAA Tournament hopes.
Missouri’s only postseason tournament will likely be the SEC Tournament in Nashville this week. The Tigers start that tournament by facing Georgia on Wednesday (6 p.m. on SEC Network).
Missouri lost to Georgia in their first SEC Tournament game last year, a tough loss that rapidly ended their “home” conference tournament, held in St. Louis last year. However, in more recent and relevant history, the Tigers shellacked Georgia on the road last Tuesday. The Bulldogs (11-21, 2-16 in SEC) could barely get any offense going at all, and some late buckets in garbage time saved them a truly embarrassing point total, with Missouri winning 64-39.
That result would bode well for Missouri’s chances in their tournament game, although it’s good to remember this is the 12th place team in the SEC (Missouri) vs. the 13th place team (Georgia). No result would be truly shocking.
Of course, if you’d like to put on the delusional optimist hat for a minute, it’s worth noting the SEC Tournament bracket sets up for a little run for the Tigers if they can bring their A game. They’re on the opposite side of the bracket from heavyweights Tennessee and Kentucky.
If the Tigers beat Georgia, they face Auburn in the second round at approximately 2:30 p.m. Thursday on the SEC Network. A win their would mean a quarterfinal matchup with South Carolina about 2:30 p.m. Friday on ESPN. If seeds hold, the semifinal opponent would be top-seed LSU at noon Saturday on ESPN. The SEC Tournament title game is Sunday at noon on ESPN. I don’t expect the Tigers to make it to the weekend, but a win or two in Nashville would be a decent ending to the season.