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WE’VE MOVED!

The Columns has taken our site to our new domain name: http://www.mizsports.com/ Be sure to check it out!  The new site is still under some construction, but improvements are on the way.

Thanks to the nearly 40,000 readers who checked us out on this site.  We appreciate it.

-MG

Here’s the link “OUR NEW ADDRESS”… ——————————————————>

Pinkel and co. wrap up training camp

The players weren't the only ones practicing Thursday.  Gary Pinkel warmed up for the season by discussing a play with the scrimmage's officials.

The players weren't the only ones practicing Thursday. Gary Pinkel warmed up for the season by discussing a play with the scrimmage's officials.

“We have to get better and we have to get better fast.  We have seven days to fix things.”

Coach Gary Pinkel

The Columns will have a full report from Thursday’s scrimmage up shortly.

-MG

Mizzou’s Cushy Non-Conference Schedule in Need of Readjustment

Cupcake In this BCS era of college football, in which voters across the country nonsensically scrutinize every aspect of every game, effective scheduling has become paramount.  Essentially, a good schedule, which includes a balanced distribution between formidable and weaker opponents, and a good team can forge a premiere postseason bowl game.  Conversely, disaster may strike if a strong team picks up an inopportune loss and does not have the schedule strength to drive themselves out of a hole.  Since a team cannot decide which conference it is in or which opponents it plays from its conference, non-conference scheduling has become pivotal.  At the core of non-conference scheduling lies a paradox that all athletic directors and coaches must face: Should we sacrifice our strength of schedule to guarantee ourselves more wins? or Should we schedule a big-time opponent in hopes of a victory that will launch us up the rankings?

When looking at Missouri’s 2009 schedule, it is obvious that Gary Pinkel and Co. stuck to the conservative end of this paradoxical spectrum.  This season, Missouri will take on Illinois, in their annual Arch Rivalry showdown, Bowling Green, Furman, and Nevada before beginning their Big 12 slate….. wait, did I just list Furman??!!!  That’s right folks, Furman.  The purple and white clad Furman Paladins of the Football Championship Subdivision’s Southern Conference will be making millions from the ignominy at Faurot.

Some say there is no football quite like Furman football.  Mizzou will find out shortly.

Some say there is no football quite like Furman football. Mizzou will find out shortly.

While I am happy that the Tigers should be locking up three surefire wins following the Illinois game in St. Louis, I would be lying if I said I was not displeased with the weakness of Missouri’s non-conference schedule.  After doing some research, it came to my attention that the soft-scheduling strategy has been accustom of Mizzou for years.  Since 2002, Missouri has gone 23-3 in non-conference games.  Meanwhile, their non-conference opponents have combined to go 130-183 over the past seven seasons.  This number is already pitiful, but it’s made even worse if you consider how inflated the win totals are from the opponents playing in poor conferences.  The only notable opponents from the era have been: Bowling Green, who defeated Missouri in 2002 en route to a 9-3 season under Urban Meyer; Ole Miss, who has the name-recognition, but went 4-8 & 3-9 in the two seasons that Mizzou faced them; and Illinois, who landed in the Rose Bowl in 2007 but failed to qualify for a bowl last season.  If these are the only three teams that are remotely eye-catching (and they just barely caught my attention), then it can be confirmed from Mizzou’s scheduling pedigree that the Tiger coaching staff is risk-averse.  There are a couple of reasons why athletic director Mike Alden and the rest of the Missouri staff may be timid when making phone calls to other BCS conference teams.

First, the Tigers play in a major conference and generally have a fairly tough schedule once Big 12 play begins.  This season, Mizzou will play Texas and Nebraska at home and travel to Stillwater to play Oklahoma State.  In addition to these momentous clashes, Mizzou will also play solid Baylor and Kansas squads.  While the Tigers certainly have their share of key Big 12 games this year, they have not always had to play against top competition in the Big 12.  I may offend some with these next remarks, but I’m gonna throw them out there anyway.  The Big 12 North is simply not that good right now and has not been even close in comparison to the South for quite some time.  Mizzou’s staff may feel a false sense of security because they play in the second best overall conference in the country.  However, they need to realize that the computers do not care what conference you are in; they just care about the teams you play, and North foes are not too intimidating.  Also, voters realize that the North is much weaker than the South so they may skew their votes away from teams in the Big 12’s “other division.”  Therefore, since Mizzou cannot count on playing top-notch competition in the North every year, it seems necessary that they start scheduling a little bit tougher out of conference if they want to fully contend for a BCS birth.

Is Mike Alden getting ready to schedule another game against a girls' team?  Oh no, not again!

Is Mike Alden getting ready to schedule another game against a girls' team? Oh no, not again!

A second reason why Mizzou has not been scheduling major out of conference games is because Tiger fans generally do not travel incredibly well.  Sure, Mizzou fans make the trek to St. Louis for the Arch Rivalry and Kansas City for the KU game, but can the majority of Tiger fans honestly claim that they would travel to Tallahassee for a game with Florida State?  Probably not.

This season, Georgia is playing a brutal non-conference schedule in addition to their SEC slate.  The Bulldogs will be playing at Oklahoma State in their season opener, and mix in games with Arizona State and Georgia Tech during the season.  The reason behind the madness?  To give Georgia’s polished fan base a chance to travel to places they hadn’t been for decades and to get Georgia’s name out to places that aren’t as familiar with the silver britches.  SEC commissioner Mike Slive is currently advocating for teams in his conference to schedule “quality” opponents for out of conference home-and-home series. “The fans love it and the fact is it also gives us a valuable TV game when we have the home side of that game,” Slive said.  Right now, Mizzou is a program on the rise, so they could benefit largely from the TV ratings and recognition that come from big games.  While Georgia may have gone too far with scheduling “quality” opponents this season, I like their approach and wish Mizzou would dive into something similar in the future.  Ultimately, the fans can make a major impact on the scheduling process.  If Mizzou fans prove that they are willing to make long journeys to see exciting games, then the Missouri staff may be more willing to bend their current philosophy.

Georgia fans are gonna have a bunch of exciting games to see this year.

Georgia fans are going to have a bunch of exciting games to see this year.

While I understand that games against teams like Furman can be used as early season tune-ups, I think it is shameful that major BCS conference teams schedule I-AA opponents.  There are other ways to pick up a fairly easy win that are not so disheartening for fans.  I think Missouri had the right approach in 2006-2007 when they scheduled a home-and-home with Ole Miss.  Although Mississippi was not a great team in the two years when the Tigers played them, they play in the nation’s best conference and certainly provide name-recognition.  I will be satisfied when Missouri starts scheduling at least two teams from BCS conferences for their four non-conference games every year.  I’m not saying that Mizzou needs to schedule the elite from these conferences, but at least teams that are competitive and have a chance at making a bowl game, like Vanderbilt or Minnesota, for example.  Then, every few years schedule a game against an elite opponent that will really get fans in Columbia excited, like against Virginia Tech or Alabama.  In addition to all previous remarks, games against more legitimate opponents will make your team’s intangibles stronger and more prepared to handle tight situations.  Scrimmages with Furman will not.

-PRF

NBA draft reaction: Surprises both good and bad

Missouri was thought to be sending two players into the NBA tonight.  DeMarre Carroll was selected higher than expected, while former teammate Leo Lyons wasn’t selected at all.

The NBA draft was no slam dunk for former Mizzou forward Leo Lyons.

The NBA draft was no slam dunk for former Mizzou forward Leo Lyons.

As the dust continues to settle on the NBA draft and I continue to ponder why exactly my hometown Timberwolves selected four point guards in the same draft, I’ll pause for a moment to reflect on Leo Lyons’ and DeMarre Carroll’s draft outcomes.

As I wrote last night (see post below), I thought both former Tigers were talented enough to be worthy of a selection on draft night.  Looking back at the draft results, one theme stands out to me loud and clear: surprise.

First of all, I was pleasantly surprised to see Carroll taken with the 27th overall pick by the Memphis Grizzlies.  I thought the first round was a possibility for Carroll, but not likely.  Many draft experts had Carroll being selected by the Grizzlies…with the 36th pick.  No one had him going 27th overall.  If there is any player that it is easy to be a fan of, Carroll is it. His high-energy style of play will be a great addition in Memphis.  ESPN seemed to be in full support of the Carroll selection.  On their draft recap, Chad Ford wrote:

“I love this pick for the Grizzlies. He’s a great energy player who flies up and down the floor, can handle the ball and creates havoc on the defensive end. He’s a more skilled version of Renaldo Balkman.”

While being compared to Renaldo Balkman is never a good thing – What’s that? Oh wait, I think I can still hear Knicks fans booing New York’s Balkman selection– at least Ford called Carroll more talented.

DeMarre Carroll not only has the prestige of being a first round pick, but he also earns a guaranteed contract.

DeMarre Carroll not only has the prestige of being a first round pick, but he also earns a guaranteed contract.

In Memphis, Carroll will be a good fit.  The Grizz are young and athletic and Carroll certainly fits that description.  Memphis recently traded Darko Milicic for Quentin Richardson, helping Carroll’s chances for playing time.  Former kU standout Darrell Arthur, Darius Miles, and Hakim Warrick are the players against whom Carroll will compete for playing time.  I think it’s safe to say that Carroll has more upside at this point than Miles, while Arthur and Warrick are longer and leaner forwards who don’t quite fill the role that Carroll does.

In 2009-2010 Memphis will have a talented young nucleus of recent draft picks.  At point guard they are led by Mike Conley, they have talented scoring guards in O.J. Mayo and Rudy Gay, and Hasheem Thabeet could be the defensive presence they need up front.  I see Carroll getting minutes off the bench for a Grizzlies team that at least on paper, doesn’t look too shabby anymore.

In addition, Carroll is guaranteed a two-year contract with a team option for the third and fourth years.  Had he been selected just four picks later, which would have been the second round, there would have been no such guarantee.

Seeing Carroll taken so highly was a pleasant surprise on draft night.

Leo Lyons’ draft night was also surprising.  Check that.  It was shocking actually.  Nearly anywhere you looked for the past six months Lyons was considered a lock for the second round.

Nbadraft.net had Leo going 52nd overall to Indiana.  I thought that was a worse case scenario for Lyons.  I thought he’d go somewhere in the 40’s.  Nbadraft.net rated him as an 88 overall prospect.  For comparison, Jermaine Taylor out of UCF who was taken 32nd by the Washington Wizards was also an 88.  Sergio Llull, who went 34th to Denver was an 86.  Jon Brockman who went 38th to Portland was also an 86.  Goran Suton, taken by the Jazz was never even deemed worthy of being rated at all.  Now I know nbadraft.net is not the ultimate guidebook to the NBA draft, but it just goes to show you that Lyons was considered a solid prospect.

I find it hard to imagine that every team in the draft passed on his offensive potential.  Lyons is a 6’9’’ athletic forward who is money with the jump shot and has no problems putting the ball on the floor and getting to the basket.  Put a smaller defender on Lyons and he will shoot over him.  Put a bigger and slower defender on him and Lyons will beat him to the basket.  Off the bench Lyons would make solid contributions.

Lyons size and mid-range ability remind me of Joe Smith.  Only Lyons is more athletic.  There were questions about his ability to defend along with his off court issues (he was suspended three times at Mizzou), but a little bit of homework should have proven those issues irrelevant (One suspension was for curfew violation in the Athena debacle, another for a traffic violation).

Certainly the journey is not over for the talented Lyons.  He will probably end up in an NBA team’s camp and play for a summer league team.  However, in a league where second round picks are often cut from team’s rosters, Lyons is certainly behind the eight ball at this point.

Carroll and Lyons’ situations were both surprises.  Carroll was a pleasant surprise going at 27 overall.  It is shocking that Lyons was not drafted.  I would be surprised yet again if Lyons were to make an NBA roster come fall.  He is talented enough, but unfortunately, it looks like NBA GM’s just don’t agree.

-MG

A banner year for the Mizzou athletic department (Part one)

The success of Missouri’s football and basketball teams is well documented.  However, 2008-2009 was considered the greatest athletic year in school history due to the success of all of Missouri’s teams.  Guest Contributor Tom Weyerich recaps the year in a two part series beginning today with those sports that sometimes get overlooked.

Missouri's first Big 12 title of the year was earned by the soccer team.

Missouri's first Big 12 title of the year was earned by the soccer team.

            2008-2009 was a great season to be a Missouri Tiger fan. Everyone knows about the men’s basketball team’s run to the Elite Eight, but even beyond the basketball court, this was the greatest athletic year in Tiger history.  The lesser-covered sports were tremendous for The University of Missouri in 2008-2009 and additionally, the Tiger athletes left fans proud off the field as well. I’ll save the big time stuff for last so for now let me fill you in on what the guys and gals not getting all the attention did.

 

Missouri's wrestling team finished the year ranked seventh in the nation.

Missouri's wrestling team finished the year ranked seventh in the nation thanks to strong individual performances by wrestlers like Nick Marable, pictured above.

         Let’s start with Wrestling where they were one of the three teams Missouri fielded this year to finish in the top 8 in the country. As a team, they finished the year placed 7th in the nation. Five members of the team placed top 7 in their individual weight classes, as well as their overall finishes.  These five were also all named All-Americans. Junior Nicholas Marable finished seventh, although he entered the season ranked no. 1 in his weight class.  Senior Michael Chandler wrapped up the final match of his career with two accomplishments, a fifth place finish and the 100th win of his career, making him the 16th Tiger to hit triple digit wins. Junior Max Askren, younger brother of former Missouri wrestler Ben Askren, moved up the national ranks throughout the season.  He began the year ranked 7th nationally and finished the season ranked 5th in the country in his weight class. Raymond Jordan, a senior, also improved, going from fifth to third nationally and finishing fourth in Tiger record books with 123 career victories.  He also earned All-American honors in two weight classes. Mark Ellis brought back top honors for the Tigers with a heavyweight championship, the second in Mizzou history; Ellis will have the chance to defend his title in his senior campaign. Senior “utility” wrestler, Joey Garrity earned honors away from the mat as he was selected for one of the Big 12 Student-Athlete 2008-09 Dr. Prentice Gautt Postgraduate Scholarship. JaNay Wooldridge from the track team was also selected.  The Tigers have received 17 such scholars since 1999.

 

            Women’s soccer was also very successful this past season. They won the Big 12 conference tournament and advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament, where they fell to the rival Fighting Illini. The Tigers provided fans with a record-breaking season, as they won sixteen games and only had five losses and two ties.  Also, the ladies finished as a top 10 team in the final national rankings. Soccer Buzz Magazine recognized a pair of junior teammates to their All-Central region second team, defender Crystal Wagner and forward Kristin Andrighetto, while sophomore striker Alysha Bonnick was named fourth team All-American. Bonnick and Andrighetto were also first team All Big 12. Joining their teammates receiving awards were junior Meghan Pfeiffer who was named to the Big 12 second team and freshman Kendra Collins was named to the Big 12 All Newcomer team. Off the field, Bonnick and Wagner were Academic All Big 12 second team. Seniors Mo Redmond and Mallory Forest and junior Michelle Collins joined them, as they also earned Big 12 academic honors. Those five were not to be outdone by four of their teammates that were Academic All Big 12 first team, Seniors Janelle Cordia and Lindsay McCoy, junior Bree Thorton and sophomore Kelsey Stokes.  First team members must maintain a GPA of 3.2 or higher while second team ranges from 3.0 to 3.19.

 

The softball team brought home Mizzou's final Big 12 title of 2008-2009.

The softball team brought home Mizzou's final Big 12 title of 2008-2009. (photo courtesy of mutigers.com)

Missouri’s softball success received more exposure amongst Tiger fans and nationally, as they won the Big 12 Championship, made it to the College World Series and were shown in a plethora of games on ESPN. The Tigers finished ranked in the elite 8 of softball, racking up an impressive 50-12 record. The Tigers expect to be very good again next year as they return 17 players. The Tigers had two All-Americans.  Senior third baseman and Lindsay Ubrun and sophomore Marla Schweisberger who were both named to the second team. Ubrun also received an Academic All-American award with a cumulative GPA of 3.82. Joining Ubrun were 11 of her teammates on the Academic All Big 12 team.  11 Mizzou softball players were first teamers and one a second teamer.   Missouri had the most ladies named to the team. Ubrun, Schweisberger were also named to the All-Midwest region team along with seniors Micaela Minor and Stacy Delaney and sophomore superstar Rhea Taylor who batted over .400 for the year.

 

            While everyone knows the success of Missouri’s more popular sports such as basketball and football (see previous article: https://missouricolumns.wordpress.com/2009/04/03/ranking-the-top-athletic-schools/), it is important to note that Missouri is succeeding in other sports as well.  The future is bright for the entire Mizzou athletic department.

-TW

*Editor’s note: Be sure to check back Tuesday for Part Two as Tom recaps the success of the rest of Missouri’s athletic department.

Dalton Arrested

 

Blaine Dalton was a standout quarterback at Blue Springs South high school and graduated early to enroll at Mizzou. (ESPN.com photo)

Blaine Dalton was a standout quarterback at Blue Springs South high school and graduated early to enroll at Mizzou. (ESPN.com photo)

   Missouri quarterback Blaine Dalton was arrested late Thursday night on suspicion of possession of a controlled substance.

   According to columbiamissourian.com, Dalton was arrested at 11:07 p.m. and bail was set at $4,500.  Dalton reportedly posted bail by 2:40 a.m. on Friday morning.  

   Sources close to the situation are now saying that Dalton was arrested for an underage liquor violation along with the possession of a controlled substance.

   Dalton, who was a senior this year at Blue Springs South high school near Kansas City, graduated early so he could enroll at MU and participate in spring practices.  He was a 3 star recruit according to rivals.com and is considered by many to be Missouri’s starting quarterback after Blaine Gabbert leaves.  Dalton was one of two quarterbacks signed in Mizzou’s 2009 recruiting class, the other being Ashton Glaser.

   ESPN.com’s recruiting evaluation called Dalton, “A competitive, fundamentally sound scapper who measures up as some sort of a hybrid between Chase Daniel and Todd Reesing. His production and athleticism stand out…”

   The MU athletic department said Friday that Dalton’s arrest is being handled internally and that he has been suspended from the team indefinitely.

-MG

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-MG