COLUMBIA — It took the final two games of the regular season on Sunday to unscramble the the Big 12 Conference men’s basketball standings. Now 10th-seeded Missouri moves onto Kansas City, where it will face Nebraska on Thursday in the first round of the Big 12 Conference Tournament. The Cornhuskers beat Colorado 68-49 on Sunday.
On Saturday, before knowing Missouri’s opponent, Missouri forward DeMarre Carroll said he didn’t have a preference for a first-round foe.
“It don’t matter,” Carroll said. “Like coach said, it’s a new season, we’ve just got to go out there and play like we have nothing to lose.”
The Tigers split two games with Nebraska this year, but Missouri’s loss came in a game when five key players were suspended. Missouri’s win at Nebraska was one of only two wins on the road this season.
If Missouri wins, it plays second-seeded Kansas on Friday.
“It’s zero-zero for everybody,” Missouri coach Mike Anderson said on a radio interview Saturday. “In our league, anybody can beat anybody.”
That saying was more than just a cliché this season. When the Tigers beat Colorado on Feb. 23 to get to 5-7, they were only one game out of fourth place with four games remaining. A loss would have put them one game out of last place.
In the end, Missouri finished 10th in the conference and the fourth- to ninth-place teams all finished within two games of each other. Even Kansas and Texas will share the regular season conference co-champion title.
“Anybody can beat anybody,” Carroll said.
Missouri, 16-15 overall and 6-10 in the Big 12, would likely have to beat everybody to make the NCAA Tournament. The winner of the conference tournament gets an automatic bid.
The Tigers are still likely candidates for postseason play in the National Invitation Tournament or the new College Basketball Invitational. Before losing to Oklahoma on Saturday, NIT prediction Web site nitology.com projected Missouri as a No. 7 seed, though the Tigers were listed as “on the bubble.”
“I really don’t worry about it,” Carroll said. “I’m just trying to win games and let the rest take care of itself. It really doesn’t matter.”
Missouri did not practice on Sunday but will resume practicing today before traveling Wednesday to Kansas City.
Carroll said the team will treat this week’s practice like any other week.
“If we can just all come together and play on the same page every night in the tournament, I think we can surprise some people in the tournament,” Carroll said. “We’ve just got to go out there and prove it to the world.”
The other first round matchups on Thursday are Texas Tech (8) vs. Oklahoma State (9) at 11:30 a.m.; Baylor (5) vs. Colorado (12) at 2 p.m.; and Texas A&M (6) vs. Iowa State (11) at 8:30 p.m.