COLUMBIA — Success has its price. And in Division I college basketball, it’s measured in millions of dollars.
After Missouri’s men’s basketball team won a school-record 31 games and came within one win of the Final Four last season, coach Mike Anderson was a wanted man. And Missouri had to up the ante to keep him.
Georgia (7-4) at Missouri (10-3)
WHEN: 3 p.m.
WHERE Mizzou Arena
TV: KOMU/Channel 17
RADIO: KFRU/1400 AM, KBXR/102.3 FM
In late March, Anderson was courted by Memphis and Georgia just days after the Tigers were eliminated from the NCAA Tournament. Missouri and Anderson quickly agreed on a new seven-year contract that guarantees Anderson $1.55 million per year and will keep him at Missouri through 2016. Anderson’s previous contract guaranteed him an annual salary of $850,000.
The day before Anderson and Missouri reached an agreement, ESPN.com reported Anderson had spoken with Georgia’s athletic director and that Georgia was offering Anderson a $2.1 million per year contract, though Anderson’s agent shot down the report of the contract offer.
Once Anderson re-upped with Missouri, Georgia moved on and hired former Nevada coach Mark Fox, who brings his team to Mizzou Arena at 3 p.m. Saturday. Though Anderson stayed, he said Wednesday that he was “very flattered” by Georgia’s interest.
“It just tells us that we’re doing some good things here at the University of Missouri,” Anderson said. “People recognize our program.”
After playing four of its past five games against low-level teams, Missouri’s meeting with the Bulldogs, who Missouri beat 83-76 at Georgia last season, is the Tigers’ last chance to get a resume-boosting nonconference win that will help them come selection time for the NCAA Tournament. Missouri begins the Big 12 Conference season Jan. 9 at home against No. 12 Kansas State.
“It’s an SEC opponent. It’s Georgia,” Anderson said Wednesday, raising his voice to emphasize the name of Missouri’s opponent. “The University of Georgia. We have our work cut out for us. We cannot come out with a lackluster mindset.”
Kind of like Missouri (10-3) did Wednesday against UMKC. Though they went on to an easy 91-57 win, the Tigers missed their first nine shots and were down 6-0 at the game’s first timeout. Even before the timeout, Anderson had seen enough and took out three of his starters.
Zaire Taylor and Laurence Bowers, who have both started this season, came off the bench and jump-started the Tigers. Taylor, one of Missouri’s three seniors, has been out of the starting lineup in four of the Tigers’ past five games. Anderson said he still considers Taylor a starter, and it will be interesting to see if he plugs Taylor back into the starting lineup against Georgia.
Same for Bowers, who had cooled off since a hot start this season but outplayed fellow forwards Justin Safford and Keith Ramsey on Wednesday. Both Safford and Ramsey started.
All three will try to stop Georgia sophomore Trey Thompkins. The 6-foot-10-inch, 247-pound forward was named to the SEC All-Freshman team last year and is leading the Bulldogs in scoring (16.5 points per game) and rebounding (8.5) this season. Thompkins had 35 points and 15 rebounds in a recent win against Florida Atlantic.
Georgia’s biggest win is a 70-67 last-minute victory at home against Illinois, which Missouri beat 81-68 on Dec. 23.
“They have some size, attack the glass,” Anderson said of Georgia. “I got a chance to watch the Illinois game, and boy they took it right to Illinois.”
Free T-Shirts: Fox Sports Midwest will hand out gold T-Shirts to the first 10,000 fans in attendance for Saturday's game against Georgia.