COLUMBIA – Kim English scribbled “Mizzou” into the champion slot of his NCAA Tournament bracket with a red pen.
Sitting among teammates and coaches in Mizzou Arena’s Clinton Club, English declared the Tigers national champions before finding out if Missouri had even qualified for the tournament.
The Mizzou Ticket Office was allocated a limited number of tickets for Friday's East Region game between Missouri and Clemson at HSBC Arena in Buffalo, N.Y. Only 2009 Tiger Scholarship Fund members and men's basketball season ticket holders will be allowed to to purchase tickets. Tickets can be ordered from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Monday by calling the Mizzou Ticket Office at 1-800-CAT-PAWS while supplies last. Limits may apply.
A small quantity of the Mizzou ticket allotment is being designated for Mizzou students who purchased the Student Season Ticket Combo in 2009. Students who qualify may purchase up to two (2) tickets from 8am to 12pm on Monday, March 15th by calling the Mizzou Ticket Office at 1-800-CAT PAWS while supplies last.
If tickets remain after 1 p.m. Monday, all fans may order by phone while supplies last.
Only Visa, Mastercard, or Discover cards will be accepted for payment for NCAA Tournament tickets. STUDENT CHARGE WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED.
First-round tickets are priced at $73. Should the Tigers advance to the second round of the tournament, those who received first-round tickets will automatically be charged and receive second-round tickets.
All tickets purchased may be picked up with proper ID at the HSBC Arena Will Call Ticket Office beginning about 2 hours before tipoff.
“I do that every year because obviously that’s who I want to win,” English said. “That’s my favorite team.”
Considering Missouri was the fifth-to-last team the tournament selection committee chose among all "at-large" teams, those that didn't win their conference tournaments, English might have waited before projecting how far the Tigers will advance.
The wait was tenser for the Tigers this year, despite a strong feeling they would make the tournament.
“It was taking so long,” Zaire Taylor said. “We never really had a chance to have that feeling before. We won the Big 12 Tournament (last year). We were guaranteed.”
Coach Mike Anderson had the nervous feeling too.
“It’s like a game," he said. "The butterflies are going until your name comes across that screen.”
It finally did, after about a half-hour wait. Missouri is a No. 10 seed among 16 teams in the bracket’s East Region. The Tigers will play No. 7 Clemson at about 1:35 p.m. Friday in Buffalo, N.Y.
Anderson said the team would start watching video of Clemson on Monday, though Taylor had two DVDs of Clemson games resting like a ring around his finger as he talked to the media. He said he planned to start watching them Sunday night.
Missouri and Clemson have a lot in common besides sharing the same nickname. The Tigers from Clemson, S.C., play the same style as Missouri. Fast-paced and a lot of pressing.
“(Missouri) and Clemson are I think the only two teams in the country that play this kind of way,” said English, a basketball junkie.
Although the Tigers need only to practice against each other to get a feel for Clemson, the Friday game gives them another day to prepare. For Anderson, playing on Friday instead of Thursday will be a welcome change.
“Most times, the teams I’ve been involved with, it seemed like the selection show took place, you had a day, and then Tuesday you’re out of here (for a Thursday game),” Anderson said, adding that Missouri will probably leave Wednesday. “Hopefully that extra day will help us.”
But it will mean an unusually long layoff for Missouri’s players. Because the Tigers lost to Nebraska in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament on Wednesday, they’ll have had eight days off before playing Clemson.
“I can’t really tell you, man,” Laurence Bowers said when asked how Missouri would handle the time off. “This is the longest break I’ve ever had since I’ve been here.”
Injury updates: Bowers revealed Sunday that he has two torn ligaments in his left wrist and will have to have surgery after the season. He re-aggravated the wrist in practice before Missouri's loss to Nebraska on Wednesday when a hard pass from teammate J.T. Tiller bent the wrist back. He played with a splint and heavy tape on the wrist against Nebraska and wore a soft black cast on the wrist Sunday.
Bowers repeated he will continue to play and that he cannot afford to sit out with fellow forward Justin Safford sidelined with a knee injury. On Sunday, Anderson said Safford is “nowhere near ready to do anything.”
Safford suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in February. He has been delaying surgery in slight hope that he could return this season. But it’s clear that won’t happen next week, and it seems there’s almost no chance Safford could return even if Missouri advanced deep into the tournament.