Missouri men's basketball braces for SEC Tournament play

Monday, March 11, 2013 | 8:25 p.m. CDT; updated 10:04 p.m. CDT, Monday, March 11, 2013
Missouri head coach Frank Haith, center, stands on the sidelines during Missouri's win over Florida on February 19 at Mizzou Arena.

COLUMBIA — Winning four games in four days is no easy task — for the players or the coaches.

But that is the Missouri men's basketball team's goal when it travels to Nashville, Tenn., for the Southeastern Conference basketball tournament.

Missouri is set to play Thursday against the winner of Wednesday's first-round game between Texas A&M and Auburn.

Tim Fuller, the Tigers' associate head coach, had a busy Sunday preparing for the SEC tournament after Missouri's 64-62 loss Saturday at Tennessee. For six hours Sunday night,  he watched tape on Texas A&M, which beat Missouri 70-68 on Feb. 7 in College Station, Texas. Fuller said he plans to spend another eight hours watching film before and after practice Monday.

"At this point, you don't really have a life," Fuller said. "You have enough time to sleep, grab something to eat. You're preparing and watching all the film you can watch."

The coaching staff hopes the rigorous preparation will help them make the best decisions in the upcoming games. If Missouri keeps winning, there will be less time for preparation with another game to play the next day.  

Watching tape can only help the Tigers so much. Fuller said the team is also working on basic things such as improving its communication on defense, so it can be ready for any team that comes up.

Fuller said the most important part of preparation for a tournament like this one is to focus on his own team and how to bring the best out of them, something Missouri's coaching staff did when it won the Big 12 Conference Tournament last year.

"It's going to be less about the teams we play and more about us and sticking to our principles," Fuller said.

The extra preparation is necessary because everyone in the tournament is much more motivated to win with an automatic NCAA Tournament bid at stake.

Missouri head coach Frank Haith cited Liberty (Va.) University, a team that has 20 losses but made the NCAA Tournament on Sunday by winning the Big South Tournament for an automatic bid. Liberty tied the record for a team entering the NCAA Tournament with the most losses.

"That gives hope for everybody," Haith said. "We're going to play Texas A&M (17-14, 7-11) or Auburn (9-22, 3-15). They're both going to be playing really hard because they got a chance."

The players are also doing everything they can to prepare for the tournament. Guard Earnest Ross said he is trying to stay ready physically and is trying to improve his fundamentals.

Guard Keion Bell said he is getting the proper amount of sleep every night, staying hydrated and eating healthy, something he said will keep him fresh for each day of the tournament.

To stay mentally prepared, Bell and Ross stressed keeping a one-game-at-a-time attitude during the tournament.

"We can't look past anyone," Bell said. "We can't try to not play as hard as we can for this game and save enough for the next game because you might not advance to that next game."

Ross said all the talk about tournament play reminds him of the past.

"It's sort of back like in high school again when we were playing AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) basketball," Ross said. "Four games in four days."

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