I promised myself I would write about something different this week, but I can’t help it. It’s March, and I have basketball on the brain.
It’s like this every year. I can’t escape my basketball obsession at this time of year. I’m filling out brackets in my sleep, crunching the numbers to see whose bubbles have burst and contemplating calling in sick for the first Thursday and Friday of the NCAA Tournament.
Scores and highlights flash through my head as I try to fall asleep at night, and I drift off to dream thinking things such as, “How many games does Virginia have to win in the ACC Tournament to get in?”
Unfortunately, this year my basketball memory is stuck on repeat, looping Kansas’ Aaron Miles’ 3-pointer and David Padgett’s baseline jumper over and over in my head. Swish, swish. Swish, swish.
If you’re in the same boat, let me make a suggestion. If you have a bad song stuck in your head, you listen to a different song, right? So, if you have a bad basketball memory stuck in your head, create a new basketball memory.
Lucky for all of us, Columbia is a hoops hotbed. Great basketball waits just around the corner, or up the highway, from wherever you are, ready to erase those painful final Hearnes Center seconds from our collective memories, at least for a while.
It’s not only Missouri Tigers fans who were stuck with a painful lasting memory of senior night gone sour. Columbia College Cougars fans’ saw star seniors Andre Amos and Khamari Ballard drop their final home game at The Arena of Southwell Complex on Thursday, thereby relinquishing home-court advantage for the American Midwest Conference tournament.
Ouch. No. 21 Missouri Baptist upset the No. 5 Cougars, sending the AMC Tournament to the Spartans’ home court in St. Louis starting tonight.
Columbia College, however, seems to be a lock for a bid to the NAIA national tournament in Kansas City starting March 24, regardless of the outcome in the AMC Tournament.
The No. 17 Cougar women had an easier road. They earned the convenience that eluded the Cougars men, home-court advantage for the conference tournament, and they took advantage. Columbia College marched through to the AMC Tournament final, where it beat McKendree 87-79 to punch its ticket to the NAIA national tournament in Jackson, Tenn., starting March 17..The Cougar women aren’t the first local team to claim their dance card, though. The Hickman Kewpies girls, ranked 10th in USA Today’s national girls’ basketball poll, proved they were the nationally ranked Missouri team that de served a trip to the Show-Me Showdown, beating No. 15 Springfield-Kickapoo 55-40 in Sedalia on Saturday.
The Tigers’ outstanding senior class had a less-than-perfect ending at Hearnes Center, but the Kewpies’ dominant seniors have a chance to write a better ending in the same building. Hickman (29-1) can move one step closer to its first girls’ basketball state title against Lee’s Summit on Friday night at Hearnes Center.
Unlike the Kewpies and both Cougars teams, Missouri’s men’s and women’s teams have work to do to earn their way into postseason tournaments, or at least the ones they want to be in. Both Tigers teams find themselves planted squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble and needing strong showings in the Big 12 tournaments this week.
If you can’t bear to watch the tournaments on television, the drive to Dallas isn’t too bad, and you can make it in time for tip-off. The Tiger women start tonight at 6 against Oklahoma State, and the men get Texas A&M on Thursday night at 8:30.
So stop mulling over those bad basketball memories because there are plenty of opportunities to replace them with better ones. You might experience the thrill of victory, or maybe the agony of defeat, but that’s what’s great about basketball at this time of year.
Everything matters more in March.
Justin Jarrett’s columns appear Tuesdays.