Keeping their Guardian up

Missouri, Creighton hope for second win at kickoff tournament
Monday, November 15, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 3:34 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The tournament to which Missouri and Creighton return has plenty of good memories for both teams, especially for former Tiger Travon Bryant.

The Tigers and the Bears will each make their second appearance in the Guardians Classic, a tournament both teams have won in the past three years.

Missouri won the inaugural Guardians Classic in thrilling fashion in 2001, edging Iowa 78-77 on Clarence Gilbert’s last-second free throw. Bryant was a sophomore at the time. He recalls the Tigers rallying from a 73-62 deficit in the final 2 minutes, 12 seconds, even though Kareem Rush was limited to 11 points because of an eye injury he suffered against Alabama in the semifinals.

“Being down and coming back to pull it out is an experience I will always remember from my years playing in a Tiger uniform,” said Bryant, who is now playing basketball in Greece.

In 2002, Creighton topped Notre Dame 80-75 as tournament MVP Kyle Korver made seven 3-pointers in the title game.

Last year, South Carolina defeated Richmond 67-61 to win the championship.

This year’s Guardians Classic opens with regional play in Omaha, Neb., Columbus, Ohio, and Columbia.

The winner of each regional and one wild card will advance to the semifinals at Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City on Nov. 23.

The wild card team is determined by a combination of team RPI (Ratings Percentage Index), opponent RPI and margin of victory or defeat.

Regional hosts are undefeated in the first and second rounds of play, a trend Creighton, Ohio State and Missouri would like to continue.

The Bluejays, who have posted six consecutive winning seasons, will face Alcorn State in the first round. The Buckeyes, under the direction of new coach Thad Matta, play Towson, while Missouri meets Brown, the only other team to have played in the Guardians Classic.

Melvin Watkins, a new assistant coach for the Tigers, noted how a few wins early in the season could be good for the team.

“We know to get off to a good start and helping our kids gain some confidence would be good for this team because if you look at our personnel, we’ve got some young kids that we are factoring in playing some prominent minutes,” Watkins said.

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