The Missouri Tigers will begin play in the Big XII tournament on Thursday. And, for the first time since 2003, the Tigers seem to have an NCAA Tournament at-large bid locked up.
Considering the circumstances, the team may not have the same sense of urgency that has been necessary the last few years in the conference tournament. But, the confidence of the team going into the tournament is at a whole different level.
Freshman guard Marcus Denman said "we feel pretty confident. You go into any tournament expecting to win. But we feel pretty good about our chances."
With the way Missouri has played in the Big XII and out of conference, why shouldn't they feel confident? Mizzou has played at a high level all year, thanks in part to the effort they have put forth.
In order to win the conference tournament the Tigers will have to get the same kind of effort from everyone on the floor. Senior forward DeMarre Carroll agreed.
"We need to come out with a whole lot of energy."
J.T. Tiller and Carroll will make sure that happens. But one area the Tigers have struggled with is their performance in neutral site games and especially road games. This could be cause for concern. Oklahoma City is only twenty minutes away from the Sooners' campus. Oklahoma might turn a supposedly neutral site into a home court advantage. DeMarre Carroll isn't worried about it though.
"Hopefully we make it our home court," Carroll said. "It's a neutral site so I don't expect Oklahoma to have an advantage."
While the Tigers make final preparations for their first game in the Big XII tourney, the NCAA tournament is quickly approaching.
Will Missouri be distracted by what should be their first tournament appearance in six years? DeMarre Carrol and Marcus Denman agreed the Tigers have the right mindset going into second round action in the conference tournament.
"We're trying to win the Big XII championship," Carrol said. "It's our main goal."
Denman said "We need to take care of our first game. That's what we're worried about."
It's clear the Tigers are ready to make a run in the Big XII tournament. First, they will have to avoid an early exit against their second round opponent. Hopefully, with a deep bench and experienced veterans on their side, Missouri will bring home a Big XII Tournament championship.
Texas Tech will be the Tigers opponent Thursday night.