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National Columnist

Missouri didn't care, so let's be happy Missouri's gone

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Missouri's gone from the NCAA Tournament, and I'm thrilled. So are you, whoever you are, even if you're a Missouri fan. I saw lots of you on Twitter during the Tigers' 84-72 loss Thursday night to Colorado State, and you couldn't wait for this game to be finished. You couldn't wait for this season to be finished.

You probably can't wait for the Frank Haith coaching era to be finished, too, but for that one you'll have to wait. Sorry. Can't help you there. Haith has won too many games at Missouri to be fired, unless the NCAA's investigation into his old program at Miami bears poisonous fruit.

Which it might, but we'll just have to see.

What we saw Thursday was bad enough. It looked an awful lot like what we saw last year in Missouri's NCAA opener against 15th-seeded Norfolk State, a game the Tigers couldn't lose until, of course, they did. Because a postseason game in college basketball isn't like the other games, when talent -- and the home court -- means so much. In March, on neutral courts against teams playing for their very life, grit and toughness and coaching matter, and Missouri doesn't have enough of it. Didn't last season. Didn't Thursday night.

Colorado State beat Missouri by 12, and Colorado State didn't look all that good doing it. The Rams committed 14 turnovers against a team that didn't try to turn them over. Missouri doesn't play defense so much as it plays possum, laying there on the floor until it can get the ball back and go do what it likes to do, which is shoot.

Missouri didn't shoot well Thursday, but that wasn't as much a function of the Colorado State defense as it was a function of Missouri's ineffectiveness. Several times Tigers point guard Phil Pressey dribbled at the top of the key, behind the 3-point arc, and then stopped and waited for a teammate to curl open. That didn't happen, so he waited some more, I guess for a defender to get in front of him. Seeing neither, he finally chucked the open 3-pointer. This happened repeatedly. It's why he scored 20 points.

Missouri had four dunks and seven layups and frequently turned Colorado State's made baskets into easy buckets at the other end. The Rams' defense was so porous that CSU coach Larry Eustachy flipped after one particularly bad sequence, calling timeout and stomping on the floor and cursing out his team so loudly I could hear it across the court, over the buzz of the crowd.

At least Eustachy was angry about it. Missouri's defense was even more listless, and Haith just watched it. Allowed it. Maybe he couldn't see what was happening.

This team was brutal to watch, just like it was a year ago, and not even a small part of me wonders if this column will be called "trolling." To troll, you see, the intent is to tick off a fan base. And there is no intent to tick off anyone here. Hell, there is no ability to tick off the Missouri fan base, because the Missouri fan base agrees with me. You've seen this team all year. You know it better than I do. You probably wanted to be rid of this team, this faulty image, even more than I did.

And I wanted Missouri to be gone. Midway through the first half it occurred to me: They don't care. They don't give a damn. Missouri wants to make like Oklahoma football used to do under Barry Switzer and just out-athlete Colorado State. Missouri didn't want to outwork or outthink anyone. Missouri just wanted to out-athlete the Rams -- and they did.

Missouri was significantly more athletic than Colorado State. Hell, Missouri aced the eyeball test. The Tigers were bigger, looked stronger, looked like what a basketball team should look like with all those fifth-year seniors and fourth-year juniors and even third-year sophomores. More than half the Missouri rotation started its college experience somewhere else, Haith replacing last season's missing pieces by gathering misfit toys from places like UConn (Alex Oriakhi) and Pepperdine (Keion Bell) and Oregon (Jabari Brown) and Auburn (Earnest Ross).

Those guys looked terrific, until they had to play defense. And then they looked disinterested. The crowd was on them, too -- not Colorado State fans, but fans of other schools, teams that had played earlier in the day like Louisville and Marquette. Their fans were just blasting Missouri for its defensive indifference, and I'll be honest: I sat there and smiled, because those fans were saying what I was thinking, when what I was thinking was this:

Missouri doesn't give a damn.

Colorado State? The Rams gave more of a damn. They weren't the hardest-working team I've ever seen, but compared to Missouri they were tireless. They were workaholics. They have some guys that look good on the court, like Minnesota transfer Colton Iverson and senior Greg Smith, but they beat Missouri thanks to guys like Dorian Green and Wes Eikmeier and Jonathan Octeus -- guys who don't look all that special anywhere but in the stat box, where they combined for 49 points on just 28 shots.

Colorado State outrebounded Missouri 42-19. That's embarrassing. Missouri committed just five turnovers, "forced" 14 turnovers and used that advantage to attempt six more shots than its opponent -- and was blown out anyway. That's humiliating, or should be.

Haith didn't see it that way. He said afterward, "I'm very proud of what this team accomplished." He said a lot more stuff, but after that comment I was done listening. Proud of this team? Tell it to someone who cares, Frank. Tell it to someone who'll believe you.

Don't tell it to your fans, though. Pretty sure they're not on that list.

 
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