Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune
COLUMBIA, Mo. — The Missouri men’s basketball team has had better weeks.
After defeating Auburn on Saturday in their first SEC win of the season, the Tigers were served a 33-point whupping at home by Arkansas on Tuesday. Less than a day later, Missouri announced it had self-imposed penalties for violations committed from 2011-14.
“Obviously, there have been some distractions over the past 24 hours,” head coach Kim Anderson said Wednesday. “The first distraction was the game against Arkansas that we didn’t do very well (in), and this has been a tough day today. But we have time to move on and we’ll regroup, refocus and be ready to play on Saturday.”
The Tigers will have to do so knowing that, with a self-imposed one-year ban, postseason play is no longer an option. Missouri has 15 regular-season games left on the schedule, starting Saturday at one-loss South Carolina.
Though the ban erases any chance of the Tigers accepting a postseason tournament invite this year, it’s doubtful whether the 8-8 team would’ve been in play for one anyway.
“Saturday I would have said yes,” Anderson said. “And today, I would’ve said ‘Uh, I don’t know.’”
Luckily for the Tigers, all but one scholarship player on the roster can return in 2016-17 and all but three scholarship players have two or more years of eligibility.
Anderson regularly uses three freshmen in his starting lineup — two of whom, Terrence Phillips and Kevin Puryear, spoke with the media Wednesday.
“At the end of the day, we’re going to remain a family, we’re going to stay a family, we’re going to get through this process,” Phillips said. “We’re going to grow, we’re going to get better every game and every practice as we continue this season.”
Though the win against Auburn was Missouri’s first this season against a Power-5 opponent, the Tigers still had hopes of making a postseason tournament before Wednesday’s news.
“They’ll always be a goal,” Ryan Rosburg said of the NCAA Tournament and the NIT. “We wanted to play in a postseason tournament, and that was a goal of mine and we just have to set new goals, like we talked (about) with coach Anderson.
“We’ve just got to make a way to enjoy this and treat the next couple games like, say, our opening round is this Saturday versus an undefeated team, and we have an awesome chance. Just look at it like that, and just make the most of what we’ve got, I guess.”
No. 19 South Carolina was an undefeated team until losing later that day to Alabama.
Anderson said he felt particularly bad for Rosburg, the team’s lone senior.
“That’s every kid’s dream, I think, is to play in that tournament,” Anderson said. “And so obviously when that’s taken away, there’s disappointment.”
The reaction of Puryear, the team’s leading scorer, was no exception.
“But that’s life, though,” he said. “Everything’s not always going to go your way. … I think from this situation you just have to understand that everything’s not guaranteed and you just have to play every game like it’s your last game, so that’s pretty much what I learned out of today.”
Puryear declined to comment when asked whether the sanctions would have affected his decision to come to Missouri out of Blue Springs South High School. He did say it was especially disappointing as a Missouri native who rooted for the Tigers before playing for them.
“It’s definitely disappointing, but my mind has never changed,” he said. “I’m always going to be a Missouri Tiger, so I’m always going to play my heart out for this school.”