Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Mizzou Faces SEC's 'Hottest Team'

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Mizzou Faces SEC's 'Hottest Team'

Article excerpt

Entering the final day of Southeastern Conference regular-season play, Mizzou is enmeshed in a jumbled clump of schools that could finish in a five-way tie for second place to make for some mind- bending data for the SEC to disentangle and seed for next week's conference tournament.

And that's to say nothing of other potentially cluttered clusters that might have to be sorted out to determine who MU will play in the Nashville-based tournament and when the Tigers will get under way there.

A best-case scenario, at least in terms of stature, if not necessarily matchups, would be earning the No. 2 seed and playing Friday, when Mizzou also would play with a No. 3 or No. 4.

At the other end of the spectrum, the Tigers could be a No. 5 or 6 playing Thursday. About all that's certain is that MU can't fall into playing Wednesday, when the Nos. 11-14 SEC teams play.

"You can't figure it out," Mizzou coach Frank Haith said, laughing. "I do know this: If we win (today), we probably will get a double-bye (and play on Friday). That's all. Trying to figure all that other stuff out? I can't figure that out."

Besides, Haith has enough to concentrate on preparing for Mizzou's 3 p.m. game at Tennessee (18-11 overall, 10-7 SEC), which has won seven of its last eight since losing seven of nine.

Simply put

"Tennessee hottest team in the league," Haith said.

The Volunteers are coached by East St. Louis native and former Purdue star Cuonzo Martin, the former Missouri State coach who was high on Mizzou's list when the school was seeking to replace Mike Anderson in 2011.

"I think he's a star; I have so much respect for him, how he does things," Haith said. "His teams play hard. They mirror him as a player: He was a tough, hard-nosed cat when he played."

He added, "I root for him; I ain't rooting for him on Saturday, but I do root for him and want him to do well."

The Vols have more work left to do than Mizzou (22-8, 11-6) to be considered a strong NCAA Tournament candidate, thus making for a team likely playing at a fever pitch today.

"If we don't have an 'A' game, we're not going to win," Haith said. "That's the way I anticipate it being. …

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