May 25, 2010

Top ten stories of 2009-10

The school year came to a close last weekend and with it, another sporting year is just about in the books at Mizzou. PowerMizzou.com takes a look back at the top ten stories of the last 12 months:

10. Tigers make tourney again

Perhaps the bigger story than the fact Missouri made the NCAA Tournament for a second straight season and advanced to the second round is that it ranks just tenth on our list. In the span of just more than a calendar year, Mike Anderson took Missouri basketball from the depths of depression to a team which is expected to be in the Big Dance. Missouri's 23-and-11 campaign was a step down from the heights of 2008-09, but put the program on very solid footing going forward to continue to be a factor in the Big XII and beyond.

9. Aldon Smith bursts on the scene

Last spring, the reports on Missouri's redshirt freshman from Raytown were glowing. Smith proved all the observers right in his first season on the field, tying the single-season sack record with 11. His first season was good enough that there are those starting to wonder if his sophomore year could be his last at Mizzou. It may be a little early for talk like that, but the Tigers have a potential superstar on their hands in Smith.

8. Women's hoops turns the page

Mercifully, and perhaps a year or two too late according to many, the Cindy Stein era ended in Columbia. The Tigers finished last in the Big XII in Stein's final season and she was replaced by Illinois State head coach Robin Pingeton. Pingeton begins her first season as head coach at Missouri in a little more than five months.

7. Blaine Gabbert's dazzling debut

Tiger fans were hopeful, but few were sure exactly what to expect out of the former five-star recruit. In his first start, in his home town no less, Gabbert exceeded expectations of just about anyone who was watching. The sophomore completed 25-of-33 passes for 319 yards and three touchdowns. He ran for another 39 yards and a score. It may have been the high point of Missouri's 2009 season, but performances like that one-coupled with the fact that three of Missouri's losses came when Gabbert was a shell of himself due to injury-gave Tiger fans hope that the program intends to stick around for awhile even after losing stars like Chase Daniel, Jeremy Maclin and more.

6. Tiger softball looking Super

Ehren Earleywine has Missouri softball in the Super Regionals (softball's version of the Sweet 16) for the third consecutive year, despite losing his best pitcher to a stress fracture early in the season. For the first time ever, Missouri hosts the Super Regionals, welcoming the Oregon Ducks to University Field this weekend. If the Tigers win the best-of-three series, they'll move on to their second consecutive Women's College World Series. And if you haven't seen Rhea Taylor leg out a triple, you're cheating yourself out of one of the more impressive athletes to wear a Tiger uniform in any sport.

5. Tigers beat Kansas in a thriller

A year after a heartbreaking loss to Kansas, Missouri got sweet Border War revenge at Arrowhead Stadium. Mizzou erased a 39-36 deficit against the Jayhawks in the final three minutes to win 41-39 on Grant Ressel's 27-yard field goal as the gun sounded. The winning score was set up by a perfect punt from Jake Harry, a safety by the Tiger defense and a long run from Derrick Washington. Missouri's eighth win of the season was its toughest and easily its most memorable.

4. Mike Anderson stays put again

Just days after bowing out of the NCAA Tournament, Tiger basketball fans had a dose of unexpected drama in mid-April. Anderson interviewed for the head coaching job at Oregon, before saying no to a reported two-and-a-half to three million dollar offer from the Ducks. It marked the second consecutive season Anderson has listened to suitors, but ultimately agreed to far less money to stay in Columbia. How legitimate a threat Oregon was is up for debate, but there is little argument that the three day limbo generated as much discussion among Tiger fans as nearly any story during the course of the year.

3. Max Askren wins a national title

This one generated nowhere near the talk of the rest of our top five, but Askren is the only Tiger to be able to say he was the best in America this year. Askren beat Boise State's Kirk Smith to claim the national championship at 184 pounds, joining his brother Ben and Mark Ellis as Tiger wrestlers who have won individual national titles in the last five years. Askren was an all-American and the Tigers finished tenth as a team.

2. Anderson inks top ten class

An impressive recruiting haul led by Tony Mitchell and Phil Pressey already had Missouri among the nation's top 15 in the recruiting rankings after the early signing period. But the Tigers had a couple of extra scholarships in the spring and landed Matt Pressey and Ricardo Ratliffe, the nation's top-ranked juco prospect, to boost their national ranking to No. 6 in the Class of 2011. Adding the six signees to a roster with significant experience for the 2010-11 season has Tiger fans thinking big thoughts on the hardwood.

1. Big Ten Expansion

Love or hate the idea, nothing has generated as much discussion as the possibility that the Tigers could be embarking on a farewell tour of the Big XII fairly soon. Speculation continues to run wild, though things seem to have died down just a little bit since the 810WHB report that Mizzou was one of four schools to receive an offer from the Big Ten a couple of weeks ago. Almost nothing in this story is known for certain, which simply fuels the fire of message board madness. With or without a resolution, this story could very well top our list again in May of 2011.

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