Darren’s Take: Sixth man appreciated by Mizzou coaches and players

Good season for volleyball team, football team disrespected again

Northwestern State's William Mosley faces a wall of Missouri students in two sections of Mizzou Arena as he shoot a free throw on Dec. 2, 2011. Coach Frank Haith said he is appreciative of the "sixth man" at the games. Photo by Karen Mitchell

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Darren Hellwege, sports commentator

It would be very wrong of me not to mention the student section upgrade of the last week or so. It was encouraging to see more student support at the most recent men’s game at Mizzou Arena, but where it was very noticeable was at this weekend’s women’s basketball game. Whether as a reporter or a long-time season ticket holder, I’ve been to Tigers games for a lot of years and this was by far the most student support I’ve ever seen for the MU women’s hoops club. And I was glad to see a couple of members of the Antlers there, without the abuse being yelled at the other team.

I always took some pride in the fact that the crowd at women’s basketball games were folks who behaved the way the Antlers don’t. Fans cheer for the Tigers without being ugly towards visitors, and will applaud especially worthwhile play by the other team. I’ve complained in the past about the antics of the MU pep band at these games (even referring to them as “wannabe Antlers”) but if there were hateful things being shouted at Northwestern players I didn’t hear it. The students did bring a big boost in enthusiasm to the game, though, and it’s one the longtime supporters of MU women’s basketball greatly appreciated. The players on that team practice as long and as hard as the guys do, and deserve the support. Let’s hope that this is a tradition that continues to build, and kudos to Robin Pingeton and her staff. In any number of ways, Tiger women’s hoops is on the rise.

Speaking of great women athletes at Mizzou, congrats to Wayne Kreklow’s volleyball team after a fine season came to a premature end at the hands of Florida last week in the first round of the NCAA tournament. While it’s small consolation to the team’s two outstanding seniors, this was the youngest team in the whole 64-team tournament and there are definitely brighter days ahead for Tiger volleyball. And the best news? There will be ample opportunity for revenge — the Tigers will play the Gators in the SEC next year. It’s just one of the match ups we very much look forward to in the year to come.

It’s hard to argue that a team with five losses deserves more respect, but it really is a little disappointing to see Missouri once again relegated to one of the least-prestigious bowl games. But with the lack of support from the Big 12, it’s hardly surprising that the Tigers are, for the third time in recent years, bound for Shreveport, Louisiana and the Independence Bowl where they will take on North Carolina, loser of four of the last six games. One expects, though, that the Tigers will make the best of it. Perhaps the biggest point of pride of this season is the forward progress that was made, how much improvement we saw and how much better the team was at the end of the year. Continuing that winning streak is a worthy goal, and I fully expect the Tigers run of disappointing bowl performances to end this year.

And finally, speaking of disappointments, I’m pretty sad and a little angry at the BCS championship game. I laid out the case why Oklahoma State was more deserving here last week, but to have the Cowboys dominate Oklahoma in the way they did, winning 44-10, and still finish behind Alabama is one more black mark on the whole system.  And while the number of coaches picking Alabama ahead of Oklahoma State was a let down, the few who went even further was downright shocking. And, sad to say, our own coach was among them. I have the greatest respect for Gary Pinkel’s football knowledge, but to put Stanford ahead of Oklahoma State in the final polling is downright preposterous. There’s not a single team in the final top 25 that Stanford’s beaten. Oklahoma State has five wins over teams who were ranked at the time in the Top 25, including a couple of top ten teams. Stanford beat two, Washington and Notre Dame, both of whom have since dropped out. This makes no sense at all.

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