And then the Tigers went out and, like the Billikens, set a new high for regular-season wins, finishing at 27-4. As Selection Sunday looms, Mizzou appears to be a lock for a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament.

As brilliantly as the Tigers have played, they do have their share of weak spots, starting with the state of Kansas. They're 1-3 overall against teams from the Sunflower State; 27-1 against everyone else. More pointedly, though, as a team Mizzou is small in stature, which places them at a disadvantage when facing less-height-challenged squads that can dominate the low post, or physical teams capable of forcing them into taking low-percentage shots. With a two-low tandem of Bowers and Ricardo Ratliffe, the Tigers might have been virtually unstoppable; the four-guard approach they've adopted this season has yielded brilliant results, but there are certain things four smalls simply can't accomplish.

The Road to Selection Sunday

Coach Frank Haith has silenced the naysayers.
Kyle Rivas/Cal Sport Media/Newscom
Coach Frank Haith has silenced the naysayers.

This weekend's A-10 tournament will provide the Billikens with a solid warm-up for the big dance — and a chance to draw some national eyeballs to a program that in recent years has had precious little with which to attract said eyeballs. They'll savor their first-round bye, then play their best and hope for a showdown with top-seeded Temple. Regardless of what transpires, though, SLU's pretty much guaranteed a low seed come Sunday.

On the other hand, the Tigers still have a lot on the line. The outcome of the Big 12 tourney will undoubtedly influence their fate, as will the results of several other conference tourneys around the country.

Three of the four No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament — Kentucky, Syracuse and North Carolina — are all but decided. The final spot remains a source of intrigue and may well not be firmed up until late on Sunday. Michigan State, Ohio State and Michigan are tied at the top of the Big 10. Farther to the east in the Atlantic Coast Conference, Duke ceded the title to UNC in their final regular-season game, but the conference tournament represents a second chance — a slim one to be sure, but gamblers have lost fortunes betting against a team coached by Mike Krzyzewski.

Missouri, seeded second in the Big 12 tournament, might sneak in if the Tigers can outlast their long-time nemeses, the top-seeded Kansas Jayhawks. The Big 12 is widely viewed as the nation's strongest basketball conference this season, and a conference tourney championship on their résumé would be hard to ignore.

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