Missouri’s job at the Southeastern Conference Tournament, which begins Wednesday at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, will be marginally tougher without senior forward Tony Criswell.
Coach Frank Haith announced Monday that Criswell, one of two Tigers seniors, won’t play in the SEC tourney.
“Tony will not be making the trip,” Haith said. “He’s got some things he’s got to take care of back here in Columbia.”
Criswell was in court last week for failing to pay his rent. The case was originally filed by his Delaware-based landlord, EDR Columbia LP, in November.
According to a judgment entered last Thursday in Boone County civil court, Criswell has been ordered to pay $2,717.57 in back rent plus $823 in attorney fees and court costs.
Criswell was suspended for the first two games of the season for failing to meet his academic obligations. He also was suspended again for Missouri’s win Jan. 11 at Auburn for violating team rules.
Criswell, a transfer from Alabama-Birmingham by way of Independence Community College in Kansas, has played two seasons at Missouri. He is averaging 3.9 points and 3.4 rebounds in 28 games.
His minutes already were on the decline to 38 total in the last six games combined.
Still, it puts additional pressure on the Tigers’ young frontline — the starters, sophomore Ryan Rosburg and freshman Johnathan Williams III, and the reserves, junior Keanau Post and freshman Torren Jones — during a second-round matchup against Texas A at noon Thursday.
“Those guys will get more minutes, and we need them to play at their very best against a team that plays very physical,” Haith said.
Haith didn’t rule out the possibility Criswell could return after the SEC Tournament, assuming Missouri makes the field for either the NCAA or NIT.
“Yeah, he’s got stuff he’s got to take care of, so we’ll see how that goes,” Haith said.NCAA hopes?
Missouri realizes that it has painted itself into a corner as far as the NCAA Tournament is concerned.
“That is definitely at the forefront of our minds,” Jones said. “We know what we’ve got to do — we’ve got to win games.”
It might take a conference tournament title — and the accompanying automatic berth — for the Tigers to reach a school-record sixth straight NCAA tourney, but it all begins with Texas A
“I feel like we’ve definitely got to beat Florida (in the quarterfinals), but first we’ve got to beat A,” junior Jabari Brown said. “We can’t look past them. I feel like if we beat Florida, that would definitely help our chances, but we’d like to just win it all and then we don’t even have to worry about it come Sunday.”Williams receives SEC honor
Williams, a freshman from Memphis, was chosen as Missouri’s representative on the SEC men’s basketball community service team.
Williams, who averages 5.8 points and a team-high 6.4 rebounds, volunteers at MU Children’s Hospital and for Special Olympics. He’s also active with MU’s Starlight reading program, reading to elementary children via Skype, and is a member of the MU Student-Athlete Advisory Council.