Missouri players still hold out hope for NCAA bid on Sunday

03/15/2014 12:32 PM

03/15/2014 11:25 PM

Missouri juniors Jabari Brown and Jordan Clarkson won’t watch any basketball this weekend.

The drama of championship week simply doesn’t hold any appeal right now for the Tigers, whose NCAA Tournament dreams likely were dashed Friday at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta with a quarterfinal loss against No. 1 Florida in the SEC Tournament.

“We had chances all year, so we can’t really leave it down to one game,” sophomore Ryan Rosburg said.

Still, Missouri, 22-10, needed a signature win — needed a minor miracle, really — to earn a school-record sixth straight NCAA bid. A win against the Gators might have juiced up the Tigers’ resume just enough.

It didn’t happen, so now Brown and Clarkson just want to get away from basketball for a few days.

“I’m tired hearing about this ‘first team out’ and all that stuff,” Brown said. “It’s annoying. We’ll just see when it comes.”

He plans to tune out completely until the 68-team field is announced at 5 p.m. Sunday.

“I’m probably going to do the same thing,” Clarkson said. “I’ll probably just sit in my room and” — he dropped his head momentarily — “I don’t know, it’s tough,” he continued. “We’ve just got to hope for the best now.”

For Missouri, which hasn’t missed out on March Madness since going 16-16 in Mike Anderson’s second season, the best probably means a top-four seed in the 32-team National Invitation Tournament and at least one home game.

Of course, the NIT falls short of Missouri’s expectations.

“We want to be playing in the NCAA Tournament,” Tigers coach Frank Haith said. “That’s our standard here at Missouri.”

Still, Missouri aims to make the most of any postseason appearance.

“We’ll all be disappointed (if we’re in the NIT), but we can’t stay disappointed,” senior Earnest Ross said.

Clarkson, a transfer from Tulsa who has never played in a postseason tournament, said he’d love to finish the season at Madison Square Garden if the Tigers don’t get a ticket to the Big Dance.

“I think we’ll just be happy to play in the postseason,” he said. “Hopefully, we get in the NCAAs, but if we play in (another) postseason tournament, we’ll be all right.”

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