Missouri Tigers: A special team, a special season

Missouri Tigers: A special team, a special season

Credit: AP

Missouri's Kim English celebrates as he walks off the court after his team defeated Kansas 74-71 in an NCAA college basketball game on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2012, in Columbia, Mo. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)

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by JJ Bailey, KMOV.com Sports

KMOV.com

Posted on February 7, 2012 at 2:10 PM

(KMOV.com) -- It started with a whisper. It grew to a roar. Now, it's become a quiet and steadfast certainty. The University of Missouri believes it's going to be the next NCAA champion.

It can be seen on the court, and in the stands. There is belief that simply cannot be stifled in Columbia. As the Tigers move toward their best start in 30 years, one thing is certain: we are in the midst of perhaps one of the most special seasons between a team and its fans that college basketball has ever seen.

Perhaps it was the "us against the world" beginning to the season. Maybe it's all the doubt from SEC fans about next year. Maybe it's just love. The fans in Columbia have been awakened, and they are showing the nation just how much they believe in this team. And the best thing is, the team is showing just how much it means to them.

Mizzou fans took to tents the night before College Game Day, and the players tweeted how amazed they were at the crowd. The next morning, the intrepid basketball junkies awoke to find Coach Haith passing out coffee and donuts. It was barely daylight out and the Coach of the Year candidate was posing for pictures next to 19-year-olds with bed head and starstruck grins.

On Saturday night, the lights were shining brighter than they had in years on Mizzou Arena. The sellout crowd never left its feet.

When the Jayhawks took a nine point lead with just two minutes remaining, the crowd stood tall. The noise didn't stop, and the faith never wavered. No matter how bleak it looked, the masses made it clear: we believe.

As the cheers continued to will the players forward, they showed just how much they believed. And somewhere in that next two minutes, the lines between the court and the bleachers seemed to blur. Whether the crowd needed a three, or the players needed a roar to distract a free throw, Mizzou Arena came together in a singular purpose. It was a force unlike anything I have ever been a part of.

Kansas did not lose that game for lack of talent or effort, they lost because Missouri- from the rafters to the hardwood- decided it was not theirs to win.

When it ended, much like they had been all season, the players and fans were bound together. The fans hoisted their heroes up, and the gladiators hugged their supporters right back.

It marked a defining moment in an improbable season. This team isn't seven players. It's thousands. It's an army, and it's armed with a wild-eyed conviction that this moment in time belongs to it.

Belief can delude us. It can inspire us, and in certain moments, it can define us. This season, Missouri believes.

-- JJ Bailey, KMOV.com Sports

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