Anderson is a big key to Missouri basketball -

Anderson is a big key to Missouri basketball

Columbia ( -- After last year's 16-16 season in Columbia, the Missouri Tigers men's basketball team followed up a disappointing season in '07-'08 with a highly successful and surprising one this year. After being picked to finish in the bottom half of the Big XII Conference by many writers and coaches the Tigers completed what some may consider their best season in school history.

The Tigers won a total of 31 games, more than any other team in school history. They won a total of 12 conference games, the most since Norm Stewart led the 1993-1994 team to the regular season conference championship. This year's team also won the Big XII Tournament for the first time in school history and reached the Elite Eight for the first time (only the fourth in school history) since the Tigers were a no. 1 seed in the '93-'94 NCAA Tournament.

This past season could bring Missouri basketball back to national prominence but two things needed to happen this off-season and one of them already has. First, they needed to retain Coach Mike Anderson. According to reports released Tuesday the University of Georgia offered their men's head basketball coaching position to Anderson. Anderson made $850,000 this year with Missouri and Georgia reportedly offered Anderson a multiyear deal of more than $2 million per season.

It just so happened that late Tuesday night Anderson and Missouri agreed to a new seven-year contract. While the exact terms of the deal have not been made public, it is projected to be in the range of $1.3 million to $1.5 million with incentives that could push it past $2 million per year.

Bringing back Coach Anderson was a big key in what needed to happen to make sure Missouri basketball stays in the national spotlight for years to come. In just his third year, Anderson worked his magic with players that were a part of below-average teams in previous years and transformed them into well-conditioned and well-rounded players that played in a game dubbed the " 40-fastest minutes in basketball."

While next year's recruiting class isn't ranked in the top-25 in the nation, Coach Anderson has a couple of quality players coming to Columbia next season in Keith Dewitt from High Point, N.C. and Michael Dixon from Lee's Summit, Mo. Both players have verbally committed to play for the Tigers in 2009 and both are ranked in the top-40 in the country at their respective position.

If Anderson walked away with another job, which could have happened if Missouri didn't pay up, then those top-recruits could have very well walked with him.

This offseason Missouri's coaching staff will have a lot of work to do, as they will lose their top-3 scorers from last year to graduation in DeMarre Carroll, Leo Lyons, and Matt Lawrence. College players leaving for the draft or graduation is a part of the NCAA but Anderson and his staff will have to find a way to make up for losing almost 48 percent of Missouri's scoring total from this past year.

The following graphic shows six recruits that Missouri has interest in for next year's team. Roll your mouse cursor over colored spots on the map to read more information on each player.

Brandon Schatsiek is a Journalism student at Mizzou

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