DAILY DISH: Is Missouri a legit Final Four contender?

Missouri took a stick of dynamite to the rest of the CBE Classic field in Kansas City, blasting an overmatched Notre Dame squad, 87-58, before completely destroying No. 18 California, 92-53. You read that right. 92-to-freaking-53. Who does that? The Tigers are 5-0 and have won each of their games by at least 15 points. Senior guard Marcus Denmon has been off-the-chain, off-the-heazy, and off-anything else Stuart Scott would throw out there, averaging 19.6 points and 6 rebounds per game.

Missouri is the talk of the season early on, having blasted Notre Dame and California in Kansas City. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Backcourt mate Phil Pressey has been nothing short of incredible on defense, hounding his man like a starving pit bull after a juicy steak. Just ask Tim Abromitis. The Tigers are running up and down the floor, giving teams 40 minutes of hell and then some, playing as hard as any team in the nation for new coach Frank Haith. It’s hard to imagine Missouri playing any better than they did in Kansas City. Although other teams have stormed out of the season’s opening gate and then faltered mid-stride (see: Ball State, 2001), this Mizzou team has the feel of a legit Final Four contender.

San Diego State is a surprising 6-1 after defeating Arizona, 61-57, on Wednesday night, despite losing virtually everyone, including first-round NBA Draft pick Kawhi Leonard, from last year’s record-breaking team. Credit head coach Steve Fisher for being able to rebuild so quickly, as guards Chase Tapley and Jamaal Franklin have stepped into leadership roles, each putting up over 16 points per game thus far this season. The Aztecs have also posted quality wins over USC and Long Beach State, with the latter coming just after Long Beach had upset No. 9 Pittsburgh on the road. Fisher and company have an opportunity for at least two more quality non-conference wins in the next ten days, with No. 25 Creighton and No. 18 California both coming to the Cox Center.

Vanderbilt may be playing without stud forward Festus Ezeli inside, but the Commodores’ early performance has done little to back its top-ten ranking at the beginning of the season. Vandy lost to middling Cleveland State at home, 71-58, before squeezing out two wins over N.C. State and Oregon State, two inferior opponents, in the Ticket City Legends Classic in New Jersey. The Commodores, who began the season with a lofty No. 7 ranking, are 4-1 and have plenty of chances (home against Xavier, at Louisville, at Marquette) to prove that they belong among the nation’s elite. Still, losing to Cleveland State, which lost its point guard and best player from last season’s team, wasn’t exactly the start the long-dormant ‘Dores were hoping for.


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