It's been a weird year to follow Missouri basketball.
You start the season with not all that high of expectations and a lot of questions, the team impresses early with big wins over highly-touted programs, the Tigers crack the Top 10 for the first time in nearly a decade and then the wheels feel like they come off as Mizzou loses six of their last nine games to limp into the tournament.
Now the Tigers are a No. 9 seed getting almost no attention as a team that can make noise.
That's alright. This team, and especially these seniors are used to that.
In a year as wild and wacky as this one, why can't it be Mizzou who gets to enjoy some March magic?
What the Tigers bemoan in seeding, they probably rejoice in opponent. Like Mizzou, former Big 12 and Big 8 rival Oklahoma came rumblin', bumblin' stumblin' into the tournament.
Oklahoma has lost five of its last six games and has also announced the team will be without one of its best players, De'Vion Harmon, against Missouri due to a positive COVID-19 test. Such is 2020-2021.
So we've got a matchup of two of the coldest teams in the field for the right to play the number one overall seed Gonzaga in round two. (Barring an historic upset from Norfolk State over the Bulldogs in the first round. Hmm... I do wonder where I've heard that before?)
It's pretty simple for Missouri.
Let Jeremiah Tilmon do his thing down low, don't let Xavier Pinson be a net negative and find at least one guard other than Dru Smith who can knock down a shot or two. Do that, and they should take care of the shorthanded Sooners.
If the season is still alive beyond that, the Tigers should fall back on the old adage of, "We've got nothing to lose and we're not supposed to win anyways, so let's go all out."
I'd bet a substantial amount of money that not even the most loyal Mizzou fans are picking the Tigers to advance past the undefeated Bulldogs of Gonzaga in round two. There's not logic based on this season that says Mizzou should win.
But after all, this is March. Weird stuff happens. (Liked I alluded to before, just ask Norfolk State. Actually don't do that. Nobody needs to relive 2012 again.)
The early-season Tigers proved they could topple anyone. With wins over Oregon, Illinois, Tennessee, Arkansas and Alabama this season, Mizzou showed how good they can be when they execute a gameplan.
Saturday against Oklahoma will probably be a rock fight. But if you just find a way to survive you get your shot at the best. And a win over Gonzaga would make Mizzou a story of the tournament no matter how far they go after that.
Cuonzo Martin has been building for this year, now it's time to take his best shot.
Even though they were picked to finish tenth in the SEC, Martin and his senior leadership anchored by Dru Smith, Tilmon, Mitchell Smith and Mark Smith proved people wrong, and now have their last chance to make a moment.
Just a few weeks ago Mizzou fans were dreaming up scenarios of an Elite 8 run as one of the ten best teams in the country. Now, who knows which Tigers we're going to get on Saturday.
The Tigers have relied on Dru Smith and Jeremiah Tilmon all year. That's worked sometimes, but been their downfall more than once. They've shown they have the talent to get in on the magic this March. Now we just have to see if they'll seize their moment, or not.