74 / 55
      78 / 58
      80 / 60

      Accept it

      Well, that would be that.

      Thanks to some worthy Volunteers, the Tigers have finally put us out of our M-I-Z ... E-R-Y.

      Tennessee 72, Missouri 45.

      No more bubble talk.

      No more talk of last four in, last four out, next four out.

      The dream of a bid to the NCAA Tournament, and this meandering season of mediocrity, is over.

      The Tigers have put their fans through the sports' version of the Five Stages, starting with denial, ending with acceptance, in between, anger.

      A crude comparison, because this certainly isn't life and death --- although many fans live and die with their teams.

      These are games. This season just hasn't been fun and games.

      At least this was quick, which is not to say it was quick and painless. This was more of what we've seen most of the season --- ugly and hard to watch, like watching rhinos trying to mate.

      Antonio Barton hit a 3-pointer for the Vols 53 seconds into Saturday's game in Knoxville in the wire-to-wire win. The lead was 37-19 at the half and by as many as 31 points in the second half.

      The devil's in the details.

      Tennessee (20-11, 11-7 SEC) outrebounded Missouri (21-10, 9-9) by a whopping 45-28, and had 18 assists to the Tigers' five. That's all you really need to know.

      These Paper Tigers weren't competitive. Poor offense, poor defense, poor effort. Check that, this was a non-effort.

      Other than that, they looked just fine.

      "They just kicked us today, they were tougher, better," Missouri coach Frank Haith said. "They deserved it."

      How's your Faith in Haith holding up? (Sorry, Tiger fans, he'll be around at least one more year.)

      Entering Saturday's game, the Tigers --- who were 9 1/2-point underdogs --- could have finished anywhere from fourth to eighth in the SEC, as this day wrapped up the SEC regular season.

      It's the latter. They're the No. 8 seed in a conference full of really, lousy teams. Then again, Missouri is one of them.

      Missouri's string of five straight trips to the Big Dance is over --- unless they win the SEC Tournament and earn the automatic bid.

      Laugh here.

      They COULD make it with three wins in the conference tournament, starting with a date with Texas A&M at noon Thursday in Atlanta --- a rematch of Wednesday night's epic battle.


      If Missouri does beat A&M, it would get Florida in the second round. You make the call.

      "We'll get our guys ready to go and compete," Haith said.


      Look on the bright side --- at least Missouri won't build on its NCAA Tournament record for most appearances (currently 25) without making it to the Final Four.

      So, NIT, here they come. Bring on Louisiana Tech! Or maybe, just maybe, Robert Morris!

      I think Missouri could beat Robert Morris. Maybe. Louisiana Tech? No chance.

      The NIT looks to be an extended version of the SEC season, as no less than seven teams could be in the field.

      More SEC basketball = good times, don't you think?

      Accept it.