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2011 was a year dominated by one story in Mizzou sports. But outside of the obvious, what were the biggest stories of the calendar year gone by? PowerMizzou.com counts down the top ten.
10. Denmon becomes a star: Perhaps the lone bright spot of Missouri's 2010-11 basketball campaign was the emergence of Marcus Denmon, who earned first-team all-conference honors. As a senior, Denmon is off to a red-hot start, going for 59 points in one two-game stretch and leading the undefeated and top ten Tigers in scoring.
9. DGB: This one of two stories on our list without an ending. Dorial Green-Beckham first became known to Tiger fans some two or three years ago before the 'B' was added to 'DGB." Green-Beckham is now the No. 1 prospect in the country and his every move has been followed by fanbases across the country. Is this a story with a happy ending for Mizzou? Find out on National Signing Day, the first Wednesday in February.
8. Softball does it again: Led by the return to health of Chelsea Thomas, Missouri softball won the Big 12 and made its third straight trip to the Women's College World Series. This time, the Tigers even hung around long enough to win a game. There is one sport in which Missouri will clearly not be overmatched in the SEC. Ehren Earleywine is building a powerhouse.
7. Two top ten picks: Blaine Gabbert and Aldon Smith both left Mizzou early to enter the NFL Draft. Both went in the top ten with Smith surprising many by coming off the board first. He is now about to set the rookie sack record and team with another former Tiger, Justin Smith in the NFC playoffs. Gabbert has struggled in his first year as a starter, but gave Missouri two top ten picks in the draft for the first time in school history.
6. Pinkel under arrest: Nobody wants to put it on the list, but it was a big story. The week of the Texas Tech game, Gary Pinkel was arrested for a DWI and pleaded guilty. The coach watched Senior Day from a cabin at the lake as his team won in the final seconds. Credit Missouri for handling it so well that the story went away quickly, but it is forever a footnote to the 2011 season.
5. Franklin's first season: Following a line of highly successful quarterbacks, no one was sure what to expect out of James Franklin. There were peaks and valleys, but in the end, Missouri's sophomore put up nearly 4,000 yards in total offense and 36 total touchdowns. He wasn't the passer that Chase Daniel was and wasn't the runner Brad Smith was, but did both well enough that the future looks bright for the Tigers at quarterback. His eight wins matched the first-season totals of both Daniel and Gabbert.
4. Josey's rise and fall: With Marcus Murphy already out for the season, Missouri lost its top two tailbacks to injury one play into the second game of the season. Thrust into a starting role, sophomore Henry Josey bolted on to the scene and rolled up 1,168 yards and nine touchdowns over the next nine weeks. A gruesome knee injury ended his 2011 season early and put his 2012 season in doubt. But Josey still earned a well-deserved nod as a first-team all-Big 12 back and was the primary reason the Tigers won as many games as they did.
3. Sneaking out the back door: After two years of flirtations, Mike Anderson was finally offered the job he couldn't turn down. Following a late-season collapse that had fans wondering what was going on behind the scenes, Missouri's coach bolted Columbia for Arkansas where he had been an assistant coach for 17 years. But the story quickly shifted from the fact Anderson was leaving to the way he left. In a scene as bizarre as any the local media has seen, Anderson had trucks blocking his plane at Columbia Regional Airport, had an assistant trying to lose media trailing his car on the way back to the arena and left out a back door without a word to local media after leaving his players shocked with the announcement he was no longer their coach. In the wake of his departure, many Mizzou fans have forgotten how many good things Anderson did for the program. They'll get a chance to thank him sooner than expected. More on that in just a minute.
2. A suitable replacement?: In the hours after Frank Haith's hire became known, one reaction was more common (and more telling) than all the rest: WHO? Missouri's hire of a coach who was 26 games under .500 in the ACC spawned outrage in the fanbase and ridicule in the national media. Haith has since become the first Missouri coach to win his first 12 games in 91 years.
1. M-I-Z-S-E-C: In June of 2010, Missouri fans had resigned themselves to the fact they were "proud members of the Big 12" for the long haul. Nebraska was in the Big Ten, Colorado was in the PAC-12 and Missouri was right back where it started. But then Texas A&M bolted the Big 12 for the SEC. David Boren declared that Oklahoma would not be a "wallflower" and the Big 12 sprinted to the edge of extinction for the second time in 16 months. Discussions that had first surfaced back in early summer 2010 (don't believe everything conference and school officials say publicly) started up again in earnest. After a six-week process, Missouri became proud members of the Southeastern Conference on the morning of November 6th, 2011. It's not just the biggest story of the year. It's the biggest story in the history of athletics at the University of Missouri.
And it's just getting started.
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