Most Successful Senior Class At Missouri Goes Out With Class

February 29, 2012; Columbia, MO, USA; Missouri Tigers guard Kim English (24) addresses the crowd after defeating the Iowa State Cyclones for senior day at Mizzou Arena. The Missouri Tigers defeated the Iowa State Cyclones 78-72. Mandatory Credit: Dak Dillon-US PRESSWIRE

It wasn't just all the winning that made this year's senior class of Missouri Tiger basketball players great. It was the camaraderie and love that has been shown over the past 12 months.

In a way, the final home game at Mizzou Arena for the most successful senior class in Missouri basketball history was a microcosm of the last four years for the Tigers.

Missouri jumped out to an early 7-0 lead on the Cyclones, who had won seven of their last nine games before Wednesday's tilt in Columbia. That early start mirrored the out-of-nowhere successful season that this senior class had in 2008-2009.

Then the Tigers went through some struggles. Things never really got of control, but they couldn't put together any sort of run for the rest of the first half and first six to eight minutes of the second half.

Those struggles from Missouri mirrored the sophomore and junior seasons of this senior class. Nothing seemed to be wrong with those teams on the outside, but they just couldn't get the team's play to an elite level.

Then, a run fueled by a diving Steve Moore to secure a ball 90 feet away from his own basket helped the Tigers take their first lead of the second half and they never looked back.

Moore, who has been a much more important part of this team than any stats could show (or than anyone expected), personified the kind of camaraderie and effort that has been shown by the 2011-2012 Missouri Tigers.

After the game, Moore and his fellow seniors took time to thank those in attendance and all Tiger fans across the nation, something no senior class had done in at least the last four years of Missouri basketball.

Moore joked that he wasn't good "at all" when he came in as a freshman and was reduced to tears of appreciation during the ceremony. That raw emotion showed just how much he and his teammates have cherished the last four years.

This is the most successful senior class that has ever been through the Missouri basketball program, but what makes them even more special is that they were the class that got most connected with the fanbase and with each other.

Kim English brought fan interaction to another level on Twitter. The entire team came together like something never seen before in Missouri basketball after Mike Anderson left out the back door last spring.

You can see the love and togetherness it in their play and it was all over their faces during the postgame ceremony. There is such a huge unspoken trust between all 10 members of the team (and 4 transfer players) that make Missouri fans love their team at a level they have never loved a team before.

Missouri fans know how rough it can be. The incidents of the Quin Snyder era and then the 2008 bar incidents remind Tiger fans just how bad it can be, which has made this class even more appreciated than it would have been otherwise.

The Tigers, who are expected to earn at least a top-2 seed in the NCAA tournament, could make the program's first trip to the Final Four.

Or, they could get upset before then.

Either way, nothing will take away from the enjoyment and appreciation of the fanbase that has gotten to know these players so well over the last 4 years.

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