Mizzou’s basketball future has taken a stark, 180-degree turn over the previous two or three months. To put it bluntly, the Tigers have a future again. But supposedly their recent awful past is keeping them out of this winter’s Big 12/SEC challenge.
The 10 SEC teams selected for the Jan. 27, 2018, slate of games will be the same 10 teams chosen for the Big 12/SEC Challenge during the 2018-19 season. That leaves four SEC teams out of the annual event for the next two seasons: Auburn, Louisiana State, Mississippi State and MU.
Those four just happen to be the four teams that finished with the worst conference records in the SEC this past season.
When a 14-team conference is taking on a 10-team conference, obviously some cuts need to be made. And lopping off the four teams at the bottom is certainly the surest way to ensure quality matchups. Over the last couple of years, non-inclusion in this series hasn’t exactly rankled Mizzou fans.
But league standings aren’t the only factor that decides the matchups, the SEC confirmed Thursday.
“Last season’s results are just one of several factors that are taken into consideration by the conference office and ESPN when selecting the participants in the Challenge,” SEC spokesman Craig Pinkerton said in an email. Pinkerton declined to elaborate on other factors that decide the matchups.
That’s a pretty significant hedge. Because, with this being a televised event, and with Mizzou being in possession of the No. 1 freshman in the country for next year, a suddenly decent Mizzou potentially playing a former conference mate ... well ... that would seem to have a bit of a TV draw, yes? Alas.
If it's so based on last season, why is the #1 Big 12 team playing the #9 SEC team? https://t.co/E4ugBKHOoP— Carrington Harrison (@cdotharrison) May 25, 2017
“The SEC, working with the event’s television partner, ESPN, annually selects the teams that will represent our conference in the Challenge, and one of the key factors in determining the SEC’s entrants is a program’s recent on-court performance, which is certainly understandable,” Missouri athletic director Jim Sterk said in a statement. “I can say with confidence that Mizzou Basketball will have several opportunities to play quality non-conference opponents in future years—home, away and at neutral sites.”
Friend-of-Rock-M-Nation Carrington Harrison, meanwhile, tossed some red meat to the crowd.
Ahh, that’s the stuff.
I don’t even really care that Mizzou didn’t draw Kansas in this thing. It’s blatantly obvious where things stand with that rivalry — Kansas will now have played Texas A&M, Colorado, and Nebraska in basketball while continuing to claim that Mizzou “forfeited” the right to continue the rivalry by leaving the conference and threatening its future. We know who’s pulling the strings (or, I guess, keeping them from being pulled). The commitment to pettiness is admirable, frankly, but clearly this all rests on KU’s shoulders. Whatever.
But again, for an event you’re hoping draws neutral eyes on national television, a late-January contest against another former Big 8/12 rival — Kansas State? Iowa State? Oklahoma State? — sounded pretty fun. I expected it to happen, and I’m surprised they didn’t work that out. They’re a lot more confident in the drawing power of a Kansas State-Georgia matchup than I am, I guess.
- So this is a pretty cool story: Antar Thompson, the No. 5 football prospect in the state of Missouri back in 2013, failed to qualify, had a kid, and dropped out of sight for a while. But with his life in order, he showed up at Highland CC last year, played pretty well ... and just got a Mizzou offer as a high-three-star prospect.
- Day 1 of the SEC Baseball Tournament went exactly as Mizzou needed it to go. The Tigers outslugged Texas A&M for a shot in the double elimination portion and found themselves in need of one or two more wins to have a decent NCAA Tourney résumé. Instead, they got blasted by LSU on Wednesday and then blasted by South Carolina on Thursday. The Gamecocks won 10-2, hitting four home runs and effectively ending both Mizzou’s SEC tourney and causing any lingering NCAA hopes to expire. What a strange, up-and-down season.
- Season’s over for Mizzou Tennis as well. Amina Ismail and Bea Machado Santos, the No. 10 seed, got blown out by the No. 34 team from Cal in the first round of the NCAA doubles tournament. They were the first Mizzou doubles team to qualify for the NCAAs since 2003, but that's a super-disappointing way to finish.
- On the first day of NCAA Regionals, three Mizzou Track & Field athletes qualified for nationals: Reinhard Van Zyl and Alex Pascal in the javelin and Jamie Kempfer in the 10,000m. That’s exciting, but this isn’t: freshman star jumper Ja’Mari Ward suffered an injury at the worst possible time.
Tough break for MU long jumper Ja'Mari Ward. He didn't start at NCAA prelim (ankle injury). Had a real good chance to qualify for nationals.— Joe Vozzelli Jr. (@JoeVozzelli) May 25, 2017