On Monday afternoon, we found another piece of the Mizzou non-conference hoops puzzle: Missouri will travel to Salt Lake City to play Utah early in the season.
Utah has won at least 20 games in each of the last four seasons under Larry Krystowiak, ranking in the KenPom top 50 each year. The Utes were a little bit on the disappointing side in 2017-18, falling to 20-12 and bowing out to Boise State in the first round of the NIT. But they were still a top-50 team, and they have an interesting roster that includes 6’8 forward David Collette and 6’5 sophomore Devon Daniels. They could give Mizzou exposure to not only road environments but also a long, potentially tourney-caliber basketball team.
The game falls on November 16, less than a week after the season opener against Iowa State and exactly a week before the Tigers begin play in the AdvoCare Invitational in Orlando. Starting with a pair of power conference foes in the first week of the season is quite rare, at least for Missouri.
We now know 25 of Mizzou’s likely 31 opponents for 2017-18.
- Home (10): Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Iowa State, Kentucky, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Tennessee, Texas A&M
- Road (11): Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, South Carolina, Texas A&M, UCF, Utah, Vanderbilt
- Neutral (4): Illinois, three teams from an AdvoCare Invitational pool of Long Beach State, Marist, Nebraska, Oregon State, St. John's and West Virginia.
As always, tradeoffs occur. Perhaps you schedule a road game at power conference program to expose a young roster to an environment that mimics what they'll see in SEC play. A preseason tournament is a test run for what life may be like in March: games on short turnarounds with quick scouts. And if you're scheduling at home, do you schedule a proven mid-major such as Belmont or Valparaiso — games that boost your SOS — or bring in a power conference foe that will entice a casual fan to show up to Mizzou Arena on a Tuesday in early December?
Apparently, if you’ve got Michael Porter Jr., a bunch of key freshmen, and some veterans still hoping to learn the ropes of big-time, tourney-caliber basketball, then yes, you indeed schedule a road game at a power conference program.