It finally begins. After what feels like a damn month off, Mizzou Basketball returns to the court tonight to face South Carolina in Columbia East.
The Black & Gold completed its most successful nonconference schedule since the 2013-14 season (12-1), winning 10 games against three losses.
The Tigers are 2-3 in SEC openers. In his nine previous seasons of leading Missouri State, Tennessee and California, head coach Cuonzo Martin has compiled a 6-3 record in conference openers.
Mizzou and South Carolina will meet on Wednesday as the Tigers open Southeastern Conference play for the season. South Carolina leads to all-time series between the two schools, 4-3.
Following last year’s Final Four run (and some turnover), South Carolina is 8-4 and 61st in the KenPom rankings, 11 spots behind Mizzou. Home-court advantage gives them a two-point projected win per both KenPom and Vegas.
This is a very South Carolina team. Without Sindarius Thornwell or PJ Dozier, the Gamecocks’ offense has struggled and only ranks even 150th overall because of offensive rebounding and drawing fouls. The Cocks can’t shoot and turn the ball over a lot, but they still do Frank Martin Things very well. They also play defense. And foul a lot. Again, on brand.
“Frank has done a great job in building his program,” Cuonzo Martin said in October. “But it’s great for the league. When I was in the league the first time around, it was always talked about those two teams (Kentucky and Florida). Obviously, they’re very talented. But when we’re talking about a brand and a league, you have to include everybody. That’s what makes leagues great.”
“They’re tough, they’re physical, they make it hard on you,” said MU’s Martin, who was 3-0 as Tennessee’s coach in head-to-head matchups with South Carolina’s Martin. “They don’t back down. With Frank’s guys, it’s not so much what year in school they are. They’ll compete, they’ll battle. I think they have seven or eight new guys, but when you come off of playing in a Final Four, then it’s passed down to (younger players), what it looks like when you’re talking about great programs, establishing an identity.”
The Tigers and Gamecocks tip off at 8:00 p.m. CT (9 local time? gross) on ESPN2.
More Hoops Links
- You know how we were saying yesterday that the SEC was going to be competitive as hell this season? Well ... did you see last night's results? Three ranked teams went down (and No. 11 Texas A&M went down by a lot), and the fourth game was a one-point nail-biter. Buckle up.
- Oh yeah, and with all these close games, Mizzou is basically starting out directly on the in-or-out line of the NCAA bubble.
...(LAST FOUR IN) 42-Mizzou, 44-Md, 45-Boise, 46-Minn (Add'l AQs) 47-NMST, 48-MIZZOUST, 49-WKU, 50-ULL, 51-SODAK, 52-VERM, 53-ETSU, 54-BALLST, 55-LIPS, 56-MURRST, 57-UCSB, 58-NOKY, 59-BUCK, 60-COFC, 61-PRIN, 62-UNCA, 63-MONT, 64-LAMAR, 65-RMU, 66-CANIS, 67-TEXSO, 68-HAMP.— Joe Lunardi (@ESPNLunardi) January 3, 2018
- Saturday’s Blackout day, by the way.
- St. Louis blue-chipper Michael Thompson told Rivals.com that he has “a good feeling of where I want to go,” but he will continue to take a few more official visits in January.
- Mizzou released salary details for Barry Odom’s two new assistants. Inside linebackers coach Vernon Hargreaves will make $335,000, while offensive line coach Brad Davis will make $400,000. Both are on two-year deals, and both are making more than they did last year at other respective SEC schools (Hargreaves at Arkansas, Davis at Florida).
- Mizzou Football helping Children’s Hospital? Yeah, you know you’re watching this.