A lot can change in two weeks.
Exactly 14 days ago, Missouri was reeling. Losers of three straight, Cuonzo Martin’s Tigers found themselves on or very near the “First four out” list among bracketologists. They were 13-8 and 3-5 in SEC play, and they had just about fallen out of Ken Pomeroy’s top 50.
Now? Jerry Palm currently has the Tigers as a 7-seed, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi a 9. The Tigers have a top-25 RPI, a four-game win streak, and, with a win over Texas A&M, the inside track on an SEC tournament double-bye.
We will use that as a reminder that things can certainly still change in the other direction pretty quickly — Mizzou’s not to the finish line yet. But in the present tense, things look very, very good.
Lunardi currently has Mizzou a 9-seed in the South, facing Butler with a chance at Virginia in the second round. Virginia’s defensive and ball-control prowess would be a nightmare, but let’s face it: when you’re in the 7-10 range, you’re just trying to win your first game and make the round of 32.
That’s the goal for the Tigers at the moment, and Butler would be a decent matchup. The Bulldogs don’t force a ton of turnovers (at least compared to a lot of teams Mizzou has already played), and they’ll give up some open looks. If you miss them, they’re definitely grabbing the defensive rebound, though.
Last week, I took a broader look at the teams in Missouri’s portion of the bracket(s). Let’s do that again. Here’s a list of the teams in the No. 7-11 range at the moment, ordered loosely on who’s in the best and worst shape, bracketwise, at the moment.
(This includes the last four in, but not the first four out, as Mizzou has for the moment distanced itself from that group.)
So basically, Mizzou is about the 13th-safest team among those in the field. Beat A&M and LSU this week, and you’re just about to the finish line, but go ahead and root against all of these teams, just in case.
Mizzou’s RPI is helping immensely at the moment. The Tigers boast a win over Tennessee, not to mention wins over fellow mid-bracket dwellers Kentucky and Alabama. They have a chance to add Texas A&M to that list tonight as well, though the Aggies are obviously quite good. Lose to A&M, and there’s an extra layer of tension to Saturday’s trip to LSU. Will Wade’s Tigers haven’t been particularly consistent, but their sweep of A&M hints at some impressive upside.
It goes without saying that it’s a big week — they’re all big when you actually have stuff to play for.