After eight games in SEC play last season Missouri sat at 3-5 and things looked rather dire. A three game losing streak and two close and late missed opportunities on the road at Arkansas and at home against Florida meant Missouri had to scratch and claw to get back in the SEC race. They did by winning five in a row.
If you recall, in order to begin the five game winning streak they had to win on the road at Alabama and at home against Kentucky, no small task in of itself.
How the schedule lays out can impact whether teams meet, exceed, or fall short of expectations. If you were hoping for an soft entry into the SEC basketball this season an opening salvo playing host to the highest rated KenPom team from a year ago bringing back nearly all of their production isn’t what you’d hoped for. If you’re going to open with Tennessee, you want to open with Tennessee at home and Missouri gets that much.
Missouri turned last years game into a defensive slugfest. The Tigers front line forced Tennessee’s star forward Grant Williams into an inefficient offensive performance and snatched a quality win in mid-January.
Kicking off year two under Cuonzo Martin with a win over his former school would certainly be a quality start, and you have to trust Martin and his team to be able to replicate last years brawl to at least increase the possibility of escaping with a win.
Oddly enough the Tigers kicked off last season’s SEC play with a trip to the other Columbia and escaped with a win against the South Carolina Gamecocks. The second game of the season repeats this trip and the Gamecocks should be better than a year ago, when a first half barrage of three pointers gave Mizzou the edge they needed to hold off a late Gamecock charge.
The Gamecocks return foul-drawing-machine Chris Silva, and overall five of their top seven scorers from a year ago.
After South Carolina the Tigers get a home visit from Alabama, then two of what might be easier road contests in trips to Texas A&M and Arkansas. The Aggies will be without Tyler Davis, Robert Williams, and D.J. Hogg and only return two of their top seven scorers from last year. Meanwhile Arkansas loses basically everyone except Daniel Gafford who returns for his sophomore season. Both teams project towards the bottom of the league so stealing a win or two early on the road is a possibility.
Five winnable games to lead off the conference season in a league like the SEC is about as soft of an entrance as you can ask for. Then the sixth game is a home game against the wildly talented and youthful LSU Tigers. Any game at home should be expected to be competitive, so that would mean Mizzou would start the season with six winnable games before they head to Auburn for the first of expected losses.
On top of the winnability factor, three of the six present possible if not likely NCAA tournament teams and that number goes to four of seven if you include Auburn. The benefit of a league like the SEC is there are plenty of opportunities to nab quality wins in the eyes of the committee. A hot start against this group of teams could give the Tigers the boost they need to ensure an NCAA tournament bid.
The slate doesn’t get easier as it goes along.
Missouri Conference Schedule & Early Projections
|Jan 12||Away||South Carolina||80||W|
|Jan 19||Away||Texas A&M||29||W|
|Feb 9||Home||Texas A&M||29||W|
|Feb 16||Away||Ole Miss||108||W|
|Feb 26||Away||Mississippi St||54||L|
|Mar 2||Home||South Carolina||80||W|
|Mar 9||Home||Ole Miss||108||W|