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Can Missouri make the NCAA tournament?

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In a word... no. Not without winning the SEC Tournament. But let’s figure out how close they are.

NCAA Basketball: Missouri at Mississippi Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

We’re less than a week away from Selection Sunday, and there are approximately 87,000 brackets out there in an attempt to project the field of 68. Your University of Missouri Tigers is in approximately zero of them.

There are actually 122 brackets on BracketMatrix.com. While Missouri isn’t on any of them, there seems to be a general consensus on most of them, which means there is data available for us to figure out how close (or far away) the Tigers were from a bid.

Now before we move on, Missouri can still win the SEC tournament, which would grant them an automatic bid for the league. Their odds according to KenPomeroy are 1.9%, and Mizzou is a 100-to-1 odds to take the title according to Vegas. So I’ll just say I’m not holding my breath. But if you want a ray of hope? Charleston Southern was a 2.3% chance to beat Mizzou back in December, Evansville had a 1.3% chance to beat Kentucky, and Stephen F. Austin started with just a 0.4% chance to beat Duke as well.

Remote chances aside, Mizzou had a weird enough year they weren’t far off from being at least in the conversation for a bid. But just how close?

Here is Missouri’s NCAA card:

missouri team card NCAA 2020

Mizzou is currently 15-16 and have played 13 of their 31 games in the Quad 1. They played 7 games in the quad 2, and seven from quad 3 as well, plus four games against quad 4.

What do the quads mean?

From NCAA.com:

Quadrant 1: Home 1-30, Neutral 1-50, Away 1-75

Quadrant 2: Home 31-75, Neutral 51-100, Away 76-135

Quadrant 3: Home 76-160, Neutral 101-200, Away 135-240

Quadrant 4: Home 161-353, Neutral 201-353, Away 241-353

So the rules are basically to avoid disasters, and try to get as many wins in the first and second quads as possible. The committee rarely concerns themselves with losses as they do, “Who did you beat?” And “Where did you beat them?”

Mizzou’s Quad 1 wins aren’t great. They had one road-neutral Quad 1 win against Illinois. Then they only had two other wins total, both at home. In Quad 2 games they fared only slightly better, 3-4 with only one road win. When a team is 15-16, there are a lot of blemishes.

So let’s take a look at someone else

The lowest ranked team with the biggest majority of mock bracket entries is the Cincinnati Bearcats. Here is their NCAA card:

missouri team card NCAA 2020

In head to head, the Quad 1 situation isn’t all that different. Mizzou played a tougher schedule (bound to happen in a better league like the SEC) and with more opportunities, they got one more win. While the Tigers were 3-10, Cincy was 2-6, there was a 3% win percentage difference.

But it’s in Quad 2 where the Bearcats made their move, 7-0. That’s a good move. A host of Quad 3 games (including 4 losses) are serious blemishes, but their worst loss was on the road to Tulane who finished #169 in NET (#186 in KenPom).

So what would it have taken for Mizzou to be in the conversation?

First, don’t lose to Charleston Southern at home. If Mizzou is undefeated in Quad 4 that puts them 1 game over .500 at 16-15. Second, take care of the Quad 3 loss to Texas A&M at home. Now you’re 17-14 and 8-10 in conference play. Then I think if they’re 4-3 in Quad 2 and 4-9 in Quad 1 they’re in the conversation.

So I think you need to flip the neutral contest against Oklahoma (now 18-13) and one more SEC conference game, let’s say Tennessee. Now you’re 19-12 (9-9), your resume reads:

  • Quad 1: 4-9, wins over Florida, Auburn, Oklahoma (n), Illinois (n)
  • Quad 2: 4-3, wins over Arkansas, Alabama, Tennessee, Temple (r)
  • Quad 3: 7-0, wins over Ole Miss, Georgia, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt (r)
  • Quad 4: 4-0, no bad losses. nice.

Being 8-12 in Quads 1 and 2 should be enough to get a spot in the NCAA Tournament. So while it sometimes feels like Missouri is far away from where we want, they aren’t that far from being an NCAA tournament team.

And who knows, maybe the return to health of Jeremiah Tilmon, Mark Smith’s shooting stroke rounding into shape, and Xavier Pinson and Dru Smith playing well at point guard is enough to get the Tigers playing like they’re capable of for long enough to win the SEC Tournament.

All in front of an empty Bridgestone Arena in Nashville the way things are going.