For the past two years, Barry Odom’s second half surges have relied on a tactic as old as conflict itself — the element of surprise.
Since its introduction into the SEC, Missouri has had to work to earn respect. Most fans want to cry foul at this prospect, but it makes sense. A college coach’s main job is to hype up their own program, and most won’t go out of their way to talk up a rival school, especially one they don’t know much about. This made the SEC East championships of 2013 and 2014 that much more satisfying, but it’s also resigned the Tigers to little sibling status in the program’s own conference.
The respect that comes from your peers is hard-earned, especially in the SEC. Respect, however, can work as a disadvantage. Think of every championship team your favorite team has ever faced. How badly did you want to beat them compared to the middle-of-the-road opponent you played the week before? Now think of every dynasty — Alabama, the Golden State Warriors, the Patriots. How much more does this rule apply to them? Winning breeds respect, which breeds jealousy, which breeds contempt, which breeds effort.
The art of surprise, then, can be a boon, especially when it comes to teams as talented as the last two Tiger squads. If the last 24 hours are any indication, though, the 2019 team won’t get that same advantage.
The SEC coaches’ preseason all conference teams were released on Thursday, and Barry Odom’s Tigers popped up eight times — three on the first team, two on the second and three on the third. That’s second in the SEC East and, from what this writer can tell, fifth overall in the SEC.
This is great news, first of all. In a season already mired by off-field drama, any good press should be wholeheartedly embraced and spread wide. Barry Odom now has another eight feathers in his cap to flaunt to recruits — “Come to Mizzou, and I’ll turn you into an All-SEC player. Just look at these guys.”
However, if the Tiger coaches know what they’re doing, this news should be in one ear and out the other in 24 hours.
In the first three years of his Mizzou tenure, Barry Odom has been able to reliably spin low expectations — from fans and opponents — into month-long runs and underdog-friendly narratives. It’s a strategy that’s fun in the moment, but purposefully built not to last. Each November surge has led to higher expectations in the coming year with the promise that they will eventually succeed September/October runs.
If the coach’s All SEC lists are any indication, the Tigers’ opponents are buying into the hype built up over the past few months and years. Now it’s up to the team to prove they don’t need the element of surprise to stack up wins each month of the year.