If you’re like me, you’ve watched a fair amount of college basketball this season. And no matter what you think you might know or understand about this season, the only safe expectation is you don’t.
Before Christmas, Ohio State was looking to be a lock for a number one seed. They were tops in KenPom, coming of a big neutral court win over Kentucky and an 11-1 start with wins over North Carolina, Villanova, Cincinnati... then Christmas happened and now the Buckeyes look lost, unable to score and they’ve lost four in a row and five of their last seven.
Most teams vaulted to the number one ranking in the AP poll have found themselves on the losing side of the game in short order. Michigan State was the preseason number one, and lost their first game. Kentucky took over after beating the Spartans and lost at home to 250th rated Evansville. Duke took over the top spot and held it until they lost, at home, to 122nd rated Stephen F. Austin. Then Louisville took over and promptly lost to Texas Tech, who handed the Cardinals a 13 point neutral court loss. That school to the west got a shot and lost to Villanova. Gonzaga is the only school to hold steady, now it seems unlikely the Zags will go down any time soon as they’re in conference play, but the weird year doesn’t stop there.
Buth Duke and Kentucky were 29 point favorites at home over Stephen F. Austin and Evansville, and lost. Missouri was a 26 point favorite over Charleston Southern, and lost. So is it really surprising that Missouri, a team who has struggled mightily offensively all year, would have a game where they just didn’t?
This year, more than any year, anything is possible in college basketball. We’ve talked about it on this site and on podcasts, Here is my opinion and I’m sticking to it:
All college basketball teams are bad to varying degrees. https://t.co/l1WTSCrHf4— Sam Snelling (@SamTSnelling) December 8, 2019
I still think Missouri is bad, but I also think Florida is bad. The degrees of badness were less for Mizzou, and more for Florida last night, which was a good thing for the Tigers and their fans.
Mizzou needed this win. They needed a pick-me-up after dropping a very winnable game against Tennessee. Ideally Cuonzo Martin and his team would’ve come out of the first three games with a 2-1 record, but 1-2 still felt like things were sustainable for growth this season.
I know many of you were probably thinking about it, but with two road games ahead of them against good teams, there was a decent chance Missouri started the season 0-5. A start that brutal is hard to overcome, even as the schedule softened up in the second half. So beating Florida, no matter how it happened, was a good thing.
But this win felt different because it was like a giant sigh of relief.
Missouri made shots, and made shots when it mattered. Florida scored 75 points, got 25 points off free throws, and hit 10 of 23 threes. They cleared the 1.10 points per possession bench mark and lost, by a lot of points. The final margin was 16 but Mizzou’s lead was 24 points with 3:47 to play.
Martin said in a recent press conference they’d talked about pressing the tempo more, but the overall possession count was just at 67. It was how those possessions were played that made the difference. Mizzou was in attack mode early and often. Even the few rare transition opportunities in the early going set the tone. Just by starting the attack early, the energy within the half court offense had more snap. I’d said in private conversations Missouri’s offense seemed to be 20 seconds of running around, and then throw the ball to Dru Smith for a pick and roll. So why not start with the pick and roll and go from there?
The Tigers did that early on multiple possessions. They got into the offense quickly and looked to attack. Cuts looked harder, players were sprinting off screens. Maybe it’s the image if the ball going through the basket which causes these things to appear different. But that doesn’t matter.
All that mattered is Missouri won and got off the short losing streak they were on. The Tigers now hold three Quad 1 wins, over Temple, Illinois, and now Florida. Up next is Mississippi State, no small task, but another Quad 1 opportunity with a road game against a top 75 team.
Tomorrow I’ll have Study Hall. For for today, enjoy a win where Missouri looked like they have something they can build on.
Other SEC Scores:
- Auburn 82, Georgia 60
- Kentucky 76, Alabama 67
- Tennessee 56, South Carolina 55
- Texas A&M 69, Vanderbilt 50
- Arkansas 76, Ole Miss 72
- LSU 60, Mississippi State 59
There’s a 3 way tie for first with Kentucky, LSU, and Auburn.
Arkansas, Florida, Texas A&M, and Tennessee are all 2-1. Missouri and Alabama are 1-2, and Ole Miss, Georgia, South Carolina, Vanderbilt, and Mississippi State are all winless, with the Bulldogs at 0-3 (the others are 0-2). So MSU needs a win, eh?