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Missouri’s slate is tough—but filled with opportunity

The wait for the Tigers schedule ended on Friday, and coach Cuonzo Martin’s group will have ample chances to build out an NCAA tournament resume.

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NCAA Basketball: Arkansas at Missouri Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

For weeks, we’ve lamented how the lack of a schedule makes forecasting Missouri’s fortunes a fool’s errand.

On mid-day Friday, the docket was finally handed down, as the SEC released the complete conference schedule and the program revealed a handful of non-conference games. Now, MU’s release noted it could still add a neutral-site event, but several scribes on the beat reported that a Braggin’ Rights tilt — likely at a campus site — isn’t off the table.

Still, we know 23 of the program’s matchups, a number more than adequate to plot out paths for the SEC’s most-experienced rosters. We’ve blended the releases and layered in preseason rankings for each opponent.

Missouri Basketball | 2020-21 Schedule

Date Opponent KenPom Location
Date Opponent KenPom Location
11/25/20 Oral Roberts 201 Home
12/6/20 Wichita State 74 Road
12/9/20 Liberty 162 Home
12/22/20 Bradley 127 Home
12/30/20 Tennessee 20 Home
1/2/21 Arkansas 54 Road
1/5/21 Miss. State 78 Road
1/9/21 LSU 37 Home
1/12/21 Vanderbilt 126 Home
1/16/21 Texas A&M 68 Road
1/19/21 South Carolina 60 Home
1/23/21 Tennessee 20 Road
1/26/21 Auburn 66 Road
1/30/21 TCU 53 Home
2/2/21 Kentucky 11 Home
2/6/21 Alabama 46 Home
2/10/21 Ole Miss 42 Road
2/13/21 Arkansas 54 Home
2/16/21 Georgia 92 Road
2/20/21 South Carolina 60 Road
2/23/21 Ole Miss 42 Home
2/27/21 Texas A&M 68 Home
3/2/21 Florida 24 Road

There are a couple of quick takeaways we can spot, too.

  1. No Let-Up: Three weeks from tip-off, MU is slated to play 19 games against teams in the top 100 of Pomeroy’s ratings, including eight against the top 50. If the Tigers are somehow able to add Illinois, their opposition’s average rating would be 66.8. After facing Vanderbilt in mid-January, the coach Cuonzo Martin’s crew wouldn’t play an opponent rated lower than 92nd the rest of the way. Whew.
  2. Fat in the Middle: Sure, the schedule is lean on fat, but the Tigers’ slate is heavy on games — nine — against potential bubble teams such as Arkansas, Auburn, Ole Miss, South Carolina and Texas A&M. Those games are also evenly distributed between home and away. By no means is that a cakewalk, but the Tigers avoided a top-heavy schedule, which could influence where they ultimately wind up in the standings.
  3. Home-Court Advantage: On paper, MU is slated to play Kentucky, Tennessee, LSU, Alabama and Florida six times. Four of those will take place at Mizzou Arena. So, not only did MU avoid tough home-and-homes, it managed to get the majority of its games against SEC contenders in Columbia. Maybe that’s not enough to put them in contention for the conference crown, but they’re ideal opportunities to snag Quadrant 1 wins that burnish your resume for the selection committee when March rolls around.

Based on NCAA guidelines, MU can play a maximum of 25 games, which grows to 27 if they take part in an exempted event. As I mentioned above, it appears both options are on the table. If I were the czar of scheduling, I’d trying to lock down a date with the Illini, a likely preseason top-10 foe, and another mid- or low-major. Then, I’d call it good.

Why?

First, Wichita State is a program racked with turmoil after a mass exodus this spring and growing allegations that coach Gregg Marshall verbally and physically assaulted players. As the school carries out an investigation, factions around the program are sparring over its direction, with moneyed boosters throwing their weight behind him. The Shockers were already in transition, and what if the unfolding situation sidelines their head coach? In other words, who knows what caliber of opponent the Tigers will see in early December.

Second, TCU isn’t an ideal draw for the SEC-Big 12 Challenge. The school forked over significant money to lure alum Jamie Dixon back to Fort Worth from Pitt, but in five seasons, he’s only amassed a 29-43 record in Big 12 play and made the NCAA tournament just once. The trajectory of the Horned Frogs programs appears to have stalled out. If that’s indeed the case, a win might not be as valuable for MU’s cause come March.

Those slight critiques aside, Martin’s program isn’t lacking chances to prove itself—ones a veteran-laden group should relish.