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Pourover: A golden opportunity slips away

Missouri had another upset in hand, but let it get away in ugly fashion.

NCAA Basketball: Texas A&M at Missouri Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Last week after Mizzou’s surprise win over Alabama, I posed a question to the Rock M staff in our Slack Channel:

How many more wins like that does Cuonzo Martin need to save his job?

The answers came quickly and fell into one of two camps. One person said, “a lot,” and the other said, “not a lot.” People chose sides from there. (editor’s note: I said, “Can we not just enjoy this for a minute?!”)

Personally, I was in the latter camp. It’s been a nightmare season for Mizzou almost any way you slice it, but a win over a top 15 team re-oriented things right away. Especially after beating a team by playing their game, it felt like Cuonzo Martin had bought himself a little extra leeway moving forward. Of course, that good will was predicated on the idea that the win marked a turning point — that the Missouri roster finally found a way to gel and (at the very least) play more competitive basketball moving forward.

You don’t need me to tell you what happened on Wednesday. Sufficed to say, Saturday offered the Tigers an opportunity to prove Buzz Williams right in his pre-game assessment.

For much of Saturday’s game, the Tigers once again looked the part of a team on the rise. For nearly 10 minutes Missouri stifled the Aggies’ run-and-gun attack, taking a double digit lead all the way into the final 10 minutes. From there, though? Well... if you watched, you’re well aware.

You could squint at Saturday’s game and convince yourself there are positives to take away. Missouri beat KenPom’s projected margin of six points and jumped five spots in the overall efficiency rankings after the game. They held a great three-point shooting team to 23.5 percent on the day and shot 36.4 percent themselves! They played aggressive defense and took a chance on Texas A&M shooting a lot of free throws, and it (sort of) paid off — the Aggies only made 68.3 percent.

But when you look back at the highlights of this game, it’ll be hard to see past the glaring ways that Missouri handed their eighth win away. Multiple trips down the floor resulted in poorly executed drives that resulted in fadeaway shots or bad passes. Turnovers on the other end turned into quick giveaways and mis-thrown passes. At least two trips to the line saw the shooter miss the front end — including a one-and-one that saw the Aggies rush down the floor and permanently take the lead.

I still don’t know if Martin needs a slew of high-profile upsets to save his job. His current contract situation being what it is, it feels like he could walk into a sixth year simply by inspiring his players to make the second half of the season interesting. Losing games like Saturday, however, make that goal seem unattainable. Missouri had a golden opportunity to show growth for the second time in a week and let it slip away in messy, haphazard fashion.

Come to think of it, maybe I’m not as firmly in the, “not a lot,” camp as I thought.

Yesterday’s Gamers

College Hoops Scoreboard

  • Oklahoma State 61, No. 1 Baylor 54
  • No. 2 Gonzaga 115, Santa Clara 83
  • No. 8 Duke 88, NC State 73
  • No. 9 Kansas 85, West Virginia 59
  • Northwestern 64, No. 10 Michigan State 62
  • Arkansas 65, No. 12 LSU 58
  • No. 15 Iowa State 79, No. 21 Texas 70
  • No. 17 Xavier 80, Creighton 73
  • No. 18 Kentucky 107, No. 22 Tennessee 79
  • Kansas State 62, No. 19 Texas Tech 51
  • Marquette 73, No. 20 Seton Hall 72
  • Mississippi State 78, No. 24 Alabama 76