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The Revue: Can Dennis Gates re-awaken the force of Mizzou Hoops?

“A long time ago, on a basketball court far, far away...”

Oh, you thought since football season ended that The Revue was over? You thought I wouldn’t be turning up every week with more dumb Photoshops, trite movie comparisons, direct ripoffs of more talented writers and slight jokes at the expense of others?

Well then you. thought. wrong.

I’m super excited to keep this column up and running through basketball season for 2022-2023. In all honesty, The Revue feels more fit for a basketball setting, anyway. Not that there’s anything wrong with football. It’s calamitous, farcical and more than a bit stupid. Do you doubt me? You shouldn’t — you watched this football season, didn’t you?

But basketball provides so many more opportunities for both comparison and hilarity! They play about three times as many games, the back-and-forth energy is much higher, and Mizzou’s coach is so much more unintentionally goofy! God bless Dennis Gates, he’s such a lovable weirdo.

I’m not going to be able to sum up the whole of Mizzou’s start to the season, and you probably don’t need me to, anyway. It feels like the first time in forever — or at least since 2020 — since Mizzou was... good? Exciting to watch may be the more appropriate term. Cuonzo Martin’s tenure had its highs, but even the best version of his program operated at a congested pace. Gates’ program, though, hits hard and moves fast. It’s a breath of fresh air to watch basketball played in this manner. I honestly forgot it could be done.

So let’s roll right into our first ever basketball Revue here at Rock M. Let’s hope the results are better than they’ve been for football!

The Revue

“It was real. The Big 12 titles. The NCAA Tournament runs. All of it...”

Where were you when you first saw The Force Awakens? I was in St. Charles, Missouri. I believe it was Christmas Day.

As a millennial, I’m well aware of the existence of Star Wars prequel truthers. And if you’re somehow here reading this blog, let me (1) welcome you to Rock M Nation and (2) promptly escort you to the nearest exit. This blog isn’t for you. You may actually be criminally insane.

I grew up a big time Star Wars nerd — like name the planet the Wookies live on in fourth grade nerd — and I was there for the prequels as a child. Now? I’m in the minority position of ranking them against the cultural winds... The Phantom Menace is the best prequel, followed by Attack of the Clones (which is just exceedingly boring), and bookended with Revenge of the Sith, which is unwatchable. I’m getting sidetracked. I’m sorry.

My point is that my first time watching The Force Awakens felt like a hot shower after a long weekend of camping. You know what I mean? Camping is super fun, but at some point you reach the stank phase where you really start to become one with your phylogenetic tree. The second that hot water hits though? Yeeeeeeeeesh.

That’s what watching The Force Awakens was like. It’s an experience I’ve been continually thinking about as Dennis Gates’ first Tiger team has run to an undefeated record after nine games.

It’s almost a perfect comparison, maybe even a little too on-the-nose. For my money, Cuonzo Martin’s tenure started with a lot of promise, not unlike Phantom Menace. Even when the disparate pieces were all over the place, you could see the vision for something exciting and new. And then it came to an ass-grinding halt. The play slowed. The creativity was gone. It was Bennett ball without the efficiency, a heinous proposition for any fan, especially the casuals.

Dennis Gates’ brand of basketball, at least so far, isn’t anything totally new. We’ve seen teams play fast and tight before. But after the experiences of the past decade — the inefficiency of the Haith years, the whatever-the-hell-was-happening Kim Anderson years, the grind it out Cuonzo Martin years — watching a team play basketball that seems — I don’t know, FUN feels something like a novelty. At the very least, it’s entertaining, which is more than we’ve been able to say for much of the time since 2012.

Maybe things don’t get better from here. Maybe things will get better — The Last Jedi is elite, come at me, snowflakes — and then suddenly gets worse — The Rise of Skywalker may be the worst Star Wars movie of all time, which is hard to do! — and then we’ll be right back where we started.

But it’s almost Christmas. And I’m watching something fun, refreshing and breezy. Let me bask in the moment for a little while longer.

★★★★★ for the first few weeks of Mizzou basketball, ★★★★☆ for The Force Awakens whose charms wear down after a few rewatches. But that first viewing? Elite shit. (Editor’s note: I see that Josh is using up Rock M’s allotment of swear words again… dammit.)

Watchability Meter

Bracketology is sort of like astrology. You know, in that it’s made up and lucrative.

There’s also the fact that getting a prediction in bracketology and astrology make you feel like you know something more about yourself than maybe you actually do. Take, for instance, Joe Lunardi’s latest bracketology projections, which have Mizzou as a No. 10 seed in March Madness as of today’s date. Does it really tell us anything about Mizzou Hoops? Not really. Maybe that industry perception of the program is on the rise, but that’s about as concrete as it gets.

But you know what? It still feels kind of good to read your horoscope and see something encouraging like, “your confidence will earn you a friend,” or something else that some lowly intern decided to cook up while baked at 2:30 in the morning. It’s the power of positivity, right? And that’s how it feels when you see that Joe Lunardi placed Mizzou — yes, Mizzou! — as a No. 10 seed in his latest bracketology.

What’s it worth at the end of the day? Well, you probably couldn’t buy a pack of gum with it, but maybe it’ll at least give you some hope about the rest of the season?

All that being said, with bracketology as our guiding principle, i.e. prioritizing feelings over objective data, I have to say that it’s pretty damn fun to watch Mizzou play basketball. It just feels good. The players work hard and all seem to be extremely likable. The surprises so far — such as Isiaih Mosley mostly playing an end-of-the-bench role — have quietly morphed into non-stories. The pace they’re playing is fast. They shoot better, they pass better and they simply look better than any Mizzou team has looked in a long time.

If there’s any team that’s been watchable so far this college basketball season, it’s Mizzou. Damn the light schedule... it’s fun to watch your team win blowouts and score 93+ points almost every game. For that, they get five out of five bracketology projections.

From Joe Lunardi’s keyboard to God’s ears

Disrespectful Dunk Index

Back when the “Disrespectful Play Index” started at the beginning of the football season, I tried to be transparent about its origins: Shea Serrano’s Disrespectful Dunk Index. It’s a perfect bit of analytical mastery, the irreverence and mischievousness of a villain fused with the wonder of a child.

You may laugh at the word “mastery,” but having written a handful of these during football season, I can tell you that they’re no joke. It’s hard to make something in this format interesting and funny every time. Shea Serrano has done maybe half a dozen in his life and never missed once? Me? I’m still working on a 30 percent hit rate.

But, hey, at least now I’m working with the perfected format! I had to tweak the disrespectful index slightly to accommodate football plays, but I’m going back to Serrano’s tried-and-true formula for hoops season. And for the sake of entertainment, we’re sticking with dunks. C’mon, whoever heard of the disrespectful layup index? The Disrespectful Mid-range Jumper Index? I suppose there’s something to the Disrespectful Step-Back Three Index, but there’s no more disrespectful play than a dunk. The force of it, the way it humbles men and topples careers. We don’t see nearly as many poster dunks in the NCAA, but that doesn’t mean we’re totally devoid of some truly dirty jams.

To update you on our scoring metric, here are the categories each by which each dunk will be measured.

Category 1: How difficult/impressive was the dunk? (0-20)

Category 2: What did the dunker do immediately afterward? (0-20)

Category 3: How hard did the defender try to stop it? (0-20)

Category 4: Is there a backstory between the dunker and the dunkee? (0-15)

Category 5: Did the ball go straight through the rim or did it rattle around a little? (0-5)

Category 6: How did everyone not immediately involved react? (0-20)

And for our first disrespectful dunk, let me call on the current dunk god on Mizzou’s campus, one Aidan Shaw.

Category 1: How difficult/impressive was the dunk? (0-20)

There’s nothing wrong with easing into things as we’re reconfiguring the Disrespect Index. Yes, this is an alley-oop, so there’s always the possibility something could go wrong. But this is about as textbook as it gets at the college level.

Look at the defeat in the trailer’s posture, he knows something unholy is coming

East delivers a pitch-and-catch ball to Shaw, whose runway is as clear as a red-eye flight. Cleared for takeoff! 9/20

  • Category 2: What did the dunker do immediately afterward? (0-20)

Shaw hasn’t perfect the art of the dunk celebration yet, but in time he’ll learn. I don’t think Dennis Gates is the type of coach who allows for real showmanship, but something tells me Shaw is holding back some “Brazil at the World Cup” level moves for the real hammers.

It’s never fun to get a face full of ass on the court

In this case, Shaw chooses to hang around the rim for a while — which is a risk considering how quick college refs can be with the techs — and manages to loiter long enough to give the SEMO defender a whiff of sweaty cheeks. Thanks for coming, Redhawks. 11/20

  • Category 3: How hard did the defender try to stop it? (0-20)

It’s hard to miss on this category. Either the guy gives it his all and gets ceremoniously baptized or he packs his briefcase and says, “Thanks for coming!” It’s the latter here.

Look at where the closest defender stands when Shaw starts his leap...

Still deciding...

And look at where he stands as Shaw sends the ball home.

Mans has taken a single step. He doesn’t want the smoke.

Look, you have to respect when a man makes a business decision. He likely wants to start a family someday, and that’s the type of thing that’s hard to explain to your kids. 9/20

  • Category 4: Is there a backstory between the dunker and the dunkee? (0-15)

I can’t imagine so. The defender is Aquan Smart, formerly of the Maryland and Florida International programs. He’s an Evanston, Illinois, native and I can’t see where he and Shaw would’ve crossed paths. No, sir, this is just a case of wrong-place-wrong-time for Mr. Smart. Of course, when you choose to go to SEMO, you always run the risk of getting embarrassed by your big brother so... 5/15

  • Category 5: Did the ball go straight through the rim or did it rattle around a little? (0-5)

Very clean entry. It’s not a perfect swoosh, but the ball slips cleanly through. 4/5

  • Category 6: How did everyone not immediately involved react? (0-20)

Thank god for basketball fans. Truly.

If you’ll recall, a lot of this category is left up to the camera person to capture the best reactions, but college basketball often makes it easy. Put a bunch of weirdo college kids in a loud stadium environment and you’re bound to get some good reactions.

Laser Eyes Dennis Gates, the way he always wanted to be portrayed, I’m sure

Your eyes will be drawn to the posters, and yeah they’re alright. The Tiger King bit is a sort of tired, but the laser eyes Dennis Gates wins some points. I’m more interested, however, in the plaid-shirted brother in the bottom right corner. If you go back and watch the video, I believe he’s having some sort of tonic seizure, completely freezing at the completion of Shaw’s furious oop. I fear for his safety once the Tigers start breaking out the real dunkaroos. 18/20

Aidan Shaw’s dunk was 56 percent disrespectful to SEMO.

Superlatives and Awards

Most Likely to Drop Basketball and Form an Angler Team: Noah Carter and Tre Gomillion, fishing guys? Hey, they fit right in in mid-Mo!

They’ll need to bump the weight on those catches, though.

Best Hair: According to Dennis Gates, it’s a tie between Noah Carter and Ben Sternberg, with Sean East coming in third.

I suppose this could also double as, “Smoothest Answers,” on Dennis Gates’ part? Smooth answers for a smooth head, right coach?

Most Improved Player: God, did any of us see this coming from D’Moi Hodge?

My guy is turning into the second coming of Marcus Denmon.

Most Time on His Hands: Jeff Goodman

Damn, man, sorry UNC isn’t any good, maybe you can work through it in therapy?