It is very clear what the motive behind Mizzou Women’s Basketball’s non-conference schedule is— battle testing. The non-conference slate consists of 13 games, including four of those games being against teams that featured in the 2022 NCAA D1 Women’s Basketball Tournament.
Head Coach Robin Pingeton’s team crumbled after a very promising start in the 2021-22 season, largely due to her team’s inability to handle the rigor of conference play. Let’s take a gander at the pre-season slate Pingeton has planned for her team this season, and which of these games will test her team the most.
I’ll start by dividing the non-conference slate into three sections: the pre-invitational, the invitational, and the post-invitational sections.
Looking at the beginning portion of the schedule, the Tigers open on the road with Missouri State, and then have four home games against Bradley, SEMO, Western Kentucky, and UT-Martin, respectively.
Of these games, Missouri State stands out the hardest as they are the only tournament team here, and are the only team the Tigers played last year when they took a 79-51 shellacking. However, each of the Lady Bears’ top five scorers were seniors last year, so there are a lot of holes to fill for this team that will be filled with inexperience. Because of this, I wouldn’t really be surprised if the Tigers came out with a win in that matchup. The rest of this slate seems to be purely for tune-up purposes, so I reckon the Tigers will come out of it either 4-1 or 5-0.
In the next section of the schedule, the Tigers face Wake Forest and Virginia Tech in The Bahamas, with a little tune up against Saint Louis before they play UMass and Arizona State in Tempe. I said in the roundtable that Wake Forest shouldn’t be too hard of a matchup, but Virginia Tech is almost a guaranteed loss as they were a tournament team a year ago that only got better over the offseason with transfers. If the Tigers can pull off a win against Virginia Tech, it would truly be a miracle because that team looks insanely promising this year.
Saint Louis should be a good game for the Tigers after that likely loss to Virginia Tech, and then the schedule doesn’t get any easier with UMass. The Minutewomen were a 12-seed in the tournament last year and most, if not all, of that roster returns, and they look poised to make a tournament run this year. To finish off the invitational portion, the Tigers play Arizona State, who struggled to a 12-14 record last year and did not make the postseason. I think the Tigers go anywhere from 2-3 to 4-1 in this portion of the schedule, but the chance they finish this portion 5-0 is very unlikely. They’d have to take down two very talented basketball teams in the process.
In the final section of the non-con, the Tigers will play all three games at Mizzou Arena, where they will take on Nebraska-Omaha, Jackson State and Illinois, respectively. Of this trio, Nebraska-Omaha and Illinois both struggled mightily last year and I fully expect Coach Pingeton’s team to have no problems with either. Jackson State, however, is a bit of a wildcard considering they were undefeated in the SWAC last year and almost upset #3 LSU in the NCAA Tournament. Additionally, the Tigers only graduated four seniors, so they return most of the roster. I expect Jackson State to give the Tigers some problems, but I would not be surprised if Mizzou pulls that one out. I think anything less than 2-1 here presents some serious issues within the Tigers’ program, but I also think they can definitely go 3-0.
All in all, my prediction for the non-conference slate is that the Tigers struggle with all the tournament teams they play and finish 9-4 heading into SEC play, but I would not be surprised if Coach Pingeton’s team can muster up some magic as they have done many times in the past and finish 10-3 or even 11-2 before SEC play.