It feels good that we can look back at this past week of basketball — objectively bad — and have a bit of positive perspective — objectively good — right?
On Saturday morning, I wrote that Mizzou’s response to their Texas A&M loss would tell us a lot about the team, that getting waxed in College Station would feel like an outlier if they could compete and potentially win in Gainesville. They didn’t do the latter but, despite their prolonged Arctic shooting streak, they did hold their own in a tough environment. It doesn’t feel good to lose two consecutive games to teams with worse records, but at the very least Mizzou proved they could hang in a game in which they played pretty poor basketball.
Even a year ago, a week like last week would’ve been destabilizing... that is, if there was any stability to begin with. Consecutive losses have been the norm for Mizzou Hoops for quite some time, and the disappointment we all feel at losing two consecutive road games should be as positive as a sign as it is negative. When expectations change this quickly, the coach is doing something right.
To be fair, maybe those expectations need to be course-corrected ever so slightly. Perhaps Mizzou isn’t the protected seed we might have thought two weeks ago. But perhaps they’re not an NIT team either, and that’s an outcome anyone would’ve taken in November.
The best thing to do is be grateful the disappointment exists at all. Hell, feeling anything about Mizzou Hoops is still a bit startling. And while it doesn’t feel good, it’s something I’d much prefer to the dull resignation that has been the emotional hallmark of this program for the better part of a decade.
On Sunday night, HBO Max debuted its new show The Last of Us, a post-apocalyptic drama based on the popular video game. It’s a revival of the zombie genre, in a way, which got me thinking about all the zombie-related crap we’ve had to sit through for the past decade.
Zombies are objectively uninteresting. They’re easy to kill and easily avoidable. I watched The Walking Dead pretty religiously for a few years before it turned into a full-fledged soap opera, and even it couldn’t avoid overdoing the “humans are the real danger” bit that every single zombie movie, game, TV show, novel, etc., eventually falls into. That’s not necessarily the fault of the individual creators, it’s just that slow, fragile enemies don’t make for compelling antagonists.
One of my least favorite entries in the genre — or at least the subgenres surrounding it — remains The Road, a stunted adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel of the same name that can’t touch the source materials dread-inducing atmosphere. I could write a lot here, just picking the things apart, but it’s just dreadfully boring. I haven’t thought about it in years but thought it might make the perfect comparison point to this past week of Mizzou Hoops.
If Dennis Gates’ first year at Mizzou has been a zombie flick, it’s been 28 Days Later. Have you seen 28 Days Later? Oh, man.
It’s fast. It’s mean. It’s entertaining as hell. It’s everything The Road isn’t and then some. And if the Tigers have been all of those things so far this year, their road trip to Texas and Florida was like a solemn trek through the wasteland of my most boring nightmares. The pace we’ve come to love was stilted, or at least it was sloppy. The precision Gates has taught us to expect was non-existent, the crisp passing and sharp movement replaced by drab spacing and poor isolation ball.
I’d love for Gates to get his crew back to sprinting, foaming at the mouth and terrifying opposing defenses like they were Cillian Murphy in a hospital gown. I think that’s probably what they’d like, too. At the very least, their future missteps can be a little less humdrum. I think we’d all appreciate it.
★☆☆☆☆ for the week of hoops, ★☆☆☆☆ for The Road. I can’t wait to not think about it again.
I think the term “brick” is perhaps the most underrated of all basketball slang.
It only kind of makes sense when you think about it. The idea of shooting a “brick” — which evidently refers to the speed with which the ball falls according to Google — at the backboard is objectively funniest when you consider that a player might shoot the ball with such ferocity that his miss shatters the glass, as a real brick would do.
I sort of wonder if basketball would be a tad more entertaining, or at least more humorous, game if that was the case. Teams would sell out for short range shots at the risk of shattering the glass, but every long-range shot would become a heart-stopping moment. Either you nail the shot or play has to be suspended for 20 minutes while a crew replaces the backboard because of your dumbass decision to heave the ball toward the fragile space. Think about how good some of those highlights would be.
I digress. I’m thinking about bricks so much because Missouri has put on its blue-collar boots and become a proper brick-laying team. Against Texas A&M and Florida, the Tigers shot a combined 38.6 percent from the field, including 24.3 percent from deep. Those numbers aren’t reflective of the way the Tigers have shot or will shoot the ball this season, but it’s sort of funny how much they regressed to the mean last week.
For strapping up and building brick houses in both College Station and Gainesville, Missouri gets 2 out of 5 bricks for last week’s games.
Disrespectful Dunk Index
I’m happy to report that, for the first time all season, we have a poster.
Did it happen in the course of a mostly miserable basketball game? Sure, but that’s part of the fun. When you’re down by nearly 20 points, the other team is not expecting you to crack your neck and go for their throat. A poster dunk down double digits is just as surprising as it is a disrespectful, defiant gesture in the face of defeat.
It’s like in war movies where a guy whose army just lost the battle and is definitely about to die spits on the shoe of the man about to run a sword through his face. He may be meeting his maker, but you still have to wipe spit off your shoes.
D'Moi Hodge dropped the hammer @MizzouHoops pic.twitter.com/qHDiG4KIFq— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) January 12, 2023
It’s been a tough week for Hodge, who finds himself in a bit of shooting funk. But there was no way he was missing this one. He made sure Tyrece Radford didn’t miss it, either. In fact, Radford got a front row seat. Literally.
- Category 1: How difficult/impressive was the dunk? (0-20)
I’m not going to pretend like this was the most technically advanced jam of all time. I mean, my god, did you see what Ja Morant did this past weekend? Compared to that, Hodge’s dunk might as well have come in layup lines.
Doing things in game speed is always a risk though, especially if you’re not known as a prolific dunker. Hodge completely sells out and gets his money’s worth and then some. He also isn’t afraid of the contact from Tyrece Radford, whom he sends south of the border with authority.
- Category 2: What did the dunker do immediately afterward? (0-20)
I can’t be certain of this, but I don’t think D’Moi Hodge has baptized many guys in his career because he honestly looked a little lost afterward. He immediately starts to run back the court before quickly changing direction to guard the baseline. Then, noticing that Radford is leaving the line, Hodge tails and mugs him a little bit before turning back to the task at hand. Points for stopping, practicing mindfulness and making sure Radford knew who the hell bagged him up, but let’s show some more commitment next time, D’Moi!
- Category 3: How hard did the defender try to stop it? (0-20)
All due to respect to Tyrece Radford, this is the definition of the time to make a business decision. You’ve got a freaky athletic player who’s struggling to find his shot with an open lane to the rim and room to leap. This is when you throw on your overcoat, brush off the suit jacket and head home to the wife and kids. But no, you decided to earn some overtime and guess what? You got wasted because of it. Hodge is not a big dude, but he sends Radford toppling here, not in small part because Radford sold out so hard to get the charge. If it means we get to see Mizzou put a few more guys on posters, I’m for it.
- Category 4: Is there a backstory between the dunker and the dunkee? (0-15)
D’Moi Hodge wrote his name in Tyrece Radford’s personal history with this dunk. Radford’s future children will one day lie on a therapist’s sofa and talk about the time they saw this highlight and lost all respect for their father. Hodge might have altered the course of a family tree here.
- Category 5: Did the ball go straight through the rim or did it rattle around a little? (0-5)
Hodge tomahawked that mf’er through the rim. Ball splashed faster than a monsoon.
- Category 6: How did everyone not immediately involved react? (0-20)
Joy of joys, we’ve got some life on the bench! As you can imagine when someone on your team brings one of their opponents to salvation, the entire team rose in admiration. Not one, not two, but three different players or coaches patted their heads (including Kobe Brown, who appeared to be laughing as well — bold when you’re down 19!) and Ben Sternberg, god bless him and his family, simply pointed at Tyrece Radford as he sat against the pads. Gonna circulate a petition to get Benny Buckets teaching a class on sportsmanlike taunting. This team needs it.
D’Moi Hodge’s poster dunk was 84 percent disrespectful to Tyrece Radford and Texas A&M.
Superlatives and Awards
“Ralph Nader Award” for still receiving votes: It was fun while it lasted, y’all. But hey, voters didn’t lose all respect for Mizzou!
Mizzou drops out of the men's basketball AP poll after two losses last week, received three poll points. So, three votes at No. 25 ... or one at No. 24, two at 25 ... or one at No. 23— Dave Matter (@Dave_Matter) January 16, 2023
“ABC Awards” for Always Be ‘Crootin: Kyle Smithpeters, you’ve done it again.
M-I-Z pic.twitter.com/i8nqLfdRde— 1 . (@curtlewis10_) January 16, 2023
Someone get Mr. Smithpeters some coffee.
“Dramamine Award” for person who needs to find their sea legs: Mo Diarra, you’ll figure it out, my man. We’re all rooting for you.