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The Revue: Dennis Gates defying the odds with these upstart Tigers

Mizzou now has a puncher’s (ha!) chance at reaching the Big Dance after Dennis Gates’ improbable makeover.

I’m not even going to try and be clever. I’m just going to enjoy it.

Mizzou is ranked for the first time in two years. Just sit back. Relax. And...

Ah, OK fine. I guess we can’t have nice things at The Revue.

I suppose I understand how some analysts may feel when it comes to evaluating Missouri. What Dennis Gates is doing sort of defies the odds (see below for more!), especially when you consider the sources of talent for this team. A group of mid-major and JUCO transfers and some Power Six veterans aren’t supposed to gel this quickly. They’re not supposed to drop the hammer on an Illinois team with two Top 10 wins or race Kentucky out of town to open conference play. It must be something Illinois and Kentucky are doing wrong. And UCF. And Wichita State. And whomever else Mizzou beats next (whether or not it’s Arkansas in Fayetteville).

At some point, don’t you just need to call a spade a spade? Mizzou has played 13 basketball games this season, won 12 and won comfortably in nine, including two against Top 25 competition. The loss to kU is bad, granted. But given the circumstances — Mizzou’s second opponent with a real pulse all season and the return of the Border War to Columbia — you don’t think there was room for an emotional letdown?

But I get it, I really do. Not everyone can have a consensus view on a team like Missouri. Otherwise they’d be Purdue — or, in a different type of case, Louisville. There needs to be detractors. Last month it was Jeff Goodman, this month it’s Seth Davis. and so on and so on.

But don’t you think there’s a better way of critically engaging with Missouri’s resume than, “dur, maybe the good teams they beat aren’t actually good?” The eye test is such a hackneyed way of judging a team’s performance. I can’t believe folks are still basing their arguments on it alone.

Anyway, Mizzou is ranked whether you wanted them to be or not, Seth.

The Revue

It’s sort of hard to describe just how much Dennis Gates is defying the odds in his first year at Missouri. Not statistically speaking, no. You think I’m trying to do math in this column?

The anecdote about Dennis Gates rebuilding Cleveland State’s roster on the fly was a lovely little apertif for all the scribes’ stories when he was hired earlier this year. Ah yes, quite good quite good, Dennis Gates threw a team together at the last minute and they ended up winning the Horizon League. The thing you may not remember about that story, though, is that Cleveland State was cheeks (as in the ones attached to your backside) in Gates’ first year. The Vikings finished that season 11-21, a miserable finish in a lower mid-major conference.

I somewhat suspected we were headed for a finish quite like that, but here’s the catch: Gates has already won more games in his first season at Missouri — taking a somewhat similar roster building approach — than he did doing so in Cleveland. I’d say the odds are defied.

It’s hard to compare what Missouri is doing to a sports movie because, ultimately, almost all sports movies are about defying the odds. Can Ray Kinsella build it, and will they come? Can Roy McAvoy qualify for the US Open? Can Crash Davis really land Annie Savoy? Ultimately, though, I’ve thought a lot about Rocky watching this Missouri team. Despite their nitrous-infused pace, they’re not a flashy team. They show up, they punch the clock, they go home. After years of getting pushed around, this unit seems to share the common goal of not just winning, but showing that they belong. There’s a greater sense of purpose than that of teams like Illinois or Kentucky, teams with better pedigrees and a lot more disfunction. And even when they’re thrown a haymaker, they get up and throw one back.

Still, I can’t in good conscience choose Rocky as the movie here, partially because of the racial politics of Rocky’s first (and third) movies and partially because I don’t like it as much as I like Creed, Ryan Coogler’s kickass Rocky sequel. In it, you get three legends — the Italian Stallion, Apollo Creed and Michael B. Jordan — for the price of one lip busting heavyweight that pays homage to and improves upon its ancestor series.

And in a way, isn’t that what Dennis Gates’ team is doing, just for Mizzou basketball? They’ve got the grit of Cuonzo Martin’s teams, the speed and cohesion of Mike Anderson’s teams, the exciting talent of Frank Haith’s teams, the hellfire energy of Quin Snyder’s teams and the... color palette of Kim Anderson’s teams.

Plus, I’m willing to Photoshop Dennis Gates onto Apollo Creed.

★★★★★ for that yet another blue-chip ass whooping, ★★★★☆ for Creed, which I’d give another star if it didn’t feel so tightly bound to its own genre conventions

Watchability Meter

How do you celebrate New Year’s Eve? Fireworks? Party poppers? Flowing booze and apps? A quiet night in with the partner?

I have young kids, so we celebrate New Year’s Eve whenever the first videos from Japan or Australia pop up on YouTube. December 31 this year was an unholy symphony of noisemakers blaring at 3 pm while Australian rave music played over my speakers. I think a part of my brain died that day.

One thing I’ve learned to appreciate, however, are garish New Year’s Eve decorations. There’s a simple beauty in them in the way they’re cheaply mass produced, yet hold value for 365 days a year, 366 if you happen to keep them around during a leap year.

Don’t get what I mean? Pop on one of those party hats come Halloween time? Boom, easy costume — you’re you from 10 months in the past. Guaranteed to get at least three laughs. Throw down those paper “Happy New Year” plates on January 22? Look at you celebrating Chinese New Year, how culturally sensitive and adventurous of you. Try on one of those glittery 2023 tiaras while you’re out grocery shopping? Congrats, no one will want to stand within 10 feet of you. You’ve created a COVID-free bubble.

In honor of these magnificent and surprisingly versatile decorations, I’m awarding Mizzou’s latest game a score of five out of five 2023 glitter glasses.

This part of the column is so easy when Mizzou is rolling.

Guaranteed to make your NYE pictures 10x cuter

Disrespectful Dunk Index

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

By letter of the law, a breakaway dunk can’t be all that difficult. But there are some extenuating circumstances to consider here.

Kobe breaks here because he is wise and smart at basketball

When Kobe breaks for the outlet pass, the ball isn’t yet in anyone’s possession. However, he can read that it’s falling toward D’Moi Hodge, who is quick enough to start the break and get it out to Brown, who has a good step on his man and has Chris Livingston caught flat at the free throw line. So far, so good.

Hodge, however, controls the ball and takes quite a bit of time to get it out. Whether he wanted to control the ball a bit more or see if Brown was even a viable option, he doesn’t float the pass to Kobe for a second or two. By that time, Livingston is in prime position to catch up, with Cason Wallace not far behind. The pass is also a bit soft, slowing Brown’s run.

Ideally you’d get the ball before two guys are closing on you at full speed BUT

The dunk, while still a breakaway, is a bit harder than it looks. And you think I’m not going to give him the benefit of the doubt here?


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

It’s the pastel-yellow sweatered women with both arms in the air that does it for me
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The passion. The hunger. It’s there.

And he got right back on defense. King.


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

Swiper no swiping!

I don’t blame Chris Livingston for going all out in pursuit here. Kobe Brown is a big, strong, skilled dude who doesn’t happen to have the speed to match some of the Wildcats. Having to slow down to receive the pass from Hodge, there’s always the possibility he’d be caught and fumble what would be a very easy two points. At the very least, you can disrupt his rhythm or put him on the line.

Kobe’s too clever for that, though. He just rips the ball away, steps to the hoop and flushes it home.


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

Nothing too specific, though I’m sure Kobe Brown is well aware of what it means to take down Kentucky in SEC play. Brown has already beaten the Wildcats once in his Tiger career, and it no doubt feels pretty good to put one on them as his time in Columbia (probably?) winds down. It could also feel extra special knowing he’s dueling against the SEC’s premiere big man in Oscar Tshiebwe, even if he wasn’t involved on this play.


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

Not only did it go straight through the rim, Kobe ripped it home. He’s never going to pull down a backboard, but my goodness can No. 24 get a violent with the rock


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

Absolutely no crowd or bench shots in the heat of the moment? I went back to watch the replay but it started after the commercial break that directly succeeded this play? Do better, ESPN. I’m not going to go too low since I assume someone did something foolish.


Kobe Brown’s breakaway slam was 71 percent disrespectful to Kentucky.

Superlatives and Awards

“Hansel Award” for The Hottest Right Now: Two weeks, two Player of the Week honors for Kobe Brown.

Oh, and did we mention he also won Player of the Week at ESPN?

In the two [wins over Illinois and Kentucky], he averaged 31.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 3.0 steals, 61.9 FG%, 58.3 3PT%, 87.5 FT%. Brown stuck it out in Columbia through the coaching change from Cuonzo Martin to Dennis Gates, and he’s playing the best basketball of his career.

“Sealy Mattress Award” for Guy You Shouldn’t Sleep On: Let’s not overlook D’Moi Hodge, who continues to lead Missouri in both points and steals per game while ranking third in rebounds as a guard. When Missouri brought a host of transfers in this summer, none of them looked like the killer Hodge has turned out to be.

“Reward Miles Award” for Guy Who’s About to Travel A Lot: I suppose flying to Kansas City or St. Louis doesn’t make a ton of sense, but Chicago might!

Imagine if we invested in trains as a country, tbh. I’d sign up for a reward miles program.

“Her Award” for Most HER: Let’s cap this thing off with a nod of respect toward Hayley Frank, who’s currently leading Missouri to a roaring 13-2 start. I looked up Frank’s stats today and discovered...

1. She’s never shot below 38 percent from three as a Tiger and hasn’t shot below 41 percent since her freshman season.

2. She’s currently about a point above her career-high ppg average while playing three fewer minutes per game.

3. She’s averaging career high averages in steals, blocks and assists (even if rebounds are down a tick, shut up who cares?)

Hayley Frank. Is. HER.

Syndication: Arizona Republic
Pictured: HER