I’m a part-time sports blogger. I know my place in the universe. I do not have god-like jinxing powers. But sometimes it feels like I do.
Just one short week ago, I wrote this:
This team, lovable and fun as they may be, may not be the type of team that takes down teams like Alabama. Kentucky? Sure. Illinois? Of course. A hobbled Arkansas? Definitely! But when it comes to squaring up against the best teams in the country — the Crimson Tides and the (gulp) Jayhawks — maybe they’re a bit overmatched.
That’s not to say they can never beat those squads! Put a good team on a neutral court and anything can happen. But on an average night, Mizzou may be closer to program battling for an 8-or-9 seed than the 6-or-7 seed they appeared to be a few weeks ago.
Just by nature of writing these words I fear that I may be swinging the fated pendulum the other direction. And maybe Mizzou does end up on the 8-9 line or straddle the bubble for the rest of the season. I truthfully don’t know.
But the Tigers’ win over Iowa State on Saturday — or should I say, their clinical dissection of one of the country’s best and hottest teams — felt like a turning of the page. It felt like a team announcing themselves, not necessarily as a title contender, but as a team that no one should want a part of come March. Because it seems like, barring a late season collapse, they’ll be there come March.
And what a remarkable achievement it would (will?) be. Dennis Gates’ roster is made primarily of mid-major transfers. The only Power Six regulars are Kobe Brown and the recently displaced Ronnie DeGray III. The team didn’t feature its mostly purely talented player for over half of the season.
And yet here they are, fighting for a top four spot in their conference and approaching 20 wins for only the third time in the past decade.
There’s still plenty of basketball to be played in the months of February and March. Mizzou’s status could fluctuate based on how they’re shooting the ball and how well they’re generating those extra turnover-based possessions.
But for the first time all season, it now feels like a given that they’re one of the country’s “real” teams. That they’ll be in every game from here until the end. That they’re no longer a write-in win or a walk in the park for even the best teams in the country.
Should I say it again? What a remarkable achievement.
Are we straining credibility with this one? Brother, since when has The Revue ever been credible?
All weekend I’ve been thinking of a way to sum up Mizzou’s most recent week of hoops — dynamic, uncomplicated and fun as all get out — through the lens of a movie. And weirdly enough it’s been pretty difficult. Not too many movies these days are uncomplicated by some form of artistic or sociological expression. So I had to reach deep into the bag, back to 2010 when the superhero genre was still churning toward its full power.
Did anybody here ever see Matthew Vaughn’s Kick-Ass? I remember my first watch of it so clearly. I didn’t have words for it then, but “regressive” seems appropriate at this point in time. It was mean and cynical and inappropriate and... fun? I remember watching it over and over again to the point of tuning out the story and just soaking in the vibes. It was very “late teenage white boy” type behavior.
Revisiting it now, Kick-Ass definitely still feels regressive, though not always in the best way. But the feeling of uncomplicated fun still exists. Nicholas Cage is here riffing on his own persona in a way less obvious way than he would in last year’s The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent and Chloe Grace-Moretz is out here making Joe Pesci blush. The action scenes are propulsive, the needle drops are hyperactive and the vibe is Crayola-colored chaos.
When I think back on the past week of Mizzou Hoops, that’s what I think about. For so long, any positivity around the Mizzou program has been tinged in some darker omen or foreboding plot point (e.g. the COVID-19 team was plagued by “what ifs” when it came to roster construction and the Frank Haith years were overshadowed by Haith’s NCAA case).
But going to Oxford and pounding on the Rebels before returning home to waste the country’s most in-form team? Getting firmly back on the right side of the NCAA Tournament bubble and possible locking in a spot if you can hold serve? That’s good old-fashioned fun, folks. Nevermind that the defense still struggles to hold up over the course of a full game. Nevermind that the three-point shooting can’t continue to be that good.
Fun is fun, even when there’s nothing deeper to behold.
★★★★★ for the week of hoops, ★★★☆☆ for Kick-Ass, which hasn’t aged super well but is still a great example of early superhero satire nevertheless
Listen, I’ve got nothing against Iowa State. In fact, I’ve always found them to be an easy team to root for. But I deeply love when Mizzou gets to kick a Big XII team’s ass. The constant perception of Mizzou as “not SEC” is hilariously asinine for a number of reasons, most of which being that almost no teams get to claim conference purity at this point. Conference fluidity has been around for a long time in college sports, and acting like teams don’t belong because of geographical or cultural boundaries is, frankly, dumb as hell.
It feels good when Mizzou gets to whomp a former Big XII colleague, not only because it pisses off Big XII loyalists who still cast blame on Mizzou for the instability of the conference, but also because it does cast a firm line between the Tigers and their former home division. There’s nothing SEC loyalists love more than proving their own superiority, and what better way to align with that belief than by knocking around one of your old sparring partners wearing the new crest?
On top of that, it felt good to watch Mizzou play an exciting brand of basketball again. Going up against the Cyclones, one of the nation’s premiere defensive units, the Tigers lit the roof on fire with their tremendously hot shooting and suffocated TJ Otzelberger’s offense with lots and lots and lots of turnovers. It was the Mizzou team we’ve come to love clicking at full speed after a few weeks of bumpy roads. And when they’re humming along, they’re a sight to behold.
Oh, I should add that I have everything against Ole Miss. See you in March, losers.
For bringing the basketball back up to standards, Mizzou gets 5 out of 5 framed pictures of Kim English holding the Big XII tournament trophy
Disrespectful Dunk Index
Last week wasn’t exactly a banner week for all things dunk. But that’s how the cookie crumbles sometimes, especially when the team you follow lives and dies by the three-pointer. So when they shoot a combined 50 percent from behind the arc in a week, you’re probably not going to spend a whole lot of time parsing through the different dunks they made room for.
However, we do have a new entrant to the DDI that I need to formally recognize this week. Mo Diarra may have seemed like one of the most obviously fearsome dunkers at the beginning of the season given his large stature and athleticism. But he’s been consigned to a bench role for much of the season, meaning he’s not seeing a lot of time in the paint. He’s coming on strong in the last few weeks, though, and against Iowa State he finally got to flush one home.
- Category 1: How difficult/impressive was the dunk? (0-20)
Is it just me, or has Mizzou cornered the market on breakaway dunks that are interrupted by poor passes? I feel like I’ve already written about a handful of slams this year that could’ve been ever sweeter had it not been for a low pass or a mishandle that disrupted the player’s flow. Soaring tomahawks ending become forceful two-handers and look, I’m not going to complain because a dunk’s a dunk, but we have to get more organized here, folks.
Anyway, the overall difficulty of this dunk rises significantly given that D’Moi Hodge fires a pass into Mo Diarra’s shoelaces. Diarra, taller than most human beings on the planet, has to reach into a lower level of the atmosphere to grab the ball before rising back up to full height to complete the slam.
All in all, not the most impressive dunk in the world. But credit to Diarra for making what he could out of it and still delivering a dunk with some juice.
- Category 2: What did the dunker do immediately afterward? (0-20)
Look, I’m not going to sit here and pretend that Mo Diarra flexed on the Cyclones or stared down the bench or even did some sort of wildin’ out celebration after this pretty cut-and-dry dunk. But he did, when faced with the direct proximity of Iowa State’s Tre King, give the guy a healthy shove in the chest. By letter of the law, that’s pure, uncut disrespect and we have to reward it. I’m sorry, I don’t make the rules.
- Category 3: How hard did the defender try to stop it? (0-20)
Would you try to get in the way of a 6’10”, 215 pound Frenchman with a free lane to the hoop? I wouldn’t either!
- Category 4: Is there a backstory between the dunker and the dunkee? (0-15)
I don’t know that Mo Diarra has anything against any of the Iowa State players, but I have to imagine he’s still feeling a little bit of the sting from the Associated Press insane dunk on French people all over the world. Perhaps he was imagining the rim was the collective spirit of AP social media interns? I’d buy it!
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)
I have to give props to two specific people for this play, which didn’t get a fair crowd reaction shot given the flow of play. The first of those is Tre Gomillion who, in his injury absence, has become the bench general that Dennis Gates has been molding him to become. You can tell he misses the court by the fact that he keeps trying to run onto it.
The second is this male cheerleader who is already in the air before Diarra even comes down from the rim. In my experience, college cheerleaders are purely reactive, merely getting into the rhythm of the crowd when the game state demands it or, in some cases, dictates that someone get the crowd energized. You don’t see many cheerleaders (especially at Mizzou, unfortunately) genuinely getting into the game.
But this guy? This guy is living and breathing Mizzou Hoops. He was ready to jump through the roof on this Diarra dunk. That gets me more fired up than any coordinated cheer ever could. No offense.
Mo Diarra’s dunk was 60 percent disrespectful to Iowa State.
Superlatives and Awards
Dedicating this space to Comeback Player of the Year, which we won’t reward until the end of the season. Let’s talk about this, because we’ve got options...
After the much-publicized commitment of Mosley, I don’t think anyone could’ve told you he’d be a top contender for this award. But here he is, emerging like a phoenix after missing most of the first half of the season due to personal issues. Mosley has almost immediately changed the dynamic of the team, making them a much more dangerous team in the half court and freeing up Kobe Brown from primary offensive responsibility. The former Rock Bridge Bruin may cruise to this award by default if you don’t think he’s ineligible in the first place.
One of the more celebrated members of Dennis Gates’ first recruiting class, the former No. 1 JUCO recruit spent much of the non-conference warming the bench. Perhaps he needed some time to settle in, because he’s been an integral part of Mizzou’s recent surge. Diarra has played double-digit minutes in three of the last four match ups, scoring 11 and grabbing six boards in Mizzou’s road win over Ole Miss. The jury’s still out on how much he’ll contribute for the rest of the year, but he’s gone from “benchwarmer” to “key contributor” very quickly.
Sean East II
This nomination has less to do with his role on this team and more to do with his comeback to Division I basketball overall. After flaming out at both UMass and Bradley, East’s emergence as Mizzou’s second-string point guard and bench spark plug has been a surprising development. East’s counting stats have taken a hit in Columbia, but he’s shooting the highest field goal percentage and turning the ball over less than any point in his career — all while playing in the most athletic (and arguably the most competitive) conference in college basketball.
It’s Mosley by a mile.