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Mizzou Hoops Continues to Avoid Disaster

The Tigers improved to 14-0 in Quad 2, 3 and 4 games with their victory over LSU, showcasing their ability to prevent woeful losses.

NCAA Basketball: Louisiana State at Missouri Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Marquee victories are exciting, especially when the Missouri Tigers pick off the nation’s No. 12 team in Columbia or defeat a ranked rival on a blistery night in St. Louis.

“We were able to defeat a Top-10 team, a potential 2-seed team, in Iowa State and what happens sometime is human nature allows you to get lax,” Missouri men’s basketball head coach Dennis Gates said following a victory over the LSU Tigers Wednesday.

Perhaps even more impressive though is Mizzou’s ability to avoid deflating defeats, which is becoming quite a pattern in the first season under Gates.

The Tigers improved to an impressive 14-0 in Quadrant 2, 3 and 4 games following the victory over LSU, essentially building upon their early season non-conference success, albeit against a weaker slate of opponents in the early going. Mizzou also ranks No. 44 in the NET rankings.

Only one other Southeastern Conference team—Alabama—features a record without a Quad 2, 3 or 4 blemish. In fact, every SEC team besides the pair showcases at least two defeats of that kind.

Oftentimes, as Gates mentioned after the Wednesday’s victory against LSU, teams can become complacent with winning. Sometimes, the highs of shocking teams like Iowa State or the lows of a 28-point loss to rival kansas leave a negative impact upon the team. That’s not the case with the Tigers, though.

Gates credited the ability to still find things to improve on as well as the player’s accountability for each other as primary motivators for this trend.

“They coach each other as well as allowing our staff to coach them,” Gates said. “I also love the fact that our staff does a great job of debriefing, but also preparing and that’s where games are won and lost as well.”

Through this process, the Tigers have faced only one losing streak, a two-game skid against a Quad 1 duo in January.

“Ultimately, what I see is a team that really knows how to reset,” Gates said.

This kind of success seemed unfathomable to most just a season ago, in which Mizzou produced an uninspiring 149th NET ranking with an 8-8 record in Quad 2, 3 and 4 games, suffering losses to the likes of UMKC, South Carolina and Vanderbilt.

Under Gates, that trajectory has shifted. The Tigers are winning the games they should, stealing a few victories they probably shouldn’t and learning from their 3-5 record in Quad 1 games.

Standout Quad 2 wins against Kentucky and UCF headline this second tier of victories, the former of which may soon become a Quad 1 tally, but it’s the Tigers’ road wins that catch the eye as well.

Ole Miss and Wichita State represent Mizzou’s only other two Quad 2 victories, both on the road against middle-of-the-pack programs. A pair of home victories against Vanderbilt and Penn boast the profile as Quad 3 wins, too.

While over a third—seven to be exact—of Mizzou’s victories have come against Quad 4 opponents, those victories stand out more as the season has progressed.

SIUE, who the Tigers defeated by 25 points, owns a victory over Saint Louis, while Southern Indiana and SEMO are quietly making their pushes toward the top of the Ohio Valley Conference standings.

Beyond all of those stats though stands the fact that Mizzou is a team capable of steering clear of upset losses while also notching those signature victories, which is something that’ll matter much more once the month of March comes around.

“No one is complacent with where they are, but I expect our team to reset and approach (each game) like we’re 0-0,” Gates said.

A Look Ahead

Mizzou will face nine more opponents before the SEC Tournament tips off, limiting the amount of opportunities the Tigers will have to boost their résumé for the NCAA Tournament.

Those matchups will feature three Quad 1 opportunities (@ Mississippi State, @ Tennessee and @ Auburn), each of which will come within the next two weeks.

Outside of those though, the schedule looks like this:

Quad 2 — Home vs Mississippi State and Texas A&M, @ Georgia

Quad 3 — @ LSU and Home vs Ole Miss

Quad 4 — Home and Away against South Carolina

“There’s going to be some tough games in the month of February,” Gates said. “There’s no doubt about it.”

Those tough games begin soon for the Tigers, who will face a hungry Mississippi State program, which may be peaking at the right time following victories over TCU and South Carolina, at 5 p.m. Saturday in Starkville.

A road trip to Knoxville and Auburn follows shortly after, concluding the Quad 1 opportunities but leaving a full slate of potential victories in the headlights for a Tigers’ program that has a chance to finish the season undefeated in Quad 2, 3 and 4 play.