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Mizzou headed to Sacramento, ready to face Utah State

Mizzou Links for March 13, 2023.

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Mizzou’s going dancing in Sacramento!

You didn’t need to be reminded. But because we’ve only had the chance to celebrate it two other times in the past decade, let’s go ahead and be reminded just for the hell of it.

Not only is Mizzou headed to the NCAA Tournament, they’re headed there with a seed above the 8/9 line, the first time that’s happened since the unfortunate events of the 2012 tournament. They’ll face the No. 10 seed in the South Region, the Utah State Aggies.

Utah State ranks No. 18 overall in KenPom’s metrics, and it has a strong résumé to boot. The Aggies have taken down Oral Roberts, Nevada and Boise State (twice), and they just made a run to the Mountain West Tournament title game before falling to one-seeded San Diego State.

They have succeeded behind a potent offensive attack. Utah States makes 38.5% of their 3-pointers, has a 55.6 effective field goal percentage and the nation’s 13th-best adjusted offensive efficiency according to KenPom.

The match up isn’t exactly what you’d call favorable, though it should make for some entertaining basketball. But Mizzou doesn’t have any reason to be intimidated. After all, as Ben Hochman pointed out in yesterday’s Post-Dispatch, they just played the country’s No. 1 overall seed to a tight contest in the SEC Tournament.

Yes, Mizzou lost, 72-61, in the conference semifinals.

But Mizzou was a worthy competitor for basketball’s best. Down two points after the first half, the Tigers led for a bit of the second half. And as late as 4:45 left, the Tigers were down by just six points. Yes, Mizzou lost. But if it was going to lose its last game before the Big Dance, this was the opponent and performance in which to do so.

It’s an important moment for the Tigers, who seem like a program on the rise with Dennis Gates leading the way for the next couple of years at least. The immediate turnaround has been a boon to everything from fan interest and experience to recruiting and was enough to bag Gates a contract extension before his first year on the job fully came to fruition.

But should the “turnaround” talk end now? Vahe Gregorian thinks so.

To make this season not just memorable but significant and something with all the more transformational traction, to wake up the echoes of the once-proud program gone dormant for too long, MU at least must win its first NCAA Tournament game since 2010 — and end its longest drought in NCAA play since the gap between 1944 and 1976...

That past has no bearing on this, of course.

But it’s still a streak that will loom until it doesn’t any more.

I tend to agree with Gregorian, though I don’t know that it’s fair to judge the work Gates has done this season based on whether or not he’s able to win what will essentially be a toss-up game against a very good, very motivated Utah State team on a neutral court. Gates is less than a year into his particular rebuild of the program, and dancing as one of the country’s top 30 seeds is well beyond what many would’ve expected.

So while we all want to see the Tigers become this year’s Cinderella, try to enjoy the moment. And remember the words of Jontay Porter when you’re filling out your brackets.

Yesterday at Rock M

More Links:

  • It was swallowed up in the good feelings of the day, but D’Moi Hodge’s exceptional two games in Nashville were honored by the conference on Sunday!
  • The men aren’t the only team headed to a postseason tournament. The Mizzou Women announced they’ll be accepting a bid to the Women’s National Invitational Tournament.

We’ll find out the Tigers’ opening round opponent and the schedule later today.