The Missouri Tigers will take on the Utah State Aggies on Thursday, March 16th, in the first round of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. You can find plenty of crack analysis about the game on these electronic pages – things like statistical trends and matchup breakdowns.
But if you’re anything like me, you are beyond nervous for a big game, and so maybe a look at some numerical frivolities and interesting coincidences can help keep you loose. I write about football here for RMN, so I thought I would take a look at some of the key numbers for the ‘22-’23 basketball season, and how they connect with our school’s gridiron program.
Two - Missouri basketball has played two games against Utah State in program history, a home-and-home series that was split in the 1960s. Missouri football has achieved two Heisman Trophy finalists – Paul Christman in 1939 and Chase Daniel in 2007. I’ll let you choose which of these events was more memorable for the school record books.
Four - For The Final Four, AKA the round of the tournament to which Missouri has never advanced, and also the number of football games Missouri has played against Utah State, all in the 1980s, all in Columbia, all Tiger wins. If Mizzou wins on Thursday, at least you have a four-decade-old football game trash talk to fall back on.
Seven - The Tigers are a seven seed, a nice accomplishment for Dennis Gates in his first year at the helm. Drew Lock set the record for touchdown passes by a Missouri Tiger in a game, when he threw for seven scores against Missouri State in 2017. (Seven is also the school record for interceptions thrown in a game, by Paul Christman in 1938. That’s too many, don’t do that again.)
Ten – Mizzou’s offense ranks 10th overall in the country according to KenPom’s efficiency metrics, and ten is also a good number for the Tigers football program. Missouri has played in ten major bowl games, holds a 10-4 advantage over Arkansas in the Battle Line rivalry, and an important Missouri quarterback donned the number ten jersey in the late aughts.
13 – It has been a harrowing 13 years since Missouri last won a game in the NCAA tournament – but at least we can celebrate Mizzou football’s 13 inductees into the College Football Hall of Fame!
16 – For, the Sweet Sixteen, the second round of the tournament which is a benchmark for a successful season for good teams. The Missouri football renaissance of the past two decades can be traced back to star quarterback Brad Smith, who rewrote the school’s record books while rescuing a floundering football program. Brad Smith: number 1 in your hearts, but number 16 in your programs.
20 – Dennis Gates’ team appeared as high as 20 in the AP rankings, landing in that spot twice in January. It might not seem like much – and hopefully higher numbers are ahead for the future of the program – but it is a big accomplishment for a roster that was rebuilt from scratch. Missouri football has had 20 first-round NFL draft picks in school history, most recently defensive end Charles Harris in 2017.
24 - The Tigers won 24 games this season, turning the page on a decade of mediocrity and stagnant offense with an exciting, up-tempo style. This year’s outfit is memorable thanks to their achievements despite low starting expectations. Hallmark wins over Illinois, Kentucky, Iowa State, and Tennessee provided fans with memories that will last a lifetime. Energy is back for Mizzou basketball.
The football team had a similar moment in the fall of 2003 when they broke a 24-year losing streak to Nebraska. Brad Smith dominated the ‘Huskers in the rain, and the crowd roared onto the field and tore down the goalposts before making the pilgrimage to Harpo’s. Gary Pinkel had bigger things coming in the future, just like we hope the basketball program has coming under Dennis Gates. But it all started with 24.
64 - The Mizzou program returns to the field of 64 this year (let’s be honest, there may be 68 teams participating in the postseason draw, but it will always be “the field of 64” to me). Gary Pinkel won 64 conference games – in two different leagues, of course – while patrolling the sidelines for the Missouri Tigers.
86 - Missouri scored 86 points in their road win against the Tennessee Volunteers, which was one of their signature wins of the season. 1986 was the year Truman the Tiger officially debuted in his current look, on September 13th in the opening week of the football season. The opponent? Utah State. And just like we did that fall, let’s go beat the Aggies.