At the end of each Revue season (at least the regular season) I’ve always made a point of thanking those who read this silly, stupid column week in and week out.
When Sam came to me late in 2022 and asked if I’d be willing to translate The Revue over to hoops, I was more than a bit nervous. I’ve struggled to keep it feeling fresh over the course of a 12 game football season, so how much more is a 30+ game basketball season going to stretch me? As it turns out, quite a bit, but only in the best ways. I’ve been able to write about Kick Ass, Game Night and more than one Star Wars movie, none of which I ever thought would broach my subject matter when I was first hired at Rock M.
That anyone reads this is still bewildering to me, but it is also humbling. I’m not kidding myself. This isn’t a life-changing piece of work that drops every Tuesday. At best, it’s a fun distraction. At worst, it’s an irritant. But it’s almost always fun, and that’s about all you can ask for when you write about sports. So thanks to those who let me keep having fun at my job. I wish I could buy you a beer or give you a kiss on the forehead. With consent, of course.
“This season bout to be a movie,” said every college athlete on Twitter ever.
The concept of sports narratives having “storybook endings” or “Hollywood potential” is one of my least favorite cliches to ever enter the sporting zeitgeist. Do you know how common it is to have a team lose its best player and overcome the odds to “go all the way”? To watch a team that no one picked as a contender to ride a wave of destiny to the shores of a championship? To see a no-name depth guy become a star? These sort of stories are commonplace, even if they’re often exceptions that prove rules rather than the other way around. Not everything has to be a movie. Sometimes it’s OK to just be a good sports team.
That doesn’t mean we aren’t still captivated by these stories, though. There’s a reason sports movies are an integral thread in the fabric of Hollywood storytelling. They perform well with audiences because, surprise surprise, everyone loves an underdog or a comeback or a triumphant return to glory. It’s why everyone seems to have their favorite sports movie despite the fact that most of them are about the same in terms of story construction and quality. Each story hits us, as sports lovers, in different parts of our shared memory.
I’m not going to say Mizzou’s 2022-2023 season was “a movie.” Mizzou isn’t, by all logic, headed toward a true storybook ending. March Madness, while one of our great arenas for the unexpected, is always pretty chalk in the end. And the chalk doesn’t include Mizzou near the upper echelons of college basketball greatness, at least not this year.
But there are elements of this season that run through every great sports movie, particularly the first half of every great sports movie. A new leader comes to town. He brings some of his guys and maybe gets one or two of the old guys to buy in. They deal with the outside noise by blocking it out and focusing on each other. They start well and generate interest. They have a few bumps in the road and learn from them...
Where it goes from there is usually where we see the storybook take over. The team wins a championship. The apprentice beats his master. Et cetera, et cetera and into infinity.
To be honest, you could pick whatever sports movie you wanted to associate with this year’s Mizzou basketball team and it would kind of work. Sure, you may have to squint hard in a few areas. But the work Dennis Gates is doing is foundational enough that, at some point, it ends in glory. To what degree of glory, we’ve yet to see. But he’s off to a good start, and that’s all you can ask at this point.
★★★★★ for the regular season, ★★★★★ for your favorite sports movie or the one you first thought of after this prompt
Reflecting back on the past decade of Mizzou Basketball, and I have to ask a question that I truthfully don’t think is that difficult...
Is this the most fun team Mizzou has had in the past 10 years?
Cuonzo Martin’s two tournament teams were scrappers, not always plying their trade in the most aesthetically-appealing ways. Frank Haith’s final teams were maddening, individual moments of brilliance highlighted by long swaths of fractured, mediocre play. Kim Anderson’s teams tried their best.
Dennis Gates, however, has not only immediately turned the tides of Mizzou’s win-loss record, he’s made basketball cool in Columbia again. Sure, putting teams in a headlock and grinding out a 63-59 win is effective, but have you ever seen consecutive steals lead to back-to-back dagger threes. Sure, watching Jordan Clarkson ISO a future banker was a neat memory, but when’s the last time you watched your team hit a 30-foot buzzer beater in Knoxville? How appealing is it to watch the opponent’s brows sweat with the constant pressure of knowing Mizzou could force a turnover at the slightest lapse.
Perhaps by the time Mizzou’s March journey comes to an end, we can have the debate about whether or not there have been better Tiger teams over the past 10 years. The debate on which team was the most fun, however, has been settled.
For bringing the fun back to CoMo college hoops, Dennis Gates gets 5 out of 5 containers of Tiger Stripe ice cream
Disrespectful Dunk Index
After a season’s worth of chicanery, who would’ve guessed I would end the regular season with an actual dunk on the Dunk Index?
It’s been an up and down season for Mizzou’s most fearsome dunkers. Aidan Shaw’s time in the rotation has fluxed back and forth. Kobe Brown has become a three-point shooter. D’Moi Hodge’s fearsome tomahawks got a bit stale after a while.
But we’ve always known Shaw is capable of delivering some true beauties. And he saved one of his best for last.
If at first you don't succeed, try, try again!@TheAidanShaw #MIZ pic.twitter.com/0jABJQ43Rc— Mizzou Hoops (@MizzouHoops) March 4, 2023
- Category 1: How difficult/impressive was the dunk? (0-20)
I don’t know that it’s the most difficult dunk Shaw has put down this season, but it’s definitely one of the ones he’s had to work harder for. Nick Honor can only throw you so many crisp lobs after all.
I love the way Shaw anticipates this from the moment Carter goes up for the put-back layup. There are three Rebel defenders in his way, but he expertly navigates the space and catches them all by surprise.
I also think it’s noteworthy that Shaw didn’t exactly get a full running start into this one. In fact, he leaves flat-footed from just outside the circle, a leap of exciting proportions once you consider how much spring he could put in his step with another offseason in the gym.
Aidan’s hardest dunk of the year? Certainly not. One of his more impressive dunks of the year? Certainly.
- Category 2: What did the dunker do immediately afterward? (0-20)
Aidan Shaw represents the best hope of exciting dunkers that Mizzou has had in years. He’s springy, he’s intelligent, he’s sure-handed and he loves throwing it down.
I love that Shaw was releasing his scream as he went up into the hoop, like he’s Goku charging up his Kamehameha to unleash on the backboard.
I also like that James White (more on him below) is transfixed by Aidan Shaw’s majesty. Look at that man. He’s seeing god for the first time.
- Category 3: How hard did the defender try to stop it? (0-20)
You may fool some, James White, but you don’t fool me. I see you twisting your body to avoid the wrath Aidan Shaw is about to inflict on this rim. I see the fear in your eyes, as depicted by the picture under Category 2. I see the way you put your hands in the air and realized you weren’t cut out for this as soon as your feet left the ground.
I see your effort. I even applaud it. But I can never respect it. And neither did Aidan Shaw.
- Category 4: Is there backstory between the dunker and the dunkee? (0-15)
Did James White insult Aidan Shaw at some point prior to this moment? Do they have a secret past as rivals or pen-pals-turned-mortal-enemies that would infuse this moment with the choicest of drama?
I can’t say. Because I don’t think it exists.
- 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)
It’s a pretty standard, enthralled reaction from the players on the court and the fans in the stands. That it came in the middle of the first half against a poor Ole Miss team once again reminds me of how great fan support has been this year.
I did want to highlight, however, this weird little guy in the student section.
I have to say, the tight tank top and too-big Tiger ears made me think this dude was dressed up as a baby for some reason. And when I first saw him, I audibly laughed. He’s not dressed as a baby, but I like to think that’s what he was going for. And the thought of a Benjamin-Button-like baby celebrating an Aidan Shaw put back dunk is very funny to me and will earn max points. (Editor’s note: Did he draw stick figure hoopers on his tiny tank?)
Aidan Shaw’s putback dunk was 76 percent disrespectful to James White and Ole Miss.
Superlatives and Awards
For the final Revue of the regular season, we’ll forego the jokes and I’ll give you my 1-2-3 MVP ballot for the season.
1. Kobe Brown
You mean the First Team All-SEC selection is your pick for Mizzou MVP, Josh? Damn, you’re so countercultural. Tell me, do you also think Dennis Gates should’ve gotten more consideration for SEC Coach of the Year, too?
Hey, invented expression of my dissociated self, sometimes the obvious choice is obvious for a reason.
Kobe Brown was Mizzou’s rock in 2022-2023, riding his usual sturdiness around the basket and a renewed prowess behind the arc to 15.9 points per game. And on a rebound starved team, Brown was the force underneath, averaging 6.2 per contest as well.
More anecdotally, however, Brown seemed a more dominant presence in his first season under Gates. He almost always made the shot that brought Mizzou back from the brink or put the knife in the other team’s throat. He stopped opponent scoring streaks with muscle-bound drives to the lane and flummoxed opposing defenders with pick-and-pop threes. He was a monster anywhere and everywhere on the court this season. To think what he could accomplish if he came back for another season would be almost be unfair to the heights he achieved in year four as a Tiger.
2. D’Moi Hodge
Of course, one of the reasons Kobe Brown was free to become the dude he became was the presence of another dude. Exploding out of the transfer portal by way of Cleveland State, D’Moi Hodge’s monster season in the SEC freed up Brown and others to do what they did best... because no one could do quite what Hodge could do.
Despite setting the new Missouri single-season steals record with a full game to spare and leading the team in blocks as a 6’3” scoring guard, Hodge was somewhat bewilderingly left off the All-SEC Defensive Team. Perhaps Mizzou’s overall lack of defensive success made him suffer, because there’s no denying that Hodge was often the engine for Mizzou’s turnover-happy defense and transition-hungry offense.
And if that wasn’t enough, Hodge offered Mizzou the most consistent scoring threat outside of Kobe Brown. Second on the team with 14.8 points per game, Hodge’s numbers were only kept down by way of an arctic cold streak in the middle of the season. Without it, He may well have challenged Brown for the Tigers’ scoring title. Nevertheless, he was the identity of a Top 25 team built on effort and thievery. Not bad for a mid-major transfer.
3. Nick Honor
He may be finishing lower on this list than Hodge, but I think there may be more of a case for Nick Honor to be the overall team MVP than Hodge. After all, Honor brought Dennis Gates something Mizzou hadn’t had for a long, long time: stability.
Not since Phil Pressey has Mizzou had such a rock at the point guard position. Sure, Dru Smith was more of an assist wizard, but his team’s reliance on him as a scorer caused his distribution to lapse at times. Honor, not often the one to lead Mizzou on the stat sheet, could settle back into his crucial role as the guy that made Missouri’s lethal offense tick. That he was the team’s second-best three-point shooter and had one of the season’s best moments on his ledger doesn’t hurt his case either.