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The Revue: Mizzou Hoops struggling to recapture the magic

It’s been a rough few weeks...

Once upon a time, Mason Locke Weems made up a story about young George Washington chopping down a cherry tree, the most famous line of which permeates the mythos of America’s first president so much that it is taught in schools as evidence of Washington’s character. “I cannot tell a lie,” is now, for better or worse, part of the American lexicon. I invoke it now with the utmost gravity befitting our current state as Mizzou Hoops fans.

I cannot tell a lie... this Mizzou Basketball season sucks.

Only Kid Cudi’s moody stoner anthem captures the unimportant existential crisis we’re currently facing as a fanbase. I say “unimportant” because (a) it’s college basketball and (b) the program is probably just fine. It has just been a startling transition to move from “Sweet 16 candidate and national darling” one year to “bubble NIT team” the next.

The Revue

It’s never as good as the first one, right guys?

Sequels, in my opinion, are generally not a good idea.

Sure, there are success stories where revisiting a world is better than the first time around. Aliens and Alien, Terminator 2 and Terminator, Top Gun: Maverick and Top Gun, etc. But when sequels go bad, they go bad. Look no further than The Hangover: Part II.

I’m not going to sit here and say The Hangover is a beacon of cinematic and moral excellence. It makes me (and many others) laugh our asses off, even if some of the material feels unintentionally transgressive. It’s a mind-numbing way to enjoy 96 minutes and be reminded of how transformationally funny Zach Galifinakis is. “Thanks a lot, Bin Laden,” is Mount Rushmore line for me.

Compared to the true abomination that followed, though? The Hangover might as well have been directed by Stanley Kubrick, Francois Truffaut and Akira Kurosawa. The Hangover: Part II is a miserable, laughless slog punctuated by racism and transphobia that feel retrospectively just as out-of-date now as they were unfunny at the time. The Hangover worked because it was a gleeful send-up of cooperative, friendly male stupidity. The sequel is mean-spirited in a way that doesn’t serve anyone but the cast and crew’s bank accounts.

I’m not saying the 2023-2024 Mizzou Basketball season is as heinously joyless as the second Hangover film, but it might be just as much of a slog. Mizzou stumbled its way through the non-conference schedule, but glimpses of an identity were present in a comeback win over Minnesota and a steadfast road performance against Pittsburgh. Hell, at least they didn’t fold within minutes of tipping off against kansas... that’s something even last year’s team couldn’t say.

But the first week or so of the SEC schedule may have been instructive that the passing resemblances to last year were mere blips while a new reality set in. Because as much as last year’s team had an identity, star power and confidence, this team seems to be lacking in all three departments. Not to say that Mizzou’s best guys are are incapable of playing in the SEC or are incohesive — last year’s success says otherwise. But there’s something else missing, something not Kobe-Brown-or-D’Moi-Hodge-shaped about this team. The magic has worn off and now, compared to what came before, we seem destined to ride out a pretty miserable track.

Or at least that’s how it feels now. Maybe there are more laughs, more celebrations to come in the future. There weren’t in The Hangover series, but maybe in Columbia. For now, the dissonance of last year’s highs and this years lows leave us feeling like a little hair of the dog might be necessary to get us through the rough patches.

★☆☆☆☆ for the week of hoops, ☆☆☆☆☆ for The Hangover Part II, a cinematic misfire if there ever was one

Watchability Meter

I’ve watched each of the last two Mizzou Basketball games and, while I wouldn’t characterize Mizzou’s play as technically unwatchable, I think we need to jigger the spectrum a little bit.

No one wants to sit here and read about a team that’s no good or why I, one of the site’s non-basketball writers, think they’re no good. What’s the use or fun in that? If you want to be joyless in your internet scrolling, go to Twitter or CNN.

Instead, we need to think about what would get Mizzou back to being not just watchable, but compelling. Any illusions of postseason grandeur were cast aside weeks ago for many of us, and this season is quickly becoming about avoiding disaster and building for 2024-2025 and the arrival of an elite recruiting class. How do you do this? I’ll tell you how.

Have you ever heard of the movie Space Jam? Of course you have, it’s one of the core cultural documents of the late 1990’s. They should really make a sequel, I think it’d kill!

If you recall near the end of Space Jam — not interested if you haven’t seen it, sorry — the Toon Squad enters their halftime break in need of a real boost. The Monstars are, to put it politely, putting a hurtin’ on them. Michael Jordan tries an inspirational speech about banding with him and taking the fight to the Monstars. But this is Looney Tunes, Michael. The answer is way easier than digging deep and believing.

It’s all about faking it ‘til you make it! I propose that Mizzou doesn’t need to believe in each other any more than they already do or try new defensive schemes or need more production from John Tonje. They need five bottles of Michael’s Secret Stuff. That will be the cure for what ails them. Don’t believe me? Watch the rest of Space Jam and see what happens.

“Wow! Nice deltoids!”

Disrespectful Dunk Index

Everyone please welcome the Disrespectful Dunk Index back to the site!

A pure pilfer job by myself, the DDI was originally invented by the master Shea Serrano and will never therefore be improved upon or matched by me or anyone else who dares to take it on. That being said, it’s still an incredibly fun format to write in.

Those of you who are regular readers will be familiar with how this works, except in basketball we’re limiting ourselves to dunks. You know, the thunderous, splashy, rim-rocking, highly efficient two-pointers that make everyone say “ooh” whether or not their team made it happen.

Here are the categories, cribbed from the original DDI.

  • Category 1: How difficult/impressive was the dunk? (0-20)
  • Category 2: What did the dunker do immediately afterward? (0-20)
  • Category 3: How hard did the defender try to stop it? (0-20)
  • Category 4: Is there a backstory between the dunker and the dunkee? (0-15)
  • 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)

Category 1: How difficult/impressive was the dunk? (0-20)

As I’ll touch on in a second, Silas Demary, Jr. leaves the lane wide open for Aidan Shaw to come flying in for a put-back dunk all over his grill. But I did want to point out that Shaw works hard to get back for this particular slam.

Lesser men would let Sean East II take the breakout...

When the play begins, Shaw isn’t necessarily on the back foot, but he is situated away from the momentum of Sean East, who takes advantage of the turnover Shaw helped create. East streaks down the court to finish the modified break but has trouble finishing the shot. Luckily, Shaw was ready.

... but Aidan Shaw is no lesser man.

Shaw is on cruise control from here. I’m not sure how someone didn’t mark him when he started following the play, but you could’ve seen this dunk coming from half court when Shaw was given this much space to work with. It’s like giving a mouse a cookie: nothing good can come of it! 14/20

Category 2: What did the dunker do immediately afterward? (0-20)

Aidan Shaw, as if befitting many of Dennis Gates’ guys, is too much of a worker to celebrate too hard, but he’s got a bit of hype man in him. He certainly lets out a primal yell after throwing down here, and is joined on the other side of the court by Tamar Bates. It’s nothing flashy, though, and we’d certainly love to see more pointed exuberance. 11/20

Category 3: How hard did the defender try to stop it? (0-20)

I have to give some props to Demary, the four-star freshman out of Charlotte, NC. In his first SEC road game, he was scrapping with Mizzou’s bigs all night, outrebounding all of them except, of course, Aidan Shaw. And he provided some excellent minutes to Georgia’s backcourt! But he’s really out of his depth here. And there’s nothing he can do about it.

Demary does a great job of getting back, but he goes curiously far underneath the basket, leaving a wide open lane for someone to come skyrocketing in and put their hips in his face. Aidan Shaw does just that, skying to the ceiling (his hips are at Demary’s eye level!) and dunking all over the freshman’s glorious crop of hair. Poor guy even tried to contest it! Lesson learned, young man. 17/20

Category 4: Is there a backstory between the dunker and the dunkee? (0-15)

Not necessarily. Shaw had one of his better games as a Tiger, and the game overall was a bit scrappy between the two teams. But I can’t think of anything specific that would’ve led Aidan Shaw to towering over Demary like this. 5/15

Category 5: Did the ball go straight through the rim or did it rattle around a little? (0-5)

5/5

Category 6: How did everyone not immediately involved react? (0-20)

It is my strident belief that a good dunk, like many of life’s more exciting moments, should simultaneously delight and horrify children. The full gamut of emotions should be coursing through a child’s veins in the presence of a truly tremendous dunk, and we have at least some evidence that Shaw’s slam inspired such fervor in these young Mizzou fans.

These kids will remember this more than they remember most Christmases

Alternatively, I have to applaud the camerawork of this broadcast for making sure that Mizzou’s most faithful weirdos were heavily featured in the aftermath of Shaw’s big moment. I don’t know what we have to do to get an “Antlers cam” going, but it seems to be that there should be a fund set up somewhere? Or maybe a permanently installed camera well in Mizzou Arena that only points their way?

Always always ALWAYS put the Antlers on TV

Regardless, some strong reactions from the Mizzou faithful on Saturday. 18/20

Aidan Shaw’s putback dunk was 70 percent disrespectful to Georgia and Silas Demary, Jr.

Superlatives and Awards

Best Prospective NIL Deal

Have you ever used one of those nap rooms in an airport? I have, and it’s like going into the Black Lodge in Twin Peaks. They’re strangely lit, oddly calm and also highly charged with strange energy. I don’t know that I’d ever recommend them unless you were needing a nap in a bad way (like I was.) Nevertheless, we need to get Sean East, he of playing all 40 minutes, a deal with those nap rooms. Maybe we can install one behind the bench that he can hit up during media timeouts? Get my guy some rest!

The Himothy Award for Most “Him” Performance

NCAA Basketball: Georgia at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

While he wasn’t the high-scorer of this game, I’m inclined to give this one to Aidan Shaw for having maybe his best game as a Tiger. Shaw doesn’t need to work overly hard to bag 10-16 points a night. If he puts in the work to become a better rebounder, he could become a double-double machine in his sleep. And that’s not even considering if he improves his touch around the hoop. Imagine...

Best Meme Award

I don’t like to post opponent memes, but this is too good to pass up.