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Missouri’s SEC basketball schedule is set

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The Tigers have a workable slate, as permanent rivals Arkansas, Texas A&M and Ole Miss go through retooling.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Nashville Practice Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

With Missouri confronting a season of transition, the SEC gifted coach Cuonzo Martin’s program a workable slate when it released the league-wide schedule on Tuesday.

In a year in which the SEC will likely tout tremendous depth, half the Tigers’ 18 conference games are against programs that will likely be projected to finish in the bottom half of the standings. The squishy nature of the schedule stems from mass attrition at standing rivals Texas A&M and Arkansas and the start of new coach Kermit Davis’ rebuilding job at Ole Miss, which brought up the rear last season.

Here’s how the docket breaks down.

Missouri — 2018-19 SEC Schedule

Opponent Home Road KenPom Rating Lunardi Projection Returning Production
Opponent Home Road KenPom Rating Lunardi Projection Returning Production
Alabama Yes No 57 First Four Out 75.09%
Arkansas Yes Yes 44 21.62%
Auburn No Yes 23 No. 3 67.92%
Florida No Yes 17 No. 7 66.94%
Georgia No Yes 65 67.24%
Kentucky Yes No 17 No. 2 30.13%
LSU Yes No 66 No. 8 60.97%
Ole Miss Yes Yes 108 58.48%
Mississippi State No Yes 54 No. 7 87.75%
South Carolina Yes Yes 80 66.07%
Tennessee Yes Yes 13 No. 2 87.43%
Texas A&M Yes Yes 29 Next Four Out 38.22%
Vanderbilt Yes No 91 46.86%,

As we stand here in early June, the Tigers are set to face just seven SEC teams projected to make the NCAA tournament, and three of those of tilts will take place in Columbia. So even with a lighter schedule, Missouri could find a way to pick off some quality wins.

While Tennessee returns the bulk of its roster, the Volunteers fell in Columbia last season. And while LSU brings in a top-5 recruiting class and returns point guard Tremont Waters, coach Will Wade still has to demonstrate the talent he’s amassed in Baton Rouge can coalesce in his second season. The same logic applies to Vanderbilt, who also sports a stellar freshman class but saw the bulk of its production exit the program.

While some roster moves could still unfold in the coming months, most SEC programs now know the personnel they’ll have at their disposal and the gauntlet they’ll begin navigating in five months.

For Missouri, which played 10 SEC games against NCAA tournament teams last season, the SEC schedule eases up slightly, but its non-conference schedule could compensate for the shift. Currently, the Tigers are set to face Iowa State (road), Xavier (home), UCF (home), Utah (home) and Illinois (neutral), while also taking part in the Paradise Jam, where, if events break MU’s way, they could face Old Dominion and Kansas State in the later rounds.

All that remains for the program is to fill its remaining five dates on the calendar with buy games against low- and mid-major programs. What merits watching is how aggressive Martin and his staff are in their selections while trying to meet the SEC’s mandate that its members set matchups against foes who own a three-year average RPI better than No. 150.