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In order to move up, you have to first figure out who is ahead of you

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or the alternate title... “why can Missouri not seem to beat freaking Ole Miss?”

NCAA Basketball: Missouri at Mississippi Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

Last week we spent some time talking about how Mizzou rolled into the SEC and basically failed to meet fan expectations, to put it mildly. But perhaps the more surprising revelation of the research was how fluid the league has been from top to bottom. While Missouri has failed to meet its own fans expectations... realistically so has the rest of the league in one way or another.

Remember this brutish chart from last week?

When it comes to best league finishes, this tells a part of the story. It doesn’t tell the full story for each program, much less Missouri. Because finishing in the top four of the league is certainly a goal you can set. But there are others which also help define a program (and others the program has largely failed to achieve over the years). But what are those things, you ask?

  • NCAA tournaments and success in the NCAA Tournament
  • Wins against ranked teams
  • Protecting home court and success on the road

Things along those lines. The more boxes you can tick off, the more likely you are meeting or surpassing the lofty fan expectations. So let’s look at Missouri in these key areas over the last nine years (remember only 8 NCAA tournaments have been played).

Since joining the SEC, the Tigers rank:

  • 13th in overall record with a win percentage of .4860 (139-147)
  • Tied for 5th most NCAA appearances with three (with LSU & Ole Miss), but have not won an NCAA tournament game along with Georgia (0-1), Mississippi State (0-1), and Vanderbilt (0-2). Kentucky, Florida, Tennessee, and Arkansas have more tournament appearances.
  • Tied for 9th most in wins against ranked teams (11 wins, 34 losses), ahead of Vandy (8), Georgia (8), Ole Miss (10), and Mississippi State (3), and tied with Texas A&M.
  • 12th in home wins... and LAST in road wins.

Mizzou has just 63 wins against SEC opponents in 9 years, which includes five SEC Tournament wins, which equates to 7 wins a year... again including the tournament.

NCAA Basketball: Tennessee at Missouri Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

So maybe the question isn’t “how can Missouri be a top 4 SEC team?”, instead it’s “how do we not be what we’ve been?”

Mizzou vs...

So as the SEC has proven to be a tougher road than expected, Missouri clearly hasn’t had much success, but let’s continue down this painful rabbit hole and see how they stack up against everyone in the league:

  • vs Vanderbilt: 6 - 3 (67%)
  • vs South Carolina: 8 - 6 (57%)
  • vs Auburn: 6 - 7 (46%)
  • vs Georgia: 6 - 8 (42.8%)
  • vs Arkansas: 8 - 11 (42.1%)
  • vs Alabama: 5 - 7 (41%)
  • vs Florida: 4 - 7 (36%)
  • vs Texas A&M: 6 - 11 (35%)
  • vs Tennessee: 4 - 8 (33%)
  • vs Mississippi State: 3 - 9 (25%)
  • vs LSU: 2 - 8 (20%)
  • vs Kentucky: (18%)
  • vs Ole Miss: 3 - 15 (16%)

It’s almost amazing, but Ole Miss has completely had the Tigers’ number. Frank Haith and the Tigers were 1-3 against the Rebels, Kim Anderson did not beat them in six tries, which means Cuonzo Martin is 2-6. For more context on this non-rivalry, there are only two SEC matchups which have been more lopsided and both involve Kentucky. UK is 15-2 against Vanderbilt, and 9-1 against Ole Miss. Those win percentages are 90% and 88%, compared to the 82% win percentage of Ole Miss over Missouri.

Ole Miss is 89 - 87 against the rest of the SEC, which is good for a 0.5057 win percentage or 7th overall in that time. Probably about what you might expect, somewhere in the middle. Andy Kennedy overachieved with very little budget, then they built a new facility and threw more money at Kermit Davis and are still building upon the success of the Kennedy era. But if you remove the games against Missouri, the Rebels win percentage drops to 46.83%. That would drop them down to 9th.

You wanna improve the program? Beat Ole Miss more.

Looking at the layout, for Missouri to move up and consistently be where we all want the program to be, you have to figure out who is ahead of you first.

The SEC Ranked

Team Overall Win% SEC Win% NCAA Appearances Wins against ranked
Team Overall Win% SEC Win% NCAA Appearances Wins against ranked
Kentucky 1 1 1 1
Florida 2 2 1 2
Arkansas 3 3 3 6
Tennessee 4 4 3 3
LSU 5 5 5 7
Ole Miss 6 7 5 11
Texas A&M 7 8 8 9
Alabama 8 6 8 4
Auburn 9 11 8 7
South Carolina 10 10 11 4
Georgia 11 9 11 12
Miss State 12 12 11 14
Missouri 13 13 5 9
Vanderbilt 14 14 11 12

If you want to look at the tiers of success and merge them with current stability I think you have something that looks like this:

  • Kentucky is the clear top program in the conference. They’re a blue blood school, and even if John Calipari’s most recent roster changes don’t take, Kentucky will still be fine.
  • After UK, Arkansas, Florida and Tennessee have been the most consistent, and you could probably toss in LSU if it weren’t for the very obvious looming NCAA issues... whenever or if-ever those hit.
  • Then there’s the newcomers Alabama and Auburn, schools with ample football money and recent hires which have energized the basketball programs.
  • Next is where I’d have Missouri, in a group of schools with Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Texas A&M. Good respectable programs who’ve seen some recent tough times but are healthy enough thanks to recent coaching changes.
  • Last is Vanderbilt, Georgia and South Carolina. The “We’ll see how this goes” group.
NCAA Basketball: Auburn at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

How do you move up? You beat the teams you’re supposed to, be more successful against your peers, and make a dent when punching up. So Missouri needs to continue to beat South Carolina, Georgia and Vanderbilt as often as possible. They need to find more success against Mississippi State and Texas A&M and in some way shape or form... beat Ole Miss. If you consistently beat those teams it will begin to elevate the profile of the program.

In general, Cuonzo Martin has had success, but this is the next step you’re looking for. You’re not going to beat everyone all the time, but if you’re beating those teams more than you lose to them, it’s going to give you a foundation of wins to work from in league play.

Kinda depressing to think about, but hopefully this is all on the way up? Happy Sunday, everyone... maybe Drink will land another CROOT today.