Missouri Basketball: Tigers flirting with ‘bubble’ danger

KANSAS CITY, MO - NOVEMBER 24: Kevin Puryear
KANSAS CITY, MO - NOVEMBER 24: Kevin Puryear /

After losing a very winnable game at home to Ole Miss and getting trounced at Kentucky last week, the bubble is closer than the Tigers would like.

After three years of futility under former head coach Kim Anderson, the former Tiger player was shown the door. After a short search, Missouri introduced former Tennessee and California coach Cuonzo Martin, and a sudden influx of recruits: Michael Porter, Jr., his brother Jontay, Blake Harris and Jeremiah Tilmon came in and gave Mizzou high hopes for the season. However, as Mizzou “tradition” would have it, not all went to plan.

Michael Porter, Jr. suffered a back injury in the first game of the year and Harris made plans to leave. Jontay is currently leading the team in rebounds (which is disappointing, considering Tilmon is a 6-10 center).

On the bright side, Canadian import Kassius Robertson, and former Texas Longhorn Jordan Barnett have carried the team so far this year–they are the only two players averaging double figures.

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Now, at 18-11 (8-8 in SEC play), the Tigers cannot take anything for granted. Their last two games are at hapless Vanderbilt and at home against Arkansas.

Winning in Nashville gains Mizzou practically nothing, but their performance against the Razorbacks will determine a lot. The neighbors to the south are 20-9 (9-7) and should be on their way to the tournament, according to ESPN’s bubble watch.

My Take

As for the Tigers, I disagree with ESPN and think they still have work to do. The SEC tournament could play a big role in determining their final fate.

While a win over the Hogs on “Senior Night” would help a lot, it may not be enough to seal a position in the tournament. Furthermore, imagine if the Tigers lose their last two games and in their first SEC tournament game. Would they get in at that point? I don’t think so. Even with a win over Vandy, I don’t think they get in if two losses follow. However, with a win or two in the SEC tournament, that might seal their spot.

Last week, Joe Lunardi had the Tigers as a seventh seed, even then I thought that was too high. Now, with these two losses factored in, I see a 10-seed as a more likely scenario in Mizzou’s future, barring a deep run in the SEC tournament or a complete collapse that knocks them out entirely.

Next: Tigers building a tournament run?

At the beginning of the year, I thought this team would be a four- or five-seed. That is not going to happen–another instance of great promise going unfulfilled. What could be more “Mizzou,” than that?