Say what you want about Missouri’s non-conference basketball schedule, but this a good thing for the University of Missouri and Head Coach, Dennis Gates. As documented in our deep dive into the non-conference schedule: (Mizzou’s non-conference basketball schedule,) at the heart of the scheduling is not the stature of competitor, but the expected result. In order for the Missouri Tigers to play in the postseason, they need to overachieve in conference or dominate out-of-conference – possibly both.
Potential recruits will not ask Dennis Gates why he chose to play Lindenwood University in week 3 of the 2022 schedule when he is sitting in their living room. They will, however, remember if the team has not made the NCAA tournament in the last two years. Mizzou’s overall record will resonate more than their SEC record. Therefore a few easy wins early on are important. The other reason why this is important: the SEC schedule is much tougher than it looks. Anything less than a March Madness birth is a failure for the Missouri basketball program.
The National Champion, Kansas Jayhawks come to Mizzou Arena on December 10th. A week later, the Tigers travel to St. Louis, MO for the annual Braggin’ Rights game against the 19th ranked Fighting Illini. What is the prize for surviving those matchups? The start of the SEC season.
Mizzou starts the conference slate with a date at home against the 7th ranked Kentucky Wildcats on December 28th. Another difficult test against a ranked opponent. Once we turn over the new year, Mizzou heads to Fayetteville, AR to battle the 17th ranked Arkansas Razorbacks on January 4th.
Many have Missouri finishing somewhere between eighth and twelfth in the SEC. This is where rubber meets road. Final placement will depend heavily on what the team does the next seven weeks. The Tigers have very winnable matchups against the Vanderbilt Commodores and Texas A&M Aggies on January 7th and 11th. Both teams are beatable, but projected to finish higher than Mizzou in the SEC. These would be huge wins as the Tigers head to Gainesville on January 14th to take on the Florida Gators. Another game where they will be underdogs.
Mizzou is back home on January 18th to face the Arkansas Razorbacks, again. There are a few SEC teams the Tigers would not mind drawing twice; Arkansas is not one of them. Coach Gates will aim for a win but will accept a competitive showing. Three days later the Alabama Crimson Tide come to Mizzou Arena on January 21st. This is another pivotal matchup, and a team that the Tigers can beat, but it will not be easy. Alabama is as talented as they were the year previous when they finished with a better record than Mizzou in and out of conference. The Tigers get Ole Miss on the road on January 24th. The Old Miss Rebels were much better than their 13-19 record indicated, losing 17 games by 6 points or less, last season.
The LSU Tigers, like the Missouri Tigers bring in a new coach, and a wealth of transfers. Both squads are completely turned over, but the potential and upside of each team is high. Coming into the season, this is a pick’em. The similarities between teams are endless. On Missouri’s home floor I give them a slight edge. They play each other on the 1st of February to kick off the month.
Mississippi State is a team the Tigers should beat. Mizzou gets the Bulldogs on the road on February 4th, and then again at home on February 21st. These are two must-win games if Missouri wants a chance at the tournament. Mississippi State is one of the worse teams in the SEC, some would say the same about Mizzou. The Tigers present better on paper and should be victorious in each game.
On February 7th, the Tigers welcome the South Carolina Gamecocks to Columbia. Another game the Tigers will be favored and should win. Four days later, on February 11th, Mizzou faces Tennessee on the road. Tennessee is the best team in the SEC. They are the winners of the SEC Championship last year, and they are improved Year over Year. This will be a difficult game for the Missouri Tigers. If they can keep this game close, Coach Gates will consider that a victory in many ways.
After the juggernaut that is Tennessee, who is next? The 8th ranked Auburn Tigers on Valentine’s Day. Are we starting to better understand the Missouri Tigers ‘soft’ out-of-conference schedule? As a point of relevance, the Tigers need some layups to have a shot at a March Madness birth. Mizzou finishes the conference schedule with second matchups against Texas A&M, LSU, and Ole Miss. Their only game versus Georgia sprinkled in on February 25th.
As we get closer to the start of the season, we will predict the outcome of every Missouri basketball game, in and out of conference. Make no mistake the new-look Tigers have their work cut out for them once the SEC schedule gets going. With a ton of new faces and a new Head Coach, building chemistry during the non-conference schedule is key, and ultimately will determine how successful this team can be.
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