The Missouri Tigers basketball team is looking to be a force in the SEC, just like the school’s football squad. The Tigers just finished the season 12-2, with a Cotton Bowl victory on the gridiron in just the school’s second season playing in the mighty SEC.
Right now, heading into conference play, the Tigers are making some noise on the hardwood. Going into Wednesday’s SEC opener against Georgia, Missouri is 12-1, with their only loss coming against Illinois on a neutral court. The Tigers have the best overall record of all SEC teams heading into conference play.
According to CBSSports.com’s RPI, Missouri has played the 100th most difficult schedule thus far, and are ranked 20th in the RPI. The pollsters seem to agree with the RPI. The Tigers are 21st in AP Poll and the Coaches Poll, and 22nd in CBSSports.com’s Top 25 (and one) Poll. (Click here for a look at all 4 polls.)
Missouri is looking to battle Florida and Kentucky for the top thee spots in the SEC this season. The Gators and Wildcats are more known nationally but Missouri could change that, just they did in football, by playing strong, sound basketball game after game.
Jordan Clarkson looks to be the real deal. With his size, 6’5″, and his ball handling abilities, he offers some real match up issues for a lot a opponents. He is averaging 19.3 points a game, 4.1 assists, and 3.5 rebounds. He also has 15 steals and 4 blocks, but he leads the team with 31 turnovers.
He has a well rounded supporting cast with Jabari Brown and Earnest Ross, who average 18.4 and 14.0 points a game respectively. Jonathan Williams III is a steady presence on the inside. These four as a unit, are as solid as any other, more ballyhooed, foursomes in the conference.
The problem Missouri may have is matching depth with the Gators and Wildcats. If one or more of the core four for Missouri have foul trouble or get injured, the Tigers may not have the quality of replacements as some of the better known rosters at other schools.
Still, the Tigers are going to be well coached and competitive each night out. They must win their share of games on the road, and take care of business at home. They cannot drop games to sub par teams, and still hope to win the conference.
Missouri is probably under ranked at this point. Their relatively weak non conference schedule doesn’t help much, but wins against UCLA and North Carolina State on the road indicate the Tigers are in fact, a very good basketball team.
They showed toughness away from home against North Carolina State, coming from behind, and the lone game they lost to Illinois, they had a chance to win it in the last possession of the contest.
Missouri is looking to be a force to be reckoned with in just their second season in the SEC. Winning the regular season conference championship over Florida and Kentucky would go along way to establishing the school as a powerhouse. The football team did it; let’s see if the basketball team can surprise in conference as well.