The Missouri Tigers finished the season on Friday, losing to Florida in the SEC tournament, with a 22-11 record. On Sunday evening, the season came to an unofficial and disappointing close when they were not revealed to have made the NCAA tournament. Instead they will be a 2 seed in the NIT tournament starting on Tuesday night.
For a team with Jabari Brown, Jordan Clarkson, and Earnest Ross, averaging 19, 17, and 13 points per game respectively, not making the NCAA tournament has to be considered a serious disappointment. Especially when they lost only one game, a one point loss to Illinois, going into SEC play. So why did they go from being on the verge of being a top 25 team to missing the tournament?
At first it seemed like it was Missouri’s out-of-conference schedule. That just can’t be the case, though. They ended up beating three teams that made the NCAA tournament and one more that is in the NIT.
The real issue is that they have exactly one impressive win all season, beating UCLA 80-71 back in December. The only other chances they had were one game against Kentucky and two games against Florida (one regular season and 1 in the SEC tournament).
Going 1-4 against quality teams isn’t enough to knock a team out of contention for spot. Combine that with having 3 bad losses, against Vanderbilt, Alabama, and Ole Miss, then you can understand why the committee left Missouri out.
The nail in the coffin has to be the final five games of the regular season. Losing to Alabama, getting embarrassed by Georgia and Tennessee, and pulling out a one point miracle against Texas A&M.
Maybe if this had happened earlier and they ended by winning 4 out of 5 then we might be talking about their NCAA matchup. That’s how close I think they were to making it.
Wins and losses are somewhat obvious as to why the season is a disappointment, the bigger question is why did they lose to so many bad teams? Missouri was lacking in the 2 things that make for a good consistently scoring team, a true Point guard and an inside scoring threat.
You can’t blame Jordan Clarkson for not being a good Point Guard, that’s not his position. He was better suited for the job than Jabari Brown so he got the nod because both of them needed to be on the floor as much as possible or risk turning an inconsistent offense into a consistently bad offense.
The low post threats, in Jonathan Williams III, and Ryan Rosburg were anything but threatening. They combined for 11 points per game. Williams III did get better as the season went on. Still, relying on all of your offense to come from outside players is a bad idea when they are only going to hit shots 45% of the time.
Ultimately, what knocked them from the NCAA to the NIT was something that should embarrass everyone involved with the program…defense. They gave up 70 points per game good for 161st.
Everybody is going to run into a team that’s hot, raining down 3 pointers and there’s nothing you can do about it. That’s not what happened here though. They were just plain bad on defense constantly missing switches on screens and just plain losing track of guys.
The offense is good enough to keep them in any game but in the end I expect them to make a quick exit from the NIT with a poor defensive effort.