(Photo by Dak Dillon/USA Today Sports)
The 2015-16 Missouri Tigers basketball team stands at 7-6 heading into Southeastern Conference play on Wednesday. The Tigers kick things off in Athens, Georgia against the Bulldogs.
Before we preview that specific game, let’s take a look at what’s to come until the season comes to an end in March.
The SEC overall is not the most impressive basketball conference, but when the previous year the Tigers go 3-15 without winning a game on the road, every winnable game will be a dogfight.
Headliners of the conference include Kentucky, Texas A&M, surprise upstart South Carolina, and LSU. Those LSU Tigers haven’t necessarily played up to their potential so far, but when they have the future No. 1 overall pick in Ben Simmons they will always have a chance.
The second tier of the conference would likely include Vanderbilt (who has been a disappointment thus far), Georgia, Ole Miss, Alabama, and Florida.
Finally the cellar of the league heading into play includes Auburn, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi State, and yes, the Missouri Tigers.
Here’s a look at the Tigers’ schedule for the remainder of the year:
There is no game on this list that I point to and say: “Yep, that’s a win for the Black & Gold.” They don’t get that benefit after a shaky non-conference slate without a win over a Power-5 squad.
I don’t anticipate Missouri beating Georgia. They’ve struggled mightily at the Stegeman Coliseum since joining the SEC, including getting their doors blown off last year in a 68-44 non-competitive contest.
To me, the Auburn game is a must-win. They’re also not very good, and it’s at home on ESPN2 as well. Lose this game and I think the Tigers go into a tailspin very similar to last year where they dropped 13 straight.
Win however, and parlay that with a victory against Arkansas who they’ve always played tough and you start the conference season 2-1, not bad at all. It gets tough from there, I think they can beat Mississippi St. on January 30th, and maybe steal a game at home against Ole Miss the next game.
If Kim Anderson wants a win on the road, he’ll get his first chance February 6th at Alabama. The Tide have been a little more impressive than at least I thought they’d be at 9-3 currently, but by no means are they unbeatable, even against the Tigers.
Tennessee isn’t that good, that’s another game Missouri can take care of business on their home court. If they win the first matchup against Arkansas, they’ll have the confidence to get it done in Fayetteville in round 2.
They end the season with a tough stretch, but at this point there’s a chance that LSU and or Florida play themselves out of the NCAA Tournament. Therefore there’s an opportunity for Missouri to steal a win against one of the two, and catch a more talented team easing their way toward the finish line.
If everything goes as well as it can possibly can go, and they win all the games they can win, they would finish conference with an 8-10 record.
For me, that’s way too much of an optimistic view. I’ll say they go 6-12, which makes for a 13-18 overall record. Not great by any means, but that is an improvement over last year where they finished 9-23.
This team has the potential to surprise, and it helps that they are not in that tough of a league. If they take care of business at the start of league play, there’s reason for hope that they’ll grow as a team over the rest of the year.
If they don’t, just look at last year. If that’s the case, well Athletic Director Mack Rhoades will be making his second coaching search in the same academic year.
For your sake Kim, please beat Auburn, it’ll go a long, long way for this team.