Tigers Postseason Watch: Résumé lacking with clock ticking

In last week’s Tigers Postseason Watch, we said the week ahead was particularly massive because Missouri: a) needed more wins and b) needed a higher quality of wins. The Tigers had an opportunity to address both of those areas of need with matchups against Ole Miss and No. 4 Kentucky, two of the top teams in the Southeastern Conference.

Well, opportunity squandered. The Tigers fell 75-65 at Ole Miss on Saturday and then lost 66-58 on Tuesday to the Cats. It’s hard to fault Missouri for losing two games in which it was the underdog, but winning just one would have helped enormously regarding postseason chances.

Now, Missouri is 12-13 (3-10 SEC) and below .500 for the first time in the last two seasons. The Kentucky loss dropped the Tigers to 12th place in the conference with just five games remaining.

Is there still any hope? A glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel? Let’s break it down.

Missouri’s résumé

Record: 12-13 (3-10 SEC)

NET Ranking: 92

KenPom ranking: 98

Best wins: at Texas A&M, vs. UCF, vs. Arkansas

Worst losses: vs. Texas A&M, vs. Temple, at South Carolina

Impact of last two games

In a vacuum, the last two games shouldn’t really change your opinion of Missouri. It wasn’t expected to win on the road at Ole Miss, and it certainly wasn’t expected to beat the fourth best team in the country.

But as desperate as Missouri is for wins, and with how late it is in the season, losing two more games had consequences. Both were categorized as Quadrant 1 games, and the Tigers are now 0-9 in such games. Winning just one game in that group would have been significant — think then-No. 25 LSU on Jan. 26 and at Arkansas on Jan. 23 — but alas.

The past week saw the return of Mark Smith from an ankle injury, but both games made it clear he’s not completely healthy. He scored just three points in Oxford, Mississippi, and didn’t score against Kentucky.

Where do the Tigers stand now?

This might just be the last edition of Tigers Postseason Watch, because with a sub-.500 record and five games left, the odds to play after the SEC Tournament are microscopic.

To secure a berth in the National Invitation Tournament, a team needs to be at least a few games over .500, and Missouri is trending in the wrong direction. It wasn’t able to make up for its home blunder against Texas A&M on Feb. 9, and the team still lacks a marquee win this season (UCF is the best team the Tigers have beat this season, and it’s ranked No. 50 on KenPom).

Furthermore, the two losses dropped Missouri four spots in both the NET and KenPom. According to warrennolan.com, the Tigers’ RPI has dropped five spots since Sunday.

Current prediction: No postseason

The Missourian’s guess at the Tigers’ chances of making the postseason: 5 percent

NCAA Tournament: Zilch.

Potential impact of next two games

On Saturday, the Tigers take on the Gators in Gainesville, Florida, and then they head to Starkville, Mississippi, to take on the Bulldogs of Mississippi State.

There’s no need to beat around the bush here: If Missouri is to make the NIT, it needs to win its next two games, barring an unlikely SEC Tournament run. If it accomplishes that, it’ll be back above .500 with three games to go. Alternatively, if the Tigers split the two games, they’ll still have a negative record and virtually no chance of securing a bid.

Given the team’s talent, résumé and recent history, there’s no reason to expect Missouri to pull this off. But if it surprises everybody and wins both games, things could change in a hurry.

For one, both games are away, and NET places a significant emphasis on whether games are at home or on the road. For example, according to NET, Missouri’s best win of the season was at Texas A&M, and its worst loss was at home against the same team. Winning a game in another team’s arena matters a lot in this metric. The merits of that can be argued, but that’s a discussion for another day.

Florida is No. 31 in NET, and Mississippi State is No. 26. That means both qualify as Quadrant 1 matchups. Getting two wins here would probably allow Missouri to control its own destiny over the final three games of the season.

Again, it’s unlikely. The Tigers are 0-9 in Quadrant 1 games, and seven of those losses came against SEC opponents. But they’re not dead just yet.

Supervising editor is Seth Bodine: sports@columbiamissourian.com, 882-5730.