What is Mizzou basketball’s NCAA Tournament outlook after win over No. 12 Iowa State?
Dennis Gates walked over to the student section after Missouri blew out No. 12 Iowa State. He waved his arms and elicited the crowd to roar for one last time.
What else was he supposed to do after a key NCAA Tournament resume-building win?
“That was a tough, tough game,” Gates said. “That team (Iowa State) is great.”
Missouri was even better on Saturday. It was a game that also strengthens the Tigers’ NCAA Tournament resume in a healthy way.
Missouri is slotted as a No. 9 seed according to ESPN’s “Bracketology” as of Saturday afternoon. Last week, the Tigers were projected to be in the Midwest Region playing in Des Moines, Iowa — in the same quadrant as Kansas State and at the same site as Kansas.
As of Saturday morning, the Tigers were in Birmingham, Alabama, in the West Region. Expect that seeding to jump in the next projections after winning two games this week, including Saturday against Iowa State.
That win adds to MU’s resume, which already includes wins over Kentucky, Illinois and Arkansas. The ISU win counts as a “Quad 1” win, as the NET rankings break teams down into four quadrants, with Arkansas and Illinois falling into the same group.
“To have a Quad 1 win in January is very important,” Gates said. “Not only on selection Sunday, but just for us and our growth to recognize who we are and the confidence we have in one another.”
This comes on the same day when Missouri brought back its retro block “M” uniforms the program donned in the previous decades.
The Tigers honored decades past with former players and alumni at Mizzou Arena, too. It falls into Gates’ plan to one day raise banners, win championships and be a Hall of Fame coach.
“I want our tradition to remain intact,” Gates said. “I want to do certain things. I want to do it short term. I want to do it long-term.”
Long-term, Missouri will be impacted by the short-term. Should MU make the tournament in year one under Gates, there will be an expectation to make the tournament on a yearly basis.
That’s what happened to his predecessor, Cuonzo Martin, who earned a tournament berth in year one but made only one more tournament appearance in 2021 before his firing in 2022.
What Gates does with that precedent, however, will be determined after he makes his first tournament. MU took a major step toward that achievement by beating Iowa State by 17 points to end the month of January.
February is when MU can solidify its berth and advance its seeding — or lose it. Missouri would need a cataclysmic collapse in February in order to miss the tournament, and MU’s level of preparation and execution should earn the team at least a few more wins.
Games against Auburn, Tennessee and Texas A&M also loom as an opportunity to solidify that tournament bid even more. They won’t be easy, though, as Auburn and Tennessee will most likely represent top-25 road contests, and the Aggies beat MU thoroughly in College Station earlier in January.
However, even losing those three games wouldn’t spell doom for Missouri’s tournament chances. The Tigers’ wins over Iowa State, Illinois, Kentucky and Arkansas give them room for error.
There are also games against LSU, Georgia and Ole Miss, plus two games against Mississippi State, which could help Missouri reach the 20-win threshold.
That’s where MU finds itself entering February, after a January in which Gates and the team have built Mizzou Arena into a hot ticket and transformed the Tigers into a team on the cusp of a tournament bid.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Tigers guard D’Moi Hodge said.
The Star has partnered with the Columbia Daily Tribune for coverage of Missouri Tigers athletics.