The Missouri Tigers have only played two true road games this entire season. I have no idea how it is possible to make it to Jan. 16 and only have two road games, but they have done it. Playing a lot of home games and neutral games against lesser opponents has gotten the Tigers a 13-2 record, which is nice, but the NCAA Selection Committee is not going to be thrilled when your best road win was against North Carolina State.
Tonight Missouri will travel to Nashville to play Vanderbilt which is one of the hardest places to play in the Southeastern Conference. In years past Missouri has struggled getting wins on the road, and if they are not careful they will leave Memorial Gym empty-handed.
Missouri is very well versed in the NCAA Selection Committee’s desire to have their participants prove they can win on the road. Last season the Tigers were only 2-8 on the road and saw themselves fall to a ninth seed in the Tournament. Winning on the road has not come easy for Missouri in recent years, whether it was under Mike Anderson or now with Frank Haith. In years past you could blame the style of play, but not under Haith; he plays a more conventional pace game, but the Tigers still have troubles.
The Tigers have not beaten a team in the top 50 of the RPI since they beat Baylor two years ago. This game against Vanderbilt will not be a game that is even close to a top-50 win; beating Vanderbilt will accomplish nothing for Missouri, but losing to them could wreck their season.
Vanderbilt plays on a raised court where the benches are under the basket instead of on the side of the court. Communication between coach and players is always difficult with this setup, but it is a setup that Vandy is comfortable with which give them a distinct advantage at home. The problem for Missouri, and all visiting teams for that matter, is that the Commodores are terrible this season. Vandy is currently 128th in the RPI, so if you lose to them it is considered a bad loss even if it is on the road. Tonight might very well be the night that Missouri’s NCAA Tournament hopes take a big hit or it could just be another night that a bad team loses at home. This is not a good situation to be in if you are Missouri, but it is a situation that they need to get out of without any damage.
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