Top Games to Watch on Missouri's 2012-13 Basketball Schedule
COLUMBIA -- We are months away from the tip off of game one, but college basketball news is already starting to come out. Just a few days ago, the men's basketball SEC schedule was released and that means we now know what Missouri's schedule will look like for the 2012-13 season, the team's first year in the SEC.
This will be a novel year for Missouri, a year across the board which will be relatively unprecedented in school history. The Big Eight expanding to become the Big 12 was not nearly as radical as switching from the Big 12 to the SEC, but the latter is what the Tigers have in store for the upcoming season.
With new teams to welcome into the Tiger schedule schedule, I have determined in a completely unscientific manner that there are seven - and exactly seven - games for which the casual fan should be scurrying to get their one ticket of the year, seven games that people should at the very least hold up the rabbit ears next to the television and make sure the reception is good enough to watch. Here are those games, starting with No. 7:
7. South Carolina (Home), January 22
Darrin Horn's team was hardly dominant last season, finishing 2-14 in SEC play, but this is where the SEC goes beyond on-the-court rivalries. This matchup having a place on this list tells you that marketing in the SEC is unlike that of any other conference. The Missouri-South Carolina football game will be an annual trophy game and not because of any sort of on-the-field reason. With Mizzou located in Columbia, MO and USC sitting in Columbia, SC, it is simply "The Battle of Columbia".
Yes, I have fallen victim to the marketing just as well as anyone else, but usually football rivalries end up trickling into other sports as well. This may not be as meaningful when these two teams meet in 2013, but once some sort of history is established, this game will be remembered as the first time these two teams met in conference. Plus, everyone wants to see Frank Martin screaming on the sidelines.
6. Texas A&M (Away), February 7
The Aggies actually finished under .500 last year for the first time since 2003-04. It was a lost season for them in Billy Kennedy's first year in College Station, but now Texas A&M moves to a slightly weaker basketball conference and to a better situation in which it can win.
Missouri-Texas A&M is going to end up being a rivalry. The two schools already have an established history. They both moved from the Big 12 to the SEC in the same season. They are both geographical outliers to what a usual person would refer to as "the Southeast". These games are going to start to become meaningful each time these two teams play and February first will be the first time in the new conference.
5. Stanford (Neutral), November 22
Once the preseason polls come out, Missouri will likely find itself inside the Top 25. That means that this matchup with the defending NIT champs will be a big one. Now add in the fact that they are playing in the Bahamas and a die-hard Missouri fan is probably in heaven if he is able to attend that game.
The Tigers and the Cardinal will meet in the first round of the Battle 4 Atlantis, an annual tournament held in Nassau. The winner of this game would go on to play the winner of Louisville-Northern Iowa...
4. Louisville (Neutral), November 23
Alright so we are getting a little ahead of ourselves here. There is a chance this game might not happen. Missouri first has to win that Thursday afternoon game against Stanford. Then Louisville needs to pull one away from Northern Iowa. That being said, both Louisville and Missouri will be favorites in their respective games and if they take care of business, they should meet in the Battle 4 Atlantis semifinal.
In their progression from playing the Cardinal to the Cardinals, Missouri would also take on a significantly more talented opponent. It is severely possible that Louisville could be the best team on the Tiger schedule all season. Coming off a surprising Final Four season last year, Louisville could actually be even better in the upcoming season. The 2011-12 Cardinals did not always play Rick Pitino-ball the way their coach would have liked. Pitino teams tend to shoot and run the floor. Last year's team struggled with the shooting part, hitting only 31.8 percent of their threes. This year, that won't happen.
Watch out for the off-guard match up in this one: Wayne Blackshear vs. Michael Dixon and Keion Bell.
3. Alabama (Home), January 8
Alabama could actually surprise people this year. The two Trevors (Releford and Lacey) make up a nice core in Tuscaloosa and with highly ranked recruit Devonta Pollard coming in the Crimson Tide could make some noise in the SEC. But that is not why this game matters.
January 8 is the opener for Missouri's conference schedule, the first SEC game for the Tigers in school history. The atmosphere in Mizzou Arena is going to be electric. It will be a home game worth showing up to.
2. Kentucky (Away), February 23
There should not be much need for an explanation here. The Wildcats are the defending SEC regular season champions and more importantly, they are the defending national champs. Everything else is irrelevant. Lose your top six leading scorers? Well, let's just replace them with a top-five national recruiting class. That is the Kentucky way.
Unfortunately, the game in Lexington is the only time Tigers-Wildcats will happen in 2013; there will be no Wildcats in Columbia. Come the end of February, Missouri will begin to build momentum towards the postseason. If they can pull off a road win in Lexington against a likely nationally ranked team, that win could go a long way.
1. Arkansas (Home), March 5
This game really has nothing to do with basketball. The outcome matters only to the bitter. It could either be about homecomings and welcoming back old friends or revenge and booing depending on your perspective of former Missouri coach Mike Anderson.
Anderson left Missouri on what some people might say was not the best of terms. After pledging his allegiance to the Tiger only a couple offseasons ago, he ended up bolting for Arkansas, where he was previously an assistant coach under Nolan Richardson. Some Missouri fans did not appreciate the public change of heart and that means the environment at Mizzou Arena might be more hostile on March 5 than in any other game of the year.