Missouri’s Road Struggles Are a Major Roadblock to Its Ultimate SuccessPosted by Brian Joyce on February 11th, 2013
Brian Joyce is a writer for the SEC microsite and regular contributor for Rush The Court. Follow him on Twitter for more about SEC basketball at bjoyce_hoops.
It’s been a rough 2013 for the Missouri Tigers thus far. Just a little over a week into the new year, forward Laurence Bowers went down with a sprained MCL. Then, there were rumors that head coach Frank Haith would be hit by the NCAA with serious “unethical conduct” and “failure to to promote an atmosphere of compliance” charges from his previous time at Miami (FL). On the court, Missouri came into the SEC race as one of the favorites with just two losses, a neutral court defeat to Louisville, and an understandable overtime road loss to UCLA. Yet a little over halfway through league play, the Tigers are three games behind first place Florida in the conference standings. The year of 2013 strikes again.
The Tigers haven’t won more than two games in a row in their first run through the SEC schedule, and coming into last Saturday’s game with Ole Miss, Mizzou stood at a pedestrian 5-4. But with Bowers back in the lineup, Missouri grabbed 22 offensive boards, shot over 50 percent from three, and clicked on its way to its second most efficient offensive game of the season with 1.34 points per possession, beating the Rebels by 19 points. The Tigers without question turned in an impressive performance, but before anyone gets too excited, remember that game was at Mizzou Arena. Missouri is now 14-0 at home and 6-0 in conference play. On the other hand, the Tigers have struggled mightily away from the friendly environs of Columbia. Even including games against middle-of-the-pack SEC teams such as LSU and Texas A&M, Missouri is 0-4 on the road and the last two losses even occurred with Bowers back in the lineup.
Missouri’s offense just hasn’t been the same away from home. It averages 1.11 points per possession with an effective field goal percentage of 50.4 percent at home. But it hasn’t reached either of those offensive totals in a single outing on the road.
It’s a similar story on the defensive end. Missouri’s defense allows 0.97 points per possession and holds opponents to a 46.1 effective field goal percentage. On the road in the SEC, though, the Tigers have held just one opponent (Ole Miss on January 12) under those marks. The other three opponents weren’t even close.
Haith has trouble explaining the disparity. “That’s a 50 million dollar question,” he said about the difference between the Tigers’ performances at home versus on the road. But if Missouri hopes to make a run at first place in the SEC and to secure its standing in the NCAA Tournament, they have to change their mindset in away games. And soon. Four of Missouri’s next five games will be away from Columbia. The Tigers come home for two more after that stretch, and then hit the road one more time to close the season. Those are five games against mostly beatable foes that they just can’t give away. Haith might not make $50 million dollars to coach his team, but he does get paid to figure this problem out. With his Tigers hitting the road on Wednesday against SEC bottom-feeder Mississippi State, he better find answers sooner rather than later for the sake of Missouri’s ultimate success in its first SEC season.