It was another tough week for the Missouri men’s basketball team, a refrain that is getting all-too-familiar yet again. The Tigers suffered a brutal 66-64 home loss to Texas A&M on Tuesday, and then were routed 74-51 at West Virginia on Saturday in the Big 12-SEC challenge. 

Missouri (9-10, 1-5 in SEC through Sunday) lost its fourth straight game on Saturday. The Tigers had another dreadful start on offense before rallying to within one at the half. But in the second half the Mountaineers (16-3, 4-2 in the Big 12) took charge, rolling to the big win as Missouri, which made only 28% of its shots, simply couldn’t keep up.

For the fifth time in six seasons, the Tigers are at or near the bottom of the SEC standings. For Missouri fans, it is disheartening for the situation to be this bad in the third year under coach Cuonzo Martin. Martin is a good guy who coaches defense and effort well, but he’ll need to get his team to generate at least a little more offense to have significant success in Columbia. 

Martin doesn’t bear the blame for the three terrible years under Kim Anderson before him, and in fact it’s worth noting Martin took over a program at rock bottom, but Tiger fans have had to endure the combined losing seasons. 

The crowds have been sparse at Mizzou Arena, and it’s hard to blame fans for not paying the money and making the drive and walking up the darn hill to the arena when the team is not only bad, but also tough to watch, usually struggling with the basic task of putting the ball in the hoop. Add in a home nonconference schedule that looks like it was designed to pad the win column and not to provide interesting games for fans, and it’s impressive the Tigers have drawn the crowds that they have. 

But as tough as things have been, Missouri has occasionally produced cool moments this season, in particular the wins over Illinois and Florida. Also, two-thirds of the SEC schedule remains, the Tigers have a lot of chances to turn things around somewhat. 

Missouri will have several games in the SEC that are on paper nearly tossups, including Saturday’s game at South Carolina (2:30 p.m. on SEC Network).

The Gamecocks (11-8, 3-3 in SEC through Sunday) are starting to get some traction after a slow start, entering the week having won three of their last four. After leading South Carolina to a Final Four in 2017, a massive accomplishment for the school, Frank Martin’s Gamecocks went 16-16 and then 17-16 before being just above .500 this season. But South Carolina has mostly younger contributors, and they could be building up to another solid team, or perhaps even better. 

On the road, this will be a tough test for Missouri. But it’s not an impossible ask, and a win here would help the Tigers get this season back on the rails.

By Benjamin Herrold