NCAA Tournament: Why the Missouri Tigers Are Officially on the Bubble

Corey RuddContributor IIIFebruary 24, 2013

COLUMBIA, MO - FEBRUARY 19: Phil Pressey #1 of the Missouri Tigers looks up at the scoreboard in the closing seconds of the game against the Florida Gators at Mizzou Arena on February 19, 2013 in Columbia, Missouri. Missouri upset Florida 63-60. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Before Saturday's game with the Kentucky Wildcats, the Missouri Tigers basketball team was hoping to build off the momentum of its big win over No. 5 Florida earlier in the week. Mizzou, with just one road win on the season, was hoping to grab a second road victory and continue to build its NCAA Tournament resume. 

Unfortunately for Mizzou fans, instead of building its resume, Mizzou placed itself firmly on the bubble with a 90-83 overtime loss to John Calipari's Kentucky Wildcats on Saturday night. 

Yes, Frank Haith's Missouri Tigers should be seriously considered a bubble team—there are several reasons why. 

First, Missouri is now in a three-way tie for fifth place in the SEC conference standings. With an 8-6 mark during conference play, Missouri is tied with Arkansas and Tennessee in the conference—this does not bode well for the Tigers as few people consider either Arkansas or Tennessee as teams worthy of an at-large NCAA Tournament berth. 

Additionally, both Georgia and LSU are just one game behind Mizzou in the standings. LSU will likely be a NIT team, but Georgia will be hard-pressed to end the season with a winning record overall. 

Sitting in fifth place in a league that has the eighth highest RPI is not a good omen for Mizzou. It would be hard to fathom the SEC receiving five bids to the NCAA Tournament with its resume, which should give Mizzou fans cause for concern. 

Second, other than the win on its own home floor over Florida, who the Tigers lost to by 31 points on the Gators' home floor earlier in the year, Mizzou really does not have many other quality wins. 

The Tigers are just 3-4 against the RPI Top 50 and do not have any remaining games outside of the SEC Conference Tournament to pick up a quality win. Mizzou is 8-5 against the RPI Top 100—it would behoove the Tigers to win games against Arkansas and Tennessee to close the season to improve this mark.

Luckily for Mizzou, they have lost just one game to a team with a RPI higher than 100—that was on the road at LSU. Having just one bad loss may help the Tigers in the eyes of the NCAA Tournament selection committee. 

One thing that the selection committee may penalize the Tigers for is the fact that Mizzou has just one road win on the season—of the Tigers' 18 victories, only four have come away from Mizzou Arena. 

Every game in the NCAA Tournament is a road game and Mizzou simply does not play well on the road. Mizzou's road woes will be discussed, especially if they're unable to win either of their final two road contests at South Carolina and at Tennessee. If Mizzou bails out of the SEC Tournament early, this could further the argument against Mizzou as it would be yet another loss away from home. 

Mizzou fans have a lot to worry about, even with the win over Florida earlier in the week. The SEC, in the eyes of many, is having a very sub-par season and the Tigers are currently sitting in the middle of a very weak pack. 

If Mizzou stumbles at all down the stretch and fails to win on the road or bounces out of the SEC tournament early, the Tigers could certainly be in danger of missing the NCAA Tournament. 

No matter how you slice it, Mizzou should be considered, at this point in the season, a bubble team.