The Tigers still can’t get much love in the polls.
At 17-8, Mizzou’s men’s basketball is deep in the hunt for an at-large berth in the 2018 NCAA Tournament.
However, you’d never know it from the AP and USA Today Coaches polls.
The Tigers have won four in a row in impressive fashion against SEC opponents Alabama, Kentucky, Ole Miss and Mississippi State.
The most recent victory, against Mississippi State on Saturday, came in an overtime battle.
The win against Kentucky at Mizzou Arena on Feb. 3 was historic for the program as the first time the Tigers had ever beaten the vaunted Wildcats.
Pacific alumnus Cullen VanLeer started at guard for the Tigers in that contest, scoring three points.
That win also helped to knock Kentucky out of the national rankings. The Wildcats were ranked No. 21 at that time.
Mizzou remains unranked in both nationally significant polls. While the AP has started to show some respect for the Tigers, who received 14 points in the latest edition, Mizzou did not receive a single vote in the Coaches Poll.
Of course, the Tigers won’t need any respect from the polls if they can win the SEC Tournament March 7-11 at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis. Otherwise, their fate regarding a chance to participate in March Madness depends on how the selection committee views their season.
For a team that has struggled to reach the 10-win plateau each of the past three seasons, this season has been one of resurgence for the Tigers.
In addition to beating Kentucky for the first time ever, the Tigers knocked off Tennessee on Jan. 17. At the time, the Volunteers were ranked No. 21. They’re currently No. 18 in the AP and No. 17 in the Coaches Poll.
As of Monday’s games, the Tigers remain ranked No. 23 in the nation in the NCAA Rating Percentage Index (RPI).
No other unranked team has a higher RPI standing than the Tigers. Creighton, No. 22 in RPI, is just outside the top 25 in the AP poll, but is ranked No. 25 by the coaches.
They have a higher RPI than ranked teams that include Arizona State (AP No. 25, Coaches No. 22), Saint Mary’s (No. 15 in both polls), West Virginia (No. 20 in both polls) and Michigan (AP No. 22, Coaches No. 21).
It is a race to get in that could unfortunately come down to the wire for Mizzou. Depending on how the next three weeks shake out, the Tigers could be in a position where they must win the conference tournament in order to gain entry into the NCAA Tournament’s field of 68 next month.
Mizzou plays Tuesday night at home against No. 21 Texas A & M. Mizzou is 2-0 against teams ranked No. 21 this season, so maybe that presents a good omen.
After that, two games on the schedule stand out as being pivotal contests.
If Mizzou can beat Kentucky again, at Kentucky on Feb. 24, that would surely put them over the hump in the eyes of the AP and the Coaches Poll voters.
The other remaining game that stands out is against Arkansas and former Mizzou Coach Mike Anderson at Mizzou Arena on March 3, the last game of the regular season.
The Razorbacks edged the Tigers 65-63 in Fayetteville in the first meeting between the two teams this season on Jan. 13.
The Tigers still have other SEC road games to play at Vanderbilt and LSU as well, neither of which are a given despite Vanderbilt having a sub-.500 record in a rare down season for the program, which has been a March Madness participant each of the past two seasons.
Another meeting with Ole Miss, this time in Columbia, also remains on the schedule.
The Tigers are currently fourth in the SEC standings and would need losses from either Tennessee or Florida or several losses from the standings leader, Auburn, to have a chance to move up in the conference seeding headed into the SEC Tournament.
Even if the Tigers aren’t necessarily in a position where they have to win the conference to get into the NCAA Tournament, seeding in the SEC Tournament is of great importance because a first-round loss would really put the Tigers behind the eight-ball on Selection Sunday.