COLUMBIA — The Missouri men’s basketball team’s 98-58 win over North Alabama on Wednesday at Mizzou Arena was far from demanding for the Tigers. The scheduling of the game itself, however, was a completely different story.
"We were very fortunate to get this game in, and get it to were it fit on our schedule in a good time," assistant coach Matt Zimmerman said.
While making the season's schedule, Missouri had not specifically sought out North Alabama for a game. Somewhere along the line, a tentatively-scheduled game fell through. For example, Missouri had been in contact with Xavier about scheduling a matchup this season, but it never happened. Games that are discussed, but never come to be, occur often during the schedule-making process.
“We talk to probably 40 to 50 schools per year that it doesn’t end up happening for other reasons,” Zimmerman said.
When Missouri locked in its game against Old Dominion for Dec. 30, it built the strength of its nonconference schedule. The only problem was, the Tigers had no other game scheduled until the start of Big 12 play at Colorado on Saturday.
“There’s a window there we had to fill in with a team, and of course, North Alabama is that team,” coach Mike Anderson said on Monday.
While the end result was North Alabama, the search did not start there.
Missouri cast a line looking for any interested Division I teams. No one took the bait.
“We just had a hard time finding anybody to fill this date, unless we wanted to go on the road," assistant coach Matt Zimmerman said.
"There’s plenty of people who will accept you on the road if you go to their place. We didn’t want to go on the road, and then go play at Colorado. That’s a pretty hard trip in itself."
The timing of the game on Wednesday created an issue. Across the nation, teams are beginning their conference seasons.
“With that, we had to go to the next best option. We wanted to make sure we had a game,” Anderson said.
North Alabama proved to be the next best thing, partly because it doesn't start its season until Jan. 13. Missouri paying the school $20,000 made the decision even easier.
"I don't really worry about that. Our athletic director and president might really enjoy the check. I'm more about the experience," North Alabama coach Bobby Champagne said.
The game was Missouri’s first regular season game against a Division II opponent since the Tigers defeated Northwest Missouri State in 1996.
In the end, both teams got what was expected. Missouri filled its schedule gap with a game, a last chance, low-pressure tuneup before it starts conference play. North Alabama got the experience of playing a Division I team, took its lumps, and went home with the money.