Missouri’s second-place finish at the Jacksonville Classic on Monday in Florida left a sour taste in the mouths of many Tigers fans. Missouri beat Southern Methodist in overtime before getting blasted by Florida State in the championship game of the midseason tournament.

While both performances had aspects to forget for the Tigers, there were some positives to take from the two-day event.

The comeback

Missouri trailed by as many as 13 points against SMU on Sunday. It was an ugly offensive first half for the Tigers, and it didn’t seem as though they had a comeback in them.

However, slowly but surely, Missouri chipped away at the Mustangs’ lead, eventually forcing overtime and winning 80-75 while playing good basketball. In a comeback sparked by Amari Davis and Ronnie DeGray III there were glimpses of the team coach Cuonzo Martin says he wants his Tigers to be.

Martin’s teams are always known for their strong defenses, but there was a lot of talk about a faster-paced offense coming into the season. There were glimpses of that against Central Michigan but nothing between then and the SMU game.

If the Tigers can find a way to get that offense going consistently, they may be a tougher team to defend against. But, as Florida State showed, that may not be the case, as the Seminoles snuffed out any chance of a comeback in that game.

Where is the consistency?

On the topic of the offense, there has been an alarming lack of consistency on that end of the floor for Missouri. The Tigers were dreadful offensively in the first half against SMU and all game against Kansas City, Northern Illinois and Florida State. They were inconsistent all night against Central Michigan.

Missouri’s offense hasn’t put together a full game of consistent offense and at times, has been awful on that end. Martin has talked about the importance of seeing shots fall, but that isn’t happening on a consistent enough basis for the Tigers.

If Missouri doesn’t find consistency before the game against Kansas, given the rest of the schedule after that, it could be a very long season for Martin and his team.

Davis starting to score

A lot of the talk surrounding Missouri’s transfers revolved around whether Amari Davis could continue scoring at a high level for the Tigers. He started strong against Central Michigan with 14 points but struggled against Kansas City and Northern Illinois with just five points combined.

However, against two stronger teams in Jacksonville, Davis started to play well. He was plagued by the same inconsistency as the rest of his team at the start of the SMU game, finishing the first half with just three points, but finished with 14 after a big second half and overtime that was pivotal to Missouri’s win. While no one really played well against Florida State, Davis again finished with 14 points.

He hit the 1,000 career points mark in Jacksonville.

The Tigers need Davis to continue putting up double-digit scoring figures to be successful this season. It doesn’t all lie on his shoulders, but as a team without a true scorer on the floor at all times, he will need to be a large catalyst for the Missouri offense going forward.

Where does this team stand?

A lot was learned about this Missouri team in Jacksonville. While it’s still early in the season, it can be seen where this team will likely stand for the rest of the season.

The Tigers beat a decent SMU team. That shouldn’t be scoffed at. While the Mustangs lost the consolation game to Loyola Marymount, they’re a team that could be in the mix for the NCAA Tournament or the NIT come March.

Missouri got blasted by a good Florida State team. The Seminoles dropped out of the AP Top 25 after losing to Florida but could easily find themselves back there after an impressive showing in Jacksonville.

As for where the Tigers stand — they’re closer to SMU than Florida State. Missouri frankly isn’t close to the level the Seminoles are.

So what does that mean?

The Tigers can be a decent team and beat decent teams but will likely get it handed to them against the better opponents. Unfortunately for Missouri and its tournament hopes, there’s a lot of better teams to come on the schedule.

Whether the Tigers can improve and reach a better level is yet to be seen, but if they are to make the NCAA Tournament — or even the NIT — they’ll need to reach that level fast.

  • Missouri soccer and men's basketball beat writer, Fall 2021. Reach me at anthony.kristensen17@gmail.com, or in the newsroom at 882-5700.

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