Despite having a new coach and a top-10 recruiting class, Missouri was bypassed for inclusion in the 2018 Big 12/SEC Challenge, a men’s basketball series between the two conferences.
The Tigers didn’t play in the 2016 or 2017 challenges either, but it seemingly made sense the program would return next season despite three consecutive last-place Southeastern Conference finishes.
For starters, Mizzou, which played in the Big 12 from 1996-2012, has plenty of history against those teams.
The Tigers also signed the top prospect in the 2017 recruiting class, Michael Porter Jr., who was announced Thursday as an NBC Sports first-team preseason All-American, as the headliner in star-studded recruiting class.
Under new coach Cuonzo Martin, who was hired in March, the Tigers also signed Canisius graduate transfer shooting guard Kassius Robertson and secured a verbal commitment from Jontay Porter, who is Porter Jr.’s younger brother and is considering graduating early from high school to reclassify and play in college next season.
That, and at least one way-too-early top-25 ranking, wasn’t enough to entice ESPN to include the Tigers.
“The SEC, working with the event’s television partner, ESPN, annually selects the teams that will represent our conference in the Challenge, and one of the key factors in determining the SEC’s entrants is a program’s recent on-court performance, which is certainly understandable,” first-year MU athletic director Jim Sterk said in a statement.
The Tigers — who are 27-68 during the last three season, including an 8-46 record in SEC play — also won’t play in the 2019 event because selection for the Big 12/SEC Challenge remains on a two-year rotation.
“This spring’s selection process was very difficult since so many SEC schools (Missouri included) are trending in a positive direction,” SEC Director of Communications Craig Pinkerton said in an email to The Star. “Unfortunately, there are only 10 spots in the event for 14 schools.”
Still, Mizzou will play at least one Big 12 opponent each of the next two seasons. The Tigers will open the 2017-18 season against Iowa State on Nov. 10 at Mizzou Arena and open the 2018-19 season against the Cyclones at Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa.
Mizzou also is in the field for the 2017 AdvoCare Invitational, which will be played Nov. 23-26 in Orlando, Fla., along with West Virginia.
“I can say with confidence that Mizzou Basketball will have several opportunities to play quality non-conference opponents in future years — home, away and at neutral sites,” Sterk said.
Missouri played in the first two Big 12/SEC Challenges, defeating West Virginia at home during the 2013-14 season and losing at Oklahoma during the 2014-15 season.