In an unfortunate way, Mizzou is a fairly notable school when it comes to the NCAA Tournament. The Tigers have earned the prestigious title of “most tournament appearances without making a Final Four”, and can also stand toe-to-toe with most others when it comes to suffering brutal tournament losses.
Mizzou has experienced many variations of depressing tournament beat down. The crushing buzzer beaters, the inexplicable upset loss that spawns a Cinderella story and most everything in between.
With their first round game set for Thursday night, it seems appropriate to rank the most brutal losses in Mizzou’s Tournament history. Typically, we’d limit it to five entries, but c’mon this is Mizzou we’re talking about. Five wasn’t enough…
6.) Rhode Island 87, Mizzou 80 (March 17, 1988)
A team that featured four eventual NBA players in Derrick Chievous, Byron Irvin, Doug Smith and 7-footer Gary Leonard, came into the season ranked #15, but fell into a late season tailspin.
Going in as a 6 seed, the Tigers were favored to take down relatively unknown Rhode Island, but instead took another step towards strengthening their reputation as Tournament first round chokers. Tom Penders’ Rhode Island team added Syracuse as another upset victim before taking Duke to the wire in the Sweet 16.
5.) Xavier 70, Mizzou 69 (Mach 12, 1987)
The Band-Aid Man, Derrick Chievous posted a career high 24 points a game and carried the Tigers into the the Top 15 in the nation and a 4 seed in the Tournament. They ended the regular season on an 8-game win streak, won the Big 8 regular season and conference tournament titles and added a horrible team rap video to their accomplishments. They were hot.
But in typical Mizzou fashion, they cooled themselves down just long enough to let up and coming 13 seed Xavier knock them out by a single point. As much as fans wanted them to turn that emotion into a team power ballad video, they left us hanging.
4.) Houston 79, Mizzou 78 (March 19, 1982)
Legends Jon Sunvold, Ricky Frazier and Steve Stipanovich carried the Tigers to a top 5 ranking in early January and kept them there through the start of the Tournament where they landed a #2 seed and first round bye.
The Sweet 16 is where they met up with Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler’s Phi Slamma Jamma and took only their fourth loss of the season, derailing what was likely their most realistic shot at a National Championship.
Just as an added gut punch, this loss took place at a joint you may have heard off called “The Arena” right here in St. Louis.
3.) Northern Iowa 74, Mizzou 71 (March 16, 1990)
Anytime you follow a team that is led by two of the best players in school history (Anthony Peeler and Doug Smith) and held the #1 spot in the rankings for four weeks during the season, you’re pretty much banking on them making at least a bit of noise in the Tourney.
Instead, Mizzou fans got to see one of the most promising teams in their history get beat by #14 seed Northern Iowa on a dramatic, last-second three pointer that seemed like it was tossed up from roughly 50 feet out. The Tigers had already established themselves as a shaky tournament team over the years, but this was the final nail in the coffin and rated as the biggest first round upset of the 1990 tournament.
2.) UCLA 75, Mizzou 74 (March 19, 1995)
No explanation needed. In fact, if you want to see a replay of Tyus Endey’s now-famous end-to-end layup with under five seconds to go in the game, just watch CBS because they’re sure to play it about 20 times in their intro/outro montages.
The Tigers probably weren’t going to win the national championship if they beat UCLA, but it still doesn’t feel good when your team gets kicked in the nads on national television and you get to relive it annually.
1.) Norfolk State 86, Mizzou 84 (March 16, 2012)
This one still stings, folks. The Tigers rallied around new coach Frank Haith and put up a 30-4 regular season record including a Big 12 Tournament championship in their final year in the conference. Going in to the tournament, this team just seemed different than its predecessors. It was too consistent, too disciplined to lose a fluke game in the first round. They had been so damn good Mizzou fans were justifiably pissed that they received a #2 seed.
Even the freaking president thought they were going to the Final Four.
It took two hours to flush all that down the toilet and instead the 2012 Tigers limped back to Columbia and into the history books as one of the unfortunate handful of #2 seeds that were knocked off in the opening round. As for Norfolk State? They went on to get destroyed by 34 in the second round against Florida. So much for getting beaten by Cinderella.
The one benefit of the 2013 Mizzou team’s maddening inconsistency is that, should they lose tomorrow as a #9 seed against Colorado State, it probably won’t make this list next year.