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Graham Watson

Will poor road teams buck NCAA Tournament trend?

The Dagger

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On The Road To Ruin
NCAA Tournament teams that finished with two or fewer road wins since 2000
Year Team Road record NCAA result
2009 No. 12 Arizona 2-9 L. Sweet 16 to No. 1 Louisville
2009 No. 10 Maryland 2-6 L. second round to No. 2 Memphis
2008 No. 9 Arkansas 2-7 L. second round to No. 1 North Carolina
2007 No. 12 Arkansas 2-8 L. first round to No. 5 USC
2007 No. 10 Georgia Tech 1-8 L. first round to No. 7 UNLV
2007 No. 9 Michigan State 1-8 L. second round to No. 1 North Carolina
2007 No. 9 Purdue 2-8 L. second round to No. 1 Florida
2006 No. 9 Wisconsin 2-8 L. first round to No. 8 Arizona
2003 No. 10 Alabama 1-8 L. first round to No. 7 Indiana
2003 No. 7 Indiana 2-9 L. second round to No. 2 Pittsburgh
2000 No. 7 Auburn 2-6 L. second round to No. 2 Iowa State

With Tuesday's 69-58 loss to Nebraska, Missouri finished the regular season with a 2-7 road record and solidified its place as the worst road team --among the at-large hopefuls -- in the NCAA tournament.

Sad panda.

The Fastest 40 Minutes of Mediocre Road Play managed to win just one conference road game -- a 76-70 decision at Iowa State on Feb. 19 -- and before that, its only other true road win was at Oregon on Dec. 2.

"I still hate that we ended the road season the way we did, but every game from here on out is home or neutral, so that's a bit of a relief right now," forward Laurence Bowers told the Columbia Missourian. "At the end of the day, it's the Big 12 and it's tough to win on the road, I don't care what anybody says."

Missouri isn't alone in its road woes. Kentucky and Illinois, both projected NCAA Tournament at-large teams, are 3-7 in true road games. Illinois will finish the regular season that way while Kentucky has a chance to notch a fourth win at Tennessee on Saturday.

Unfortunately for these road wanders, there's little historic brightside awaiting them once they reach the postseason. According to Jerry Palm of collegerpi.com, since 2000, 11 teams with two or fewer road wins have made the tournament as an at-large and only the 2009 Arizona squad managed to get to the Sweet 16. Four teams were ousted in the first round, the others in the second and all of those were either by No. 1 or No. 2 seeds. No team with two or fewer road wins has been seeded higher than No. 7 since 2000.

History creates quite a hurdle for teams such as Kentucky and Missouri, who many thought would be some of the best bets for the Sweet 16 because of their athleticism and style of play. Both teams have been labeled "tournament teams" since the start of the season and, until Missouri's recent Cornhusker conundrum, both teams had been staples in the national rankings.

If there's one saving grace for Kentucky and Missouri, it's that both have winning records on neutral courts. Kentucky is 2-1 with a win over Notre Dame and Missouri is 3-1 with a win over Illinois.

The Fighting Illini are 1-3 in neutral court battles.

All three will have a chance to gain more confidence on foreign hardwood when their conference tournaments begin next week. Lest we not forget, Kentucky is the reigning SEC Tournament champion.

Missouri could drop the dubious distinction of the worst road team in the tournament if a longshot earns an automatic bid -- looking at you, Bradley -- otherwise the Tigers will be the first team since 2009 to earn an NCAA bid with just two road wins.

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