What If...Mizzou had signed Tyler Hansbrough? (Part Two)

Part One

Why dredge up this sad "What If..." in the middle of Mizzou's most exciting season in 15 years?  Mental masturbation?  Not really...though there's never anything wrong with some good mental masturbation, right?

There's a method to the madness, I promise...read to the end...or, well, just skip to the end...

So the 2005-06 season went pretty damn well with this guy in black and gold.  How did recruiting go?

2006 Recruiting Class

First things first: the major recruit Mizzou lands in this class is a senior: Thomas Gardner.  I do believe his declaration for the draft was mostly a response to Quin Snyder's dismissal.  With Quin at the helm and a successful team around him, I say Gardner returns to Columbia for his fourth season to try to bolster his draft prospects to the first-round level.

The way basketball recruiting is set up, there is no immediate bounce in recruiting when a team does better than expected.  Most of the big-time guys in the 2006 class had already signed by the time Hansbrough would have played his first game in black and gold.  Piecing together what I was able to remember/uncover from who Quin was recruiting when he got fired, here's Mizzou's class of signees:

  • Keon Lawrence (***), the man, the myth.
  • Ty Morrison (***), a 6'7 JUCO player at Redlands (OK), Morrison did in fact sign with Mizzou in the fall of 2005.  He was supposed to be a pretty big-time, all-around player.
  • Keaton Grant (***).  As you remember, Grant signed with Mizzou before heading to prep school.  The following year, he held off on re-signing with Mizzou in the fall and ended up re-opening his recruitment and signing with Purdue.  With Mizzou's success and the fact that Quin Snyder is still the coach, we'll say he re-signs.
  • Ben Hansbrough (**).  Naturally.  If Tyler's playing for Mizzou, I estimate that there's a 119% chance that Ben would have followed.

And with two extra players (Tyler, Gardner) in black and gold already, that's all the scholarships Mizzou has to give this time around.  Sorry, Vaidatos Volkus.

2006-07 Season

New stats for '06-'07:

Player Min/gm Stat line
Thomas Gardner (Sr) 34.5 21.1 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 2.1 APG
Tyler Hansbrough (So) 30.9 19.0 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 1.2 APG
Keon Lawrence (Fr) 25.2 10.4 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 2.0 APG
Jason Horton (Jr) 23.7 3.7 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 3.4 APG
Marshall Brown (Jr) 19.3 6.9 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 1.0 APG
Leo Lyons (So) 15.9 4.4 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 0.3 APG
Kalen Grimes (Jr) 14.7 3.4 PPG, 3.3 RPG
Ben Hansbrough (Fr) 11.6 3.6 PPG, 1.4 RPG, 1.6 APG
Matt Lawrence (So) 10.5 2.3 PPG, 1.1 RPG
Ty Morrison (Jr) 8.3 1.6 PPG (done after 10 gms)
Keaton Grant (Fr) 7.1 1.5 PPG
Marcus Watkins (Sr) 5.7 1.0 PPG
Glen Dandridge (Jr) 0.0 transfer

Notes:

  • With the logjam of players at the SG and SF positions--K. Lawrence, B. Hansbrough, M. Lawrence, Grant, Watkins, Dandridge--we'll say that Dandridge ends up transferring a year earlier.  Just not enough minutes to go around.
  • Ty Morrison ended up at Creighton in '06-'07, and he ended up quitting after about 10 games due to Graves Disease (ouch).  What that means for this team is that they are VERY thin in the post after T. Hansbrough.  It's TH, Brown, Lyons, Grimes...and that's it.  And we all know Brown never was truly built like a PF.
  • The minutes are much more well-distributed in '06-'07 thanks to Keon Lawrence slowly overtaking Jason Horton for key minutes, and to B. Hansbrough, M. Lawrence and Grant all taking turns with "first guard off the bench" minutes.
  • In the end, Mizzou averages about 0.5 PPG more than Mike Anderson's '06-'07 squad did, while giving up about 4.7 PPG less thanks to T. Hansbrough's defense and a slower pace.
  • (And yes, here's where 'projections' get VERY shaky.  We're taking the results of an '06-'07 team coached by Mike Anderson and altering them for results of an '06-'07 team coached by Quin Snyder and manned by five new players.  But whatcha gonna do...)

So here are the new '06-'07 results.  Again, bolded games are changed results.

11/10 N.C. A&T W 102 75 1-0
11/11 Army W 68 54 2-0
11/12 Stetson W 67 40 3-0
11/16 Lipscomb W 90 64 4-0
11/25 Stephen F. Austin W 86 52 5-0
11/27 Coppin State W 99 72 6-0
11/30 Arkansas W 87 59 7-0
12/3 Evansville W 74 50 8-0
12/9 at Purdue L 62 74 8-1
12/19 vs Illinois W 70 68 9-1
12/30 Southern U. W 88 54 10-1
1/2 Mississippi State W 84 70 11-1
1/6 Iowa State W 66 61 12-1 1-0
1/10 at Texas L 68 84 12-2 1-1
1/13 Kansas State W 82 80 13-2 2-1
1/15 at Kansas W 77 75 14-2 3-1
1/24 at Colorado W 79 61 15-2 4-1
1/27 Texas Tech W 72 53 16-2 5-1
1/31 at Kansas State L 73 75 16-3 5-2
2/3 Nebraska W 62 61 17-3 6-2
2/6 at Iowa State W 77 50 18-3 7-2
2/10 Kansas L 75 87 18-4 7-3
2/14 Baylor W 79 67 19-4 8-3
2/17 at Oklahoma State W 75 59 20-4 9-3
2/20 Oklahoma W 73 63 21-4 10-3
2/24 at Nebraska L 77 78 21-5 10-4
2/28 Colorado W 92 77 22-5 11-4
3/3 Texas A&M L 79 89 22-6 11-5

So Mizzou ends a losing streak against Illinois and gets its first win at Allen Fieldhouse since 1999.  And, as with 1999, they still end up with splitting with KU due to a home loss.  And for the second straight year, they load up on wins early and move quite high in the rankings before faltering slightly down the stretch.

Big 12 Tournament

Quarterfinals: #4 Missouri 76, #5 Texas Tech 65
Semifinals: #4 Missouri 69, #1 Texas A&M 67
Finals: #2 Kansas 83, #4 Missouri 75

So close.

NCAA Tournament

Missouri gets into the NCAA Tournament as a #6 seed in the Midwest Regional.

Round 1: #6 Missouri 75, #11 Georgia Tech 67 (in Spokane)
Round 2: #6 Missouri 72, #3 Oregon 71 (in Spokane)
Sweet Sixteen: #6 Missouri 75, #10 UNLV 68 (in St. Louis)
Elite Eight: #1 Florida 91, #6 Missouri 81 (in St. Louis)

So close.

So Missouri finishes Tyler Hansbrough's sophomore season (and Thomas Gardner's senior season) at 27-8 after a fourth place Big 12 finish, a runner-up finish in the Big 12 Tournament, and a runner-up finish in the NCAA's Midwest Regional.  It is Quin Snyder's second Elite Eight appearance in six seasons.

2007 Recruiting Class

So here's where we find out what kind of post-Hansbrough program Missouri is going to have.  Again, one of the ideas to doing this post is the concept of the "breakthrough recruit" (like what Blake Griffin is turning into at OU).  Would 50 wins and two more years of Tyler Hansbrough be enough to draw recruits to Mizzou?

Let's look at the Rivals 150 from 2007.  I seem to recall Mizzou being in on Derrick Rose for about a day back in 2004, and I seem to recall Mizzou being in on Sherron Collins for about two days.  Kevin Love and Kyle Singler were both from the northwest, where Quin Snyder had established ties by landing Thomas Gardner and coming close on a couple of other guys.

But would we have landed any of those guys?  No, probably not.  That said, here is a recruiting class made up of guys we were in on back when Quin was still the coach (all but one, anyway).  It's a nicely-ranked, 4-man class.

Jarryd Cole (PF, ***, Kansas City, KS) - I'm almost positive we'd have signed him had Quin still been the coach.

Darquavis Tucker (SG, ****, Saginaw, MI) - A nice SG following in Rickey Paulding's footsteps.

JaJuan Johnson (PF, ****, Indianapolis) - A power forward cut from the Jeffrey Ferguson mold.

That's great, but...we still need a point guard in this class.  I know of no point guards that Mizzou was in on while Quin was here, so I'm going to pull a (4-star) name out of a hat: Corey Chandler (PG, ****, Newark, NJ).  We'll say that Melvin Watkins' newfangled NJ ties result in another Newark guard after a successful season from Keon Lawrence.

So Quin signs a big-name class--not his first.  Are the players in the class actually any good?

2007-08 Season

We'll go faster now.

Player Min/gm Stat line
Tyler Hansbrough (Jr) 33.0 21.9 PPG, 10.2 RPG, 0.9 APG
Keon Lawrence (So) 27.2 9.3 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 2.9 APG
Keaton Grant (So) 21.1 6.9 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 1.6 APG
Dar Tucker (Fr) 20.6 8.7 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 1.3 APG
Leo Lyons (Jr) 20.3 10.5 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 1.6 APG
Jason Horton (Sr) 17.9 2.5 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 2.6 APG
Ben Hansbrough (So) 15.7 4.3 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 1.3 APG
Marshall Brown (Sr) 14.0 4.2 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 0.9 APG
Corey Chandler (Fr) 11.0 4.0 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 0.7 APG
Jarryd Cole (Fr) 10.4 2.5 PPG, injured in non-con
JaJuan Johnson (Fr) 9.5 2.5 PPG, 1.8 RPG
Matt Lawrence (Jr) 9.4 3.1 PPG, 1.1 RPG
  • Kalen Grimes still screws with depth a bit by getting himself kicked off the team.
  • Matt Lawrence just never really gets it going with so much depth at guard.
  • Dar Tucker, who is a big-time scorer on an awful DePaul team, slowly overtakes the other guards on the bench, eventually becoming a starter (with Keon at PG, I guess).
  • Even with a nice 1-2 combination in the frontcourt (Hansbrough, Lyons)...is this a very good team?  The numbers suggest a roughly similar offensive output and a 4-5 point defensive improvement.  (Oh yeah, and I add another 3-4 points to Mizzou's output post-Athenagate, since...well, no Hannah, no Athenagate, no drama and suspensions.)
11/12 Central Michigan W 87 72 1-0
11/13 Fordham W 79 51 2-0
11/16 Southern W 94 45 3-0
11/19 vs Michigan State W 83 82 4-0
11/20 vs UCLA L 64 68 4-1
11/25 Western Illinois W 91 48 5-1
11/28 at Arkansas W 91 90 6-1
12/1 at California L 71 81 6-2
12/8 Purdue W 73 59 7-2
12/15 McNeese State W 81 40 8-2
12/17 N.C. A&T W 94 62 9-2
12/22 vs Illinois W 58 55 10-2
12/27 Coppin State W 71 33 11-2
12/30 at Mississippi State L 75 83 11-3
1/8 UMKC W 96 72 12-3
1/12 Texas W 97 80 13-3 1-0
1/16 at Iowa State W 68 67 14-3 2-0
1/19 Kansas L 69 71 14-4 2-1
1/23 at Texas Tech L 84 88 14-5 2-2
1/26 at Colorado W 66 58 15-5 3-2
1/30 Nebraska W 62 61 16-5 4-2
2/2 Kansas State W 80 69 17-5 5-2
2/4 at Kansas L 74 85 17-6 5-3
2/9 Texas A&M W 73 72 18-6 6-3
2/13 at Nebraska W 74 69 19-6 7-3
2/16 at Kansas State L 66 95 19-7 7-4
2/23 Colorado W 63 48 20-7 8-4
2/26 Oklahoma State W 76 70 21-7 9-4
3/1 at Baylor L 92 95 21-8 9-5
3/5 Iowa State W 70 64 22-8 10-5
3/8 at Oklahoma L 69 70 22-9 10-6

It's tempting to set a "Hansbrough dominates his main rival (Kansas) like UNC has Duke the last four years" rule, but...no.  KU sweeps.  MU finishes 3rd.

Big 12 Tournament

Quarterfinals: #3 Missouri 60, #11 Iowa State 53
Semifinals: #2 Kansas 77, #3 Missouri 67

NCAA South Regional

First Round: #6 Missouri 76, #11 St. Mary's 65
Second Round: #6 Missouri 72, #3 Stanford 70
Sweet Sixteen: #6 Missouri 79, #7 Miami-FL 69
Elite Eight: #1 Memphis 78, #6 Missouri 67

Final record: 26-11.  Another Elite Eight run, another first-round bye in the Big 12 Tournament.  Tyler Hansbrough is, if not national player of the year, at least a first-team All-American.

2008 Recruiting Class

Marcus Denmon (SG, ***, Kansas City) - you know this guy

Scott Suggs (PG/SG, ****, St. Louis) - A more successful Mizzou program coulda/would swung this recruitment.

Tyler Zeller (C, ****, Washington, IN) - Mizzou was in on his brother way back when, and...why not?

2008-09 Season

Player Min/gm Stat line
Tyler Hansbrough (Sr) 29.4 16.8 PPG, 6.4 RPG
Dar Tucker (So) 27.8 12.0 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 1.0 APG
Leo Lyons (Sr) 24.0 13.1 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 3.0 APG
Corey Chandler (So) 21.4 5.7 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 2.7 APG
Keaton Grant (Jr) 20.8 5.3 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 1.9 APG
JaJuan Johnson (So) 20.8 8.6 PPG, 4.6 RPG
Marcus Denmon (Fr) 16.7 6.2 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 2.3 APG
Ben Hansbrough (Jr) 16.2 5.4 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 1.8 APG
Matt Lawrence (Sr) 14.6 5.1 PPG, 1.0 RPG, 1.3 APG
Jarryd Cole (So) 6.3 1.2 PPG, 1.1 RPG
Scott Suggs (Fr) 4.8 0.9 PPG

Notes:

  • Keon Lawrence still leaves over the summer, and even though he wasn't a natural point guard, he was playing point guard in '07-'08, and his absence (plus the failure of combo guard Scott Suggs to develop quickly) forces guys like Keaton Grant to imitate a point guard with Corey Chandler.
  • Meanwhile, Tyler Hansbrough takes a while to get rolling, missing a couple early games with a shin injury, meaning they have only one true point guard, and Leo Lyons has to carry the early load.
  • Again, a logjam of guards not really distinguishing themselves.  Chances are, one would emerge and get more minutes than the others (instead of four guards averaging between 14 and 21 minutes), but...who?
  • Stats say this team is worse than the current real Mizzou squad, by about 4.2 points on offense and 1.7 points on defense.
11/15 Prairie View A&M W 82 66 1-0
11/17 Chattanooga W 99 77 2-0
11/20 vs Xavier L 66 77 2-1
11/21 vs Fairfield W 83 60 3-1
11/23 vs USC W 79 74 4-1
11/30 Oral Roberts W 88 85 5-1
12/2 UA-Pine Bluff W 91 42 6-1
12/7 California W 88 68 7-1
12/13 Murray State W 71 66 8-1
12/20 Stetson W 74 45 9-1
12/23 vs Illinois L 55 77 9-2
12/27 SIU-Edwardsville W 103 59 10-2
12/30 Centenary W 75 53 11-2
1/3 at Georgia W 79 78 12-2
1/6 Coppin State W 84 57 13-2
1/10 at Nebraska L 47 57 13-3 0-1
1/14 Colorado W 103 64 14-3 1-1
1/17 Iowa State W 72 48 15-3 2-1
1/21 at Oklahoma State L 93 96 15-4 2-2
1/24 Texas Tech W 93 88 16-4 3-2
1/28 at Kansas State L 68 90 16-5 3-3
1/31 Baylor W 85 73 17-5 4-3
2/4 at Texas L 64 67 17-6 4-4
2/7 at Iowa State W 78 70 18-6 5-4
2/9 Kansas L 58 61 18-7 5-5
2/14 Nebraska W 66 49 19-7 6-5

So Mizzou still has a chance at 3rd place in conference, but they're in a dogfight with Texas, among others.  They're in line for a 7-9 seed in the NCAA Tournament.  Tyler Hansbrough's coming along, and the guards are getting more used to playing point, so Mizzou might be in line to make another March run...but clearly Mizzou fans have no idea what they're missing.

The Dilemma

So here's the point of this whole exercise: Be honest...which door do you choose?

Door #1

  • Paige Sports Arena drama/stupidity
  • A mediocre 2004-05
  • A return to the tourney in 2005-06
  • Back-to-back Elite Eight runs
  • 95 wins (and counting) in since the start of 2005-06
  • Aiming for a fourth straight first-round bye in the Big 12 Tourney
  • The #53 potentially retired in Mizzou Arena rafters
  • No DeMarre Carroll, J.T. Tiller, Zaire Taylor, Kimmie English, etc.
  • A lifetime of Quin Snyder-coached teams (because with two more Elite Eight appearances after surviving Ricky Clemons and probation, he's relatively untouchable for quite a while, you'd think)

Door #2

  • Paige Sports Arena drama/stupidity
  • A mediocre 2004-05
  • A worse 2005-06 (and no postseason berth)
  • The Popcorn Incident
  • Quin's dismissal drama/stupidity (Link visiting Quin's house, about 18 different people trying to sandbag Mike Alden during the coaching search, the longing for Bob Huggins, etc.)
  • A quick start and quick fade in 2006-07 (and no postseason berth)
  • A faster fade in 2007-08 (and no postseason berth)
  • Athenagate
  • Only 67 wins (and counting) since the start of 2005-06
  • DeMarre Carroll, J.T. Tiller, Zaire Taylor, Kimmie English, etc., leading a likeable team to a 22-4 start to 2008-09...BUT no promised NCAA Tourney success
  • A whole lotta Mike Anderson (sorry, Alabama) for the forseeable future

Neither Door #1 nor Door #2 explicitly promise future success.  Maybe Quin's tenure would quickly fall apart post-TH.  Maybe Mike Anderson's teams will go back to being gritty, gutty, and very mediocre after DeMarre Carroll and Leo Lyons walk out the door with their offensive talent.  But basically the question boils down to...where would you rather be right now--with four years of wins or with a major drought followed by a majorly likable team?

How important are pure win totals and another retired jersey to you?  Would you trade a long postseason drought and the currently extremely likable team for four years of Tyler Hansbrough and Elite Eight runs?  What about a Final Four run, or maybe a conference title?  (And what about living four years without those dreadful "Let's show TH's parents in the stands at Dean Smith Arena" camera shots, or the shots of Roy Williams and TH hugging?)

Right now, with Tyler Hansbrough, we'd be a) thankful for witnessing four years of him (like we were Brad Smith, or Chase Coffman, or Chase Daniel), b) reliving a lot more awesome Tourney memories (and getting ready for hopefully a few more), c) worried about a Hansbrough-less future dominated by guys like shoot-first (4-star) Dar Tucker and high-risk-high-reward (4-star) Corey Chandler (and still no pure point guard), d) frustrated as hell that Quin's teams always seem to hit a rough patch in late-January and early-February, and e) missing out on guys like Zaire Taylor and Kimmie English.

So which door do you choose?

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