Can you tell I'm excited?
Basketball is about to start you guys.— Sam Snelling (@SamSnellingRMN) October 30, 2014
I'm not sure there's a way to celebrate an exhibition win, especially a 72-31 thumping of an average Division II basketball team in William Jewell. Even the worst of a Power Five conference teams should be able to do that. It was certainly nice to see basketball being played for the first time in a while, though. We got to experience some new players, and see the first iteration of the Kim Anderson era. I just wanted to lay down a couple quick thoughts about the game here and see if the things that I saw turn into trends or if they are just the product of the first game being played by an almost entirely new team.
I was talking to a friend last night, attempting to tempter his excitement for the game. Part of the process for me is that Mizzou has the talent on board today to win at least 12-15 games by being the more talented team. How they are going to win those games are by being fundamental defensively, and by rebounding the basketball. These are the areas that you can always control. I figure that Mizzou has around five games where the shots are just falling, that they're able to win a game or two that maybe they shouldn't win but do because the right couple guys get hot and hit shots they don't consistently make. I'm also counting on about eight to 10 games where shots really aren't falling, and Mizzou is pretty tough to watch.
Efficiency on offense is going to be the biggest concern going into a pretty tough non-conference schedule, then into league play. I expect that Mizzou will be able to get more efficient as the season goes on, but how efficient can they be in the early going is going to be the question.
Without taking too much into account from last night, here are some bright spots for me:
Point guard play
Wes Clark played with confidence, Keith Shamburger played with poise, and Tramaine Isabell played with aggression. If these three guys play well this year Mizzou can be a tournament team. For me the key will be if Clark can have that kind of 10- to 12-point, five-rebound, six-assist kind of play on a fairly regular basis. Clark had 14 points on 12 shots (a few more shots than I'd like to see him take), but seven rebounds to only one assist. I give him a bit of a pass on the assist total because there were at least two more that he would have had if guys finish the play. Shamburger also had five rebounds, and Isabell had three. If you get 10-15 rebounds from your point guards, that's a good night. Also Wes Clark did this (credit to Fullback)...
A big part of this team is going to be how hard they play. One reason why I'm hopeful about the Kim Anderson era is that I expect we'll see much more control over the parts of the game that you can control. And effort is a big part of that. Not that guys didn't play hard under Frank Haith or Mike Anderson. But the consistency of the effort seemed to be there for the whole game. It's okay to not play well as long as you play hard. A turnover can be acceptable as long as you're going hard. And nearly out-rebounding your opponent by double is a good example on how to win with effort.
I expect the minutes to adjust as the competition stiffens. But seeing the minutes at 13, 16, 18, 18, 18, 27, 23, 20, 23, 21 is good for these guys. When Johnathan Williams III comes back, and we're playing Power Five teams, I expect to see less from certain guys, but it's also clear that there are 11 guys who can contribute this year. And the more balance that Mizzou has, the tougher they'll be to defend. I think you'll eventually see Williams, Clark, and MGC close to 30 minutes a game. Where the rest fall will be a testament to the competitiveness of the players on the roster.
All in all, it wasn't a bad first taste of basketball, but it wasn't always pretty. Mizzou has a lot of work to do, and that's okay. They're young. It's going to be rocky at times this year.