What happens when the best Missouri women's basketball team in the recent past only graduates one player, adds the first McDonald's All-American recruit in Mizzou history and gets several key contributors and/or promising players back from injury? Expectations are raised for Mizzou's first trip to the NCAA tournament in ten seasons.
The road won't be easy, though. Despite the buzz, Robin Pingeton's squad is ranked in the middle of the SEC pack, predicted to finish seventh in the conference in the preseason poll. After a non-conference schedule that presents a few challenges, Mizzou opens SEC play with national #2 South Carolina, #4 Tennessee, and #13 Mississippi State in the first four games.
With all the new and returning talent, how will playing time be divvied up? We get our first clue tonight when Mizzou hosts Southwest Baptist in an exhibition game at Mizzou Arena. Our second clue comes when Mizzou hosts Quincy on Monday. We will back with a more detailed preview after we analyze those results and before the regular season kicks off with a road trip to Missouri State next Friday.
Here’s some things to look for during these exhibitions:
Who starts at point? What’s the split in minutes? Lindsey Cunningham was steady in replacing the injured Lianna Doty last year, producing fewer assists but also fewer turnovers. Is Doty all the way back from her Lisfranc injury? Can she continue to produce high volume assists while reining in her turnover totals? My guess is Cunningham starts tonight, Doty may be able to work back to a more equitable split of the minutes.
How many references are made to the fact that Mizzou is the only team in the NCAA with three pairs of sisters on the roster? As the exhibitions aren’t televised, this may be difficult to ascertain, but you can follow the play-by-play and insert your own commentary to get a feel for how often it will be dropped. For the record, those sisters are senior twins Maddie and Morgan Stock, redshirt junior Lindsey Cunningham and freshman Sophie Cunningham and sophomore forward Bri Porter and freshman forward Cierra Porter. This is the leading candidate for overused announcer meme of the season. Please be responsible in developing any drinking games around sister mentions.
Does Mizzou play more inside out? Pingeton has stated this is her preferred approach, but her teams, led by the graduated Morgan Eye, have been outside gunners first and foremost. With a healthy roster of post players to supplement 2nd team All SEC Jordan Frericks on the inside, we may see a different dynamic this year.