10. Missouri Tigers
Last season: 9 - 23 (3-15 in conference)
My Prediction: 7 - 11 (in conference)
RockMNation's Prediction: 5 - 13 (in conference)
The Masses Prediction: 4.7 - 13.3
When Kim Anderson was hired just over a year ago, it was a divisive hire for many in the Mizzou fan base. After more than a decade of success at the Division II level, many amongst the fan base were ready for a steadying hand at the helm of the basketball program. Missouri had seen it’s share of success since Norm Stewart retired, but more than the successes, there was turmoil and coaching turnover that culminated when Frank Haith, the 2012 National Coach of the Year, left Missouri for Tulsa after just 3 years and waning attendance, despite never winning fewer than 23 games. Kim Anderson, a former Mizzou player and assistant coach, was seen as the answer to that turmoil and turnover. Anderson, they said, would view Mizzou as the destination job. That answer fell flat in season one as Anderson struggled to get a youth filled roster on the same page enough to even reach double digit wins, and the team finished with a 214 ranking in KenPom, the Tigers lowest ranking in that poll since 2006, when Mike Anderson was rebuilding the Quin Snyder mess. Needless to say, those still paying attention are getting restless to see progress after such an ugly start. It remains to be seen if Kim Anderson is the right hire or not, but whether or not you liked the hire at the time, Anderson needs to show Missouri fans that this program is on the right path in 2015-16.
WHO THEY LOST
|Johnathan Williams III||Transfer||32||.730||.274||.196|
As is wont to happen when you have as bad of a season as Missouri had last year, there were several premature exists from players most didn’t expect to happen. First was leading scorer and rebounder Johnathan Williams III, who transferred to Gonzaga citing a lack of chemistry with his teammates. Williams was often counted on to play out of his comfort zone as the focal point of the offense, and that clearly wasn't the best fit for the big man. Montaque Gill-Caesar was perhaps more crafted for that role, just not as a freshmen. He struggled to come back after a mid-season back injury, and was never quite the player that started the year, and opted for greener grass at San Diego State. Deuce Bello, a highly touted 4-star out of high school who was never able to reach that level in college, was seldom used and moved on to East Tennessee State. Keanau Post showed up in flashes during his two years at Mizzou, but probably needed another year or two of development to reach his potential, as he was never consistent enough to be a factor. Last, the on court leader of the team, Keith Shamburger, is gone after a good final campaign. Shamburger did all he could to buoy the young Tigers last season, but it just wasn’t enough. One last note, walk-on redshirt sophomore Hayden Barnard decided to leave the team just a few days ago to concentrate on his academics.
WHO IS COMING BACK?
|Jimmy Barton||r-sophomore||G||REDSHIRT -- Transfer from Houston Baptist|
The story of the Missouri Tigers and the Kim Anderson era will likely be written by the group of players who stuck around after the disasterous year one. There is some talent on the roster and it starts with Wes Clark. Clark wasn’t always the most efficient offensive player, but he was one of a few guys that could go get his own shot. Jakeenan Gant is a guy most heaped too much hype upon prior to the season, but he struggled to find rhythm after sitting the first nine games of the year. Namon Wright had a little bit of a different path, he started off the season having trouble getting off the bench, but by the end of the season was playing really well and was a deserved starter, he was also the only consistent shooter from beyond the three-point line last year. Most that follow the team were probably surprised that Tramaine Isabell didn’t transfer as he and Coach Anderson didn’t always see eye to eye, but when Isabell played he showed that he can compete at this level and is one of the more exciting returning guys. D’Angelo Allen has also had an eventful year and a half in the program as he came into his freshman season a little overweight, and played more at the Power Forward spot than he’s accustomed to, but he’s lost weight and expects to play more as a wing this season. And last, Ryan Rosburg, who is the favorite punching bag of a vocal minority of the Mizzou Internet. Rosburg isn’t going to blow you away, but he’s been a solid contributor and for his sake I hope he has a nice senior season. He’d be the first senior to leave after playing all 4 years at Mizzou since Laurence Bowers.
WHO ARE THE NEWCOMERS?
For Mizzou to have the season they did and still pull off two highly ranked 3-star players is a good sign. K.J. Walton brings a physical wing presence and the ability to defend, drive and score the ball which is something desperately needed on this roster. Terrence Phillips is a natural leader at the lead guard position, and has the charisma to get fans excited about the future. He's the younger brother of Brandon Jennings, and has played three years as a starter for the elite prep school program Oak Hill Academy. Cullen VanLeer should be able to provide consistent outside scoring, which is something the Tigers lacked outside of Namon Wright last year. Kevin Puryear is a physical combo forward who can stretch the floor, but is strong and aggressive enough on the low block to earn early minutes inside. Russell Woods should provide help at the five spot, although his rough offensive skills might limit his early minutes. Last, Martavian Payne is a scorer who can play all three perimeter spots, which should help with the overall depth and scoring. Puryear, VanLeer and Payne are all Missouri kids, something that Kim Anderson has said he wants to get back to. Finding players that will be passionate about elevating the program. Adam Wolf is a walk-on who was a solid player with several high DII offers, but opted to walk on at Mizzou.
|Point Guard||Combo Guard||Wing|
|Terrence Phillips||Wes Clark||K.J. Walton|
|Tramaine Isabell||Martavian Payne||Namon Wright|
|Jakeenan Gant||Kevin Puryear|
|Russell Woods||Ryan Rosburg|
Everything went wrong last year. We know that. Mizzou was bad. They played bad. The shot bad. They lost bad. They lost players when it was all over bad. It all equated to the most miserable season in memory for Mizzou basketball fans. That’s about as much as I can sugarcoat it.
With a group coming back that’s still going to be short on experience, Mizzou is going to have to rely on guys to outperform their recruiting rankings as freshmen while getting some of the sophomores to live up to theirs. That’s still a lot of pressure on underclassmen, and there are only four upperclassmen on the roster to begin with. Mizzou is going to put a lot of pressure on Wes Clark to be something close to a go-to guy, and hope that the makeup and chemistry of the roster is more suited to its coaching staff than it was a year ago. If they can find a way to create more open looks both near the basket and from three-point range, the Tigers offense should be better. Even just playing a full season with their coach means we should see some improvement. How much improvement is the question that many want to know.
For a program that is long of tradition, though a bit short on championships, the rock bottom feeling of last year has left a big hole in the hearts of many fans. So much that it may not be too surprising to see a few tumbleweeds rolling through Mizzou Arena for home games early on this season. Mizzou didn’t exactly book murders row for their home slate either. The schedule overall will be a challenge, as they’ll take on Illinois, Kansas State and possibly either North Carolina or Northwestern on neutral courts (although all in the state of Missouri). They have road games at Arizona and Xavier, plus a home date against the North Carolina State Wolfpack. That’s five tough non-conference games. Every other game on the non-conference schedule is with a team below them on the kenpom preseason rankings, minus one. The one is the home opener against Wofford, an NCAA tournament team last year ranked 6 spots ahead of the Tigers at 161. Honestly if the Tigers can get to eight wins in the non-con, or even exceed that, it will be considered a rousing success. Going beyond that seems a stretch when you’re staring down Arizona (kenpom #6), Xavier (31), NC State (41), Illinois (61), Kansas State (110) and Northwestern (51) or North Carolina (7).
So if Mizzou is able to find their way to eight non-conference wins, they need seven conference wins to get to 15, which seems to be the magical "progress" number that many are using. The Tigers are only projected to be favored in two games (home games against Mississippi State and Auburn) at this stage, with the margin of error they project to a 5-13 season. I’m less optimistic on Arkansas than some seem to be, and I see that home game as a likely win. They only play Kentucky once (certain loss), but have Texas A&M twice (two more L’s), and have to travel to Vanderbilt (another L). The other home and homes are Ole Miss, Arkansas, Georgia, and South Carolina. Georgia, with their physical guard play, is a terrible matchup for this team. South Carolina is just bad enough offensively that Mizzou could steal the home game in that matchup. Arkansas is shaky and Ole Miss is a big giant question mark, although I would not guess that Mizzou has a chance to win at their place. So there’s 4 games where they have a good chance to win, on top of the two previous where they’re picked to win. The remainder of the home slate has another two games that are winnable in Tennessee and Florida. That’s basically Mizzou’s path to 15 wins.
The margin for error with this team is pretty thin. The ceiling for this team is probably 8 wins, so marking them down for 7 seems optimistic. I’m not sure they get there, but that’s the only way they do get there. If you want to be an optimistic fan, that’s great. Mizzou has enough on the roster right now to believe that they’re building for a good future. Score a couple big recruits in the coming years and that could kick start the renaissance for Mizzou basketball. I was buying a little of the Kool-Aid from the summer tour of fun but a bit of that ended when you start watching the team play and realize how far there is still to go. Mizzou should absolutely be better with some of the continuity added to the roster, coupled with some maturation of the younger players. The main question is how much better, once a power five team falls short of 10 wins, there’s only one way to go and that’s up… right?
I know what you’re thinking. Fan of another SEC school offering his thoughts on Mizzou? Oh, Lord, here comes somebody to tell us how much we suck.
The truth is, Missouri might not be that bad this year. No, I don’t think they’re going to be good, but I also don’t think it’s so obvious that they’re going to finish in the cellar. Part of that has to do with the offseason Arkansas just had, but still.
I think Johnathan Williams leaving hurts them less than a lot of people think. Or it might not, at least. The thing about good players on bad teams is that frequently they’re not really that good. Sure, he led the team in scoring because somebody had to take the shots, but he was pretty inefficient. Of course, that assessment depends on other players stepping up, but I think if Jakeenan Gant plays to his potential he gives them at least what they had with Williams.
Which, that’s the thing about Missouri. Last year’s team didn’t seem like a hopeless case, a la Mississippi State in 2013 or South Carolina when Darrin Horn was coaching there, where the basic problem is that the team is full of guys who should be playing in the Sun Belt Conference. Missouri has some talent on the roster, it just seemed like it wasn’t clicking at all. That’s not a good thing, but it’s a much more fixable problem than having guys who can’t play.
I’ll admit that I picked Mizzou to finish last, mostly because they made me look stupid last year. But there’s at least some potential there, and I wouldn’t be that surprised if they finish around .500 in the SEC. Which, again, is because some other teams (notably Arkansas, Alabama, and Tennessee) look like they’ll be pretty bad. But that would at least be progress.
If you want to read Tom's full preview of the Missouri Tigers, here you go: Link!
|Chris Bohkay||Rock M Nation|
What does it say about me, a person with a functioning brain and working eyes that I not only look forward to Mizzou's 2015-2016 season but that I've been doing so for a few months now? Is it that College basketball has the longest offseason in sport? Perhaps. Maybe it's because I've been brainwashed by Kim Anderson, what with those big googly eyes he's got (when not covering them with a hand in despair)? Again, could be. Whatever the cause, I'm looking forward to watching what Mizzou does this year because, if you believe everyone, Mizzou is going to be a special kind of awful, again! Last year the Tigers were terrible and this year they're gonna be worse, just ask everyone. And even with my prediction of them only beating 5 teams (too many some would say) I feel good, almost at peace about this season. I bet this is what people feel like right before death, a calmness. Hopefully the season doesn't feel like death though, not again. Normally, I would be snarky in this space, but I won't today. I won't harp on Kim Anderson caring that his players wear hats when consuming food, or that his players sit up and answer questions in a fashion that fits his definitions of how to do so, no, we're going to focus on the f'ing positives, and there are positives. The team cannot be worse. That is a positive. It is literally impossible in my mind for this team to be worse. It would take an outbreak of Chagas disease on the team for it to fall apart in a fashion that was more disastrous than last year. And, all you Mizzou fans, do not freak out, DO NOT FREAK OUT, if they lose at home to Wofford in the first game. For all you hold dear in your life do not freak out. They are not UMKC, Wofford is a real team, that will make the tourney again. PLEASE DON'T FREAK OUT. Anyway, it's year 2, and sequels are always great, Aliens, T2, Harold and Kumar (uh), The Hangover 2 (wait a minute...) Speed 2 (a boat?!), Weekend at Bernies 2 (jamaican me crazy), Blues Brothers 2000 (why John Goodman WHY?!), whatever followed The Matrix (reloaded revolutions of revulsion)...
Forget all that, cleanse yourself with T2 or Aliens or hell Godfather II, just remember, they'll be back...ah crap. Mizzou will be better, I swear....now stop slouching while reading this. Go Tigers. Oh and young Tigers just a few words of advice,
, , STOP. GETTING. SUSPENDED!
About the preview: Each SBNation site was asked for one representative to submit a Game-by-Game pick of the upcoming SEC season to get a different look than if we just asked them to submit a ranking by team, or a prediction for their record. It yielded some interesting results as you can see.
GP: Games Played
%min: Percentage of team minutes played that were available
%poss: Percentage of usage, when a player is the cause of the end of possession (turnover or shot)
%points: Percentage of points scored vs team points
%rbds: Percentage of rebounds vs team rebounds
eFG%: Field Goal percentage with added weight of 50% for three point shots made
%3pm: Percentage of 3-point makes to team 3-point makes
ORtg: Average points scored per 100 possessions (if the player was responsible for each possession)
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