With the commitment and subsequent signing of K.J. Walton, Mizzou is officially at its scholarship threshold for the 2015-16 season, provided the roster makes it to the start of the season with no attrition.
At this point, judging by what we (and others) are hearing, it looks like Mizzou and it's coaching staff feel confident everyone is on board. This doesn't mean nothing will change -- after all we thought that Torren Jones and Cameron Biedscheid were both going to be on the roster this past year -- but let's just say for the sake of this post that all is well, and that we know the players who will be on the roster at the start of the season.
So with 13 scholarship players and two walk-ons, the roster looks like this:
|MISSOURI TIGERS 2015-2016|
|1||Terrence Phillips||5-10||170||G||Fr||College Park, GA/Oak Hill Academy|
|2||Martavian Payne||6-2||175||G||Jr||St. Louis, MO/John A. Logan College|
|4||Tramaine Isabell||6-0||180||G||So||Seattle, WA/Garfield High|
|5||D'Angelo Allen||6-7||220||F||So||Dallas, TX/Kimball High|
|10||K.J. Walton||6-4||225||G||Fr||Brownsburg, IN/Brownsburg High|
|11||Jimmy Barton||5-10||160||G||RS So||St. Louis, MO/Houston Baptist|
|12||Namon Wright||6-5||200||G||So||Los Angeles, CA/Pacific Hills High|
|13||Montaque Gill-Caesar||6-6||215||G||So||Vaughan, Ontario/Huntington Prep|
|15||Wes Clark||6-0||185||G||Jr||Detroit, MI/Romulus High|
|23||Jakeenan Gant||6-8||207||F||So||Springfield, GA/Effingham County High|
|24||Kevin Puryear||6-7||215||F||Fr||Blue Springs, MO/Blue Springs South High|
|25||Russell Woods||6-8||230||F||Jr||Chicago, IL/John A. Logan College|
|33||Cullen VanLeer||6-4||195||G||Fr||Pacific, MO/Pacific HS|
|42||Hayden Barnard||6-10||225||F||RS So||Aurora, IL/Metea Valley HS|
|44||Ryan Rosburg||6-10||264||F||Sr||St. Louis/Marquette HS|
*all listed numbers are tentative until the final roster comes out
One thing has been discussed more than anything is the number of guards versus forwards. This roster is very guard-heavy, with nine primary perimeter players and three more who are capable of logging minutes on the wing. On the flip side there are just six post players. Only having six guys who can play the post means that Mizzou will be relying heavily on Russell Woods and Ryan Rosburg to man the middle, with Jakeenan Gant, Kevin Puryear and D'Angelo Allen providing support. It's doubtful that Hayden Barnard steps in to play at all, and if he does, that probably means things are in a severe disarray. This also means that if there is one area where Mizzou cannot afford attrition or injury, it's with these players. If either Rosburg or Woods were to go down, you could see some serious scrambling.
It will be interesting to see how the depth on the perimeter plays a role in who plays in the post. Missouri coach Kim Anderson has already mentioned the possibility of playing small and going with a guard-heavy lineup. With bigger players like Teki Gill-Caesar and Namon Wright on the wing, Mizzou could get away with it. Plus with Wes Clark, who I've always felt was one of the better rebounding guards in the SEC, it's possible that you could see a bevy of guard-oriented lineups with a more focused high-low/ball-screen hybrid attack similar to what the Tigers used in the 2011-12 season.
Last week I posed a question on Twitter. Eight players are going to log most of the minutes. On a good night, Coach Anderson can probably get to 10 guys, but you can assume that three are not going to play at all. So how do you trim down with these 13?
This was probably the most common eight that was submitted:
@SamSnellingRMN PG- Clark SG- Wright SF- Teki PF- Gant C- Woods Payne Allen Rosburg— Gavin (@GJAlexander) May 26, 2015
I can see this as a top eight, but there are ZERO freshmen in this group. Even if you include the freshmen in spots nine and 10, two more freshmen are not playing at all.
Somebody is going to get left out, and the guy that was the most named (or perhaps the one who was left off the most) was Cullen VanLeer. VanLeer is a guy who the coaches are really high on, and he'll have a chance to contribute early due to his shooting ability. Most tend to think that Wright and Gill-Caesar are starting, you have to expect Clark to start, so you're left with Payne, Phillips, Isabell, VanLeer and Walton to fight for minutes. If there are 200 minutes available in a game, and the top three average 25, plus 80 minutes for post players, that leaves just 45 minutes for 5 guys.
So here is my best stab at a depth chart, just keeping in mind that some of those perimeter positions are very flexible.
|Wes Clark||Namon Wright||Montaque Gill-Caesar||Jakeenan Gant||Russell Woods|
|Terrence Phillips||Martavian Payne||K.J. Walton||D'Angelo Allen||Ryan Rosburg|
|Jimmy Barton||Tramaine Isabell||Cullen VanLeer||Kevin Puryear||Hayden Barnard|
I've got Isabell third on the depth chart at the 2-guard, but he's probably the second point guard off the bench until we've seen something from Phillips. Payne can play minutes at the point, but he is more of a natural wing, so that's where he's likely to see the most minutes. I can see scenarios where Isabell plays a bit more point guard than wing.
I've also opted for experience over youth in most of the cases, so Allen gets the nod ahead of Puryear. Again, after last year I think we should all be more skeptical of freshman contributions, especially early in the season.
Matchups to watch:
Payne - Isabell: Both are combo guards but capable at the point. Both are smaller guards but good shooters from the outside. Whoever comes out ahead in this battle will be interesting because you'd hate to bring in a JUCO guard from your home state and sit him behind a younger player. That said, we've all seen the talent and skill and guts on display when Isabell is on the floor. It's hard to see who gains the advantage, but at this point I'd have to lean on the in-state kid.
Allen - Puryear: Both of these players are roughly 6'7 and 220 lbs. They play a sort of high-energy combo forward type of role but offer different advantages. Allen showed the ability to knock down jumpers at times last year and displayed a good ability to pass the ball on the interior. But Puryear is the more polished offensive player, and for a team that struggled to score, that could give him the advantage. Plus, the in-state angle is at play again here.
Walton - Wright - Gill-Caesar: I don't want to put too much on the plate of the freshman, but Walton will be competing with two highly regarded players who had flashes last year of being great players. Gill-Caesar looked to polished early, but the back injury obviously had an effect on his athleticism and slowed him down. Meanwhile, Wright went the opposite direction, starting sluggishly and coming on late. All three can be physical wing scorers capable of giving the offense a boost in a variety of ways, but all three won't be on the floor at the same time.
Safe in their role:
Wes Clark: Clark might be the de facto leader of this group at this point. He's tough and was really the only guy who could create his own shot repetitiously when the offense broke down a year ago. He should have some of that weight lifted this year while playing the lead guard both on and off the ball.
Terrence Phillips: With Clark ahead of him at the point, Phillips won't be relied upon to do much of anything his freshmen season. So any contributions he makes will be considered a bonus.
Barnard - Barton: Walk-ons. Honestly, if they are contributing to more than just inside practice there are probably much larger concerns. They need to push the guys in practice.
Russell Woods: If Woods is starting at the center position, Mizzou will have a decent ceiling if only because playing Woods should provide a higher ceiling than playing a lot of minutes with Ryan Rosburg. Woods won't be asked to do a lot, but he'll need to be effective with what he does. Rebound, score cheap baskets and play tough defense without getting into foul trouble.
Ryan Rosburg: At this point, Rosburg is what he is: an enormous lightning rod for criticism from Mizzou fans. He's not a great and dominant center, but he has been and can be effective on the interior for the Tigers, provided he's not overexposed by playing too many minutes. However, despite the wishes of a very vocal part of the fanbase, Rosburg is going to play minutes next year and will probably start the season off in the top 5.
|Mizzou Roster Breakdown|
|P O I N T G U A R D|
|Wes Clark||Jimmy Barton||Terrence Phillips|
|C O M B O G U A R D|
|Martavian Payne||Tramaine Isabell|
|W I N G|
|Montaque Gill-Caesar||Cullen VanLeer|
|Namon Wright||K.J. Walton|
|C O M B O F O R W A R D|
|D'Angelo Allen||Kevin Puryear|
|P O S T|
|Ryan Rosburg||Russell Woods||Jakeenan Gant|
This is a very young roster. No matter who plays, there is still going to be a lot of youth on the court for the Tigers, and they are likely to take a few bumps along the way. What you should hope to see is some of the freshmen and sophomores beginning to take the next step and providing the lift in order to elevate the program from the doldrums.
After one of the darkest winters this program has experienced in the memory of just about everyone, we're all looking for the rays of light, and there could be enough there to keep hope alive provided the right guys begin to take steps forward.
If guys like Teki, Namon, K.J. Walton and Jakeenan Gant are stepping up and providing a spark, there will be significant reason to feel hopeful for the future.