#14 Missouri Tigers
Last Season: 10-21 (3-15 in conference) #160 kenpom
My Prediction: 4 -14 (last in conference)
RockMNation’s Prediction: 7 - 11 (11th in conference)
The Masses Prediction: 4.7 - 13.3 (last in conference)
HEAD COACH: Kim Anderson | third season 19-44
After two disastrous seasons in Columbia, the temperature of the seat underneath Kim Anderson has gotten quite warm. The whirlwind of the last few years for Missouri athletics has almost overshadowed the seeming cratering of the Missouri basketball program. There are different perspectives on how it happened as many hearken to the state of the program when Anderson took over as well as the sanctions the Tigers are finally clear of as of this year which were largely out of Anderson’s control. Anderson has a lot of what you want in a head coach, an extreme affinity for the University he once played for, a stoicism in the face of adversity, and a guy who’s won a National Championship. The question as yet to be answered is if Kim Anderson can win at the level of a power conference school. He has certainly had difficulties getting the program going in the direction he wants. He’s getting closer, the only issue being there are 10 of the 12 players on scholarship who are freshmen or sophomores. For two seasons Anderson tried to make things work with a mixture of players Frank Haith recruited and his own guys. Now, at least, he’s got a roster full of players he recruited from start to finish. So we’ll have to see how it goes.
Seat Temp: HOT
From being the 8th best team in KenPom in 2012, the descent to 192 it pretty rare. The question becomes what sort of rise would the Tigers need to keep Anderson in charge? The arc of Mizzou basketball over the last 10 years is an interesting one considering where the program was in the 2006-07 season. Coming off a year in which they fired Quin Snyder, it took a couple seasons before Mike Anderson got the Tigers back and into the Elite 8, which started a string of five NCAA tournaments in a row before Frank Haith failed to make the tournament in 2014 and left for Tulsa, then Mizzou turned to Kim Anderson. Anderson was an alum, and a national champion at the Division 2 level.
SO, WHO’S GONE?
The roster has been completely turned over from a few years ago. This is no longer a cobbled together collection of Frank Haith leftovers and the hastily thrown together class of 2014. Ryan Rosburg put together a strong finish to his career, as he was often a lightning rod of fan ridicule. Rosburg silenced the chatter down the stretch with an almost All SEC level of play. He made the Tigers more competitive by giving them a decent contributor on the block, something the Tigers had missed since 2013.
Namon Wright became reliable on the glass but struggled to find the shooting accuracy he enjoyed from deep as a freshmen. Wes Clark, always a tough and fierce competitor who gave you everything he had, but wasn’t able to keep his off the court life straightened out enough to stay on the court. Meanwhile Jakeenan Gant never seemed to fulfill the promise of his high recruiting ranking, and D’Angelo Allen and Tramaine Isabell showed initial promise but seemed to clash a bit personality wise with what the staff wanted.
|Jordan Barnett||junior||cf||Transfer -- Texas|
|Trevor Glassman||junior||wing||Transfer -- Manhattan|
K.J. Walton | SOPHOMORE | WING
A bit of a barometer player for the Tigers and their hopes for the season rests with the sophomore guard from Indiana. Walton was a highly rated player coming out of high school but struggled with consistency, like most freshmen. He’s athletic and naturally strong with the ability to absorb contact and still get his shot off in the lane and he showed flashes with a knack for getting to the free throw line. The more he’s involved offensively the better Missouri can be. If Walton is able to take a big step forward and be a consistent scoring threat Missouri will have a chance to exceed their rather paltry expectations.
If there’s a reason Missouri fans are optimistic it comes in the form of a freshmen class a year ago that outperformed expectations. From the word go Kevin Puryear and Terrence Phillips played like a veterans, started right away and assumed as much of a leadership position as you can expect to get from freshmen. Puryear and Phillips were some of the more consistent performers a year ago, and will now ask for more from the talented K.J. Walton on the wing. Phillips ability to shoot the basketball was largely undersold but he proved he can be a plus shooter. Cullen VanLeer really struggled to shoot the ball, which was surprising to many within the program. He improved his percentages in a overseas trip to italy and the Tigers could really use a more reliable shooter from the outside. Russell Woods is the last returning scholarship player and could be the starter if he improves his efficiency and rebounding after an inconsistent season last year. Perhaps the guy who could have the biggest impact is Texas transfer Jordan Barnett. Barnett is a former 4-star combo forward from St. Louis who’ll figure largely into the rotation once he’s eligible.
Kevin Puryear | SOPHOMORE | POST
Puryear is a skilled post player most comfortable around 15 feet and in, but with ability to sink jump shots from outside to the 3-point line. Last season he was important to the Tigers and he’ll be even more so this year. His ability to be consistent and somebody coaches can count on makes him an integral part of the season. The Tigers need him to improve the baseline level of play in order for them to move up in the rankings. Puryear’s ability to convert around the basket and knock down open jumpers will be vital to the Tigers offense this year.
The 13th ranked recruiting class in the SEC and 64th in the country isn’t full of a lot of flash. There are elements of the recruiting class that could help restore the roar at Missouri. Willie Jackson and Frankie Hughes provided a lot of spark at Garfield Heights in Cleveland, and decided to team up at Missouri after Hughes was let out of his letter of intent at Louisville. Both should factor into the rotation early and often. Jackson has a bit of junkyard dog in him in that he likes to rebound and get easy baskets, and Hughes is a high ceiling wing who can shoot the lights out and flies in transition. Mitchell Smith is a long, athletic forward in desperate need of some weight gain, but a guy who could provide some offensive punch in the post if he’s able to be physical enough on defense. Reed Nikko is a strong solid body who could probably contribute early just because he’s physically ready, but he won’t be a real polished player at the start. Jakoby Kemp has some stretch four ability and the TIgers like his potential, as a late pickup it will be interesting to see if he’s able to crack the rotation.
Sophomore Jordan Geist won’t put up a lot of big numbers but brings an element of toughness the Tigers need. The Tigers added Brett Rau as a former Division II JUCO All American who decided to walk on and hopes to try to crack the rotation.
|Point Guard||Combo Guard||Wing|
|Terrence Phillips||Cullen VanLeer||K.J. Walton|
|Jordan Geist||Frankie Hughes||Jordan Barnett|
|Kevin Puryear||Russell Woods|
|Willie Jackson||Reed Nikko|
The Tigers will largely count on the more experienced players to begin the season, probably going with an all-returning starting five. If changes are going to be made it could happen with the eligibility of Jordan Barnett who is set to return to play at semester. After he becomes eligible there may be some shuffling, and he provides nice flexibility but this depth is likely where things will start.
My Projected Record: 12 - 18 | KenPom Projected Record: 11 - 17
Non-Con: Xavier (n), Clemson/Davidson (n), Arizona, Illinois (n), Western Kentucky
At the top the non-conference schedule is very tough with two potential top 10 programs in Xavier and Arizona. Missouri will take on the Musketeers for the third year in a row, this time in the opener of the Puerto Rico-now Orlando Tip Off, and it should provide a nice barometer for their progress. Arizona makes the return trip from a home and home where the Tigers lost in Tucson a year ago in embarrassing fashion. There’s also the traditional Braggin’ Rights Game against Illinois in St. Louis, and the Illini should be tough as they’ve finally gotten healthy and should be pretty tough. The rest of their conference slate are mostly winnable home games against mid and low majors.
Conference: Texas A&M (2x), Arkansas (2x), Ole Miss (2x), Alabama (2x), Auburn (2x), @ Georgia, @ Mississippi State, @ Florida, Kentucky, Vanderbilt
The good news is the Tigers don’t have an insurmountable conference slate. You’ll expect a team with as much youth as they do to struggle on the road, but there are plenty of games at home against bottom of the league type of teams you could reasonably see Missouri pulling off more wins than you’d expect. They’ll still need to steal games at home and chances against Arkansas, Alabama, Auburn, Texas A&M, and Vanderbilt will give them chances. They’ll have to capitalize.
Following the last two seasons of Missouri basketball hasn’t be easy for anyone involved, most of all the coaches. After a 9-23 record and a 192 KenPom ranking two years ago, the Tigers bumped that up a win and 32 spots last year. It was a tough two seasons of basketball and then to make matters worse, the Tigers played one of the country’s more difficult schedules with a roster chock full of underclassmen. Missouri now looks at a roster with only one senior, one junior, a host of sophomores and freshmen and somehow we’re supposed to expect a different outcome? If you’re a fan of the Tigers, having a positive outlook on this season requires faith more than anything else. Then again, worse odds have been overcome, and there is reason to think this could be the beginning of something better.
If you have or are looking for faith you point to a roster where Kim Anderson hasn’t had one he can claim is 100% his own. Before there was enough connection to the Frank Haith regime the mis-matching personalities caused conflict on and off the court, leading to inconsistent play and poor performance. The players on the roster now don’t have the luxury of wearing that label, they’re Kim’s guys. And while the Tigers struggled last year, the players who seemed to play the best were all freshmen. If this season’s freshmen can replicate the production of last years and last years freshmen can show significant improvement, I think you can see the makings of what Kim Anderson is trying to accomplish.
There’s no mistaking Missouri will be picked by everyone to finish last. With what they’ve shown for two years under Anderson there’s no real belief (outside of Columbia) that they’ll suddenly turn it all around and get close to .500 in the conference. Again looking at the roster you see only youth and when you lack experience you need to make up for it with overwhelming talent and there isn’t anyone on the roster you can point to and feel they have overwhelming talent, most is still in the potential stage. The roster has a lot of guys who could be the makings of a solid team, if they were all juniors and seniors, so perhaps this team will be good in a few years. The problem is they need to win now so the question is if they can get over the hump.
I don’t know for sure Kim Anderson is on the hot seat, there’s a new Athletic Director in Jim Sterk who has shown loyalty and patience with coaches in the past. Perhaps he’ll look at the situation and think Anderson needs another year regardless of what happens this season. Perhaps he’ll diagnose the problems over the last few years as more to do with the circumstances of the end of the Frank Haith era and less of Kim Anderson’s doing. Perhaps the Tigers will surprise everyone and be above .500 overall, and be competitive in the conference. They’ll need to basically win all of their toss-up games in the non-conference to find a way to get to nine or ten wins (I’m projecting eight wins), then win six or seven in the conference to be a .500 team at 15-15. Most Mizzou fans would be happy with .500 this year as a sign of things moving in the right direction. More than anything else, they have to be competitive and this means no more blowout losses. The preseason projection from KenPom lists them at 165, if Kim Anderson hopes to be around for another year they need to creep from the 160’s into the low 100’s, then you’ll see more people start to buy in on what Anderson is selling.
About the preview: Each SEC site was asked to submit one representative to pick the entire league schedule game by game. Because these are game by game picks, they often tend to be a bit of a rosier picture of each teams potential. Each rep’s picks are reflected in the record prediction for the site listed at the top of the page, and within “the Masses” picks as well. Included in “the Masses” are various SEC media members who made picks at my request also.
If you’d like to submit your picks, here is the Google Form we used:
GP - Games Played
%min - percentage of total available minutes played, does not account for time missed due to injury
%pts - percentage of teams points scored
%ov - offensive team value, simple formula of (%points + %rebounds) - %turnovers/*100, similar to Offensive Rating but places more value on performance to the team