Hooray for fun basketball to watch again. It was fantastic to watch the Tigers take on a top 15 opponent and not go away. In the last few years we've seen them win games against teams they probably shouldn't beat and be either semi-competitive or completely uncompetitive against the top tier teams in the country. Mizzou went toe to toe with Xavier, ranked 11th in the country, and hit back every time they took a punch. They made shots when they needed them up until the end. Even in the overtime period, Missouri got down by five with three minutes to go and didn't flinch.
All in all it felt different, didn't it? But the reality is if Mizzou goes out this morning and loses to Davidson, a good program ranked 78th but one that got torched by Clemson in round one, then all bets are off again. Stringing together success is going to be the key to this season. On the table the next two days are winnable games. On the other side of the bracket is Arizona State and Tulane. Two teams who aren't very good but good enough to beat Missouri because the Tigers are still a flawed team.
So I'm going to do what I do and throw a small bit of cold water on this parade. Let's discuss briefly some of the bad things.
Phillips/Puryear/Hughes:— Sam Snelling (@SamTSnelling) November 17, 2016
81.5% of FGA
81.7% of PTS
84.6% of ASTS
56.4% of RBDs
53.7% of MP
A lot of production came from just three players. If you break it down by second half and overtime it gets even worse with Missouri only getting seven points from players not named Hughes, Phillips or Puryear. We're all excited about the emergence of Hughes, and it's good to see Puryear and Phillips play well after not playing well in the exhibition game, but they've got to find more production from outside of that group. Cullen VanLeer played 37 minutes and hit a big three, but that was his only point output. Getting production from the freshman Hughes is fantastic, but VanLeer needs to find a few more open shots and make them.
What has happened to KJ Walton? All off season there were positive rumblings on KJ's work ethic and how much better he was getting. I heard people say there wasn't anyone who could stay in front of him on drives to the basket. There are all positive things. So naturally you'd expect KJ to take on a larger role this season and it just hasn't happened. He's averaging 13 minutes after playing just eight against Xavier, and it was a non-existent eight minutes. He didn't shoot, didn't attack, and seems altogether apprehensive in finding a quick seat. At some point the Tigers staff needs to get Walton going and more involved and get his confidence going. The combination of him slashing to the basket and Hughes knocking down shots from the outside is an exciting prospect.
Xavier was a team playing at less than full strength. Kaiser Gates, a key reserve, and Myles Davis, a likely starter and team leader, are both out for different reasons. The Musketeers had open looks from outside and still shot 2-22. All things being equal Missouri should have probably lost by more, but this is why they play the games right?
The Tigers are a work in progress. We don't need to pretend they're an NCAA level team, but the signs from yesterday were encouraging. Kevin Puryear rebounding the ball 10 times is a great improvement over last season. He's averaging 9.5 per game through two which is a big deal considering the Tigers needs on the interior. Through much of the game there was a lot of open looks very close to the rim, and that has to change for Mizzou to change their fortunes. Reed Nikko showed flashes of being able to provide help inside. So by all means we should feel excitement over the competitive game against a good team we watched yesterday, but do not let it carry you away from the end goal of getting Missouri basketball back to where we expect it to be. A step in the right direction is only worth it if it's followed by another, now Mizzou needs to take the next step.
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Hey it's Kevin Puryears birthday today! Happy Birthday, Kev! Now go get that win!
This poll is closed
Mizzou by a lot
Mizzou by a little
Davidson by a little
Davidson by a lot