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When bad gets worse for Missouri basketball

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It’s hard to pinpoint the low point in real time, but Saturday afternoon may have been it.

NCAA Basketball: Arizona at Missouri Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Here we are again.

In Kim Anderson’s first year, Missouri headed into the Bragging Rights game at 5-5 before losing to Illinois on their way to a 9-23 record and a No. 192 KenPom ranking.

Year two got mildly better, but the Tigers were still 5-5 heading into Bragging Rights before losing to Illinois on their way to a 10-21 record and a No. 160 ranking.

We’re now in year three, and the Tigers are 5-5 heading into the Bragging Rights game. Ranking: 168.

Year one featured an opening loss to UMKC, but otherwise a tough schedule defeated the Tigers with losses to Oklahoma, Arizona, Purdue and Xavier prior to Illinois. Last year was better — the Tigers didn’t drop a game to anyone below them in the ratings, and all their losses were to power conference teams.

This season, the Tigers have now dropped games to NC Central and Eastern Illinois — both ranked well below the Tigers — and their best win is a three-point win over 216th ranked Western Kentucky.

EIU-Mizzou Box

Let’s not pretend like Mizzou ran into some sort of offensive buzzsaw, where EIU just got hot and there was little defense could do to stop it. The Panthers were a mere 38% on 2-pointers and 28% on 3s.

The problem is that our worst fears have again come true about the Tigers at this point: They’re just a bad basketball team. They have some workable parts, but there isn’t anyone with talent overwhelming enough to make an impact game to game.

This is the roster Kim Anderson and his staff have put together, and it’s just not good enough to win at the level Missouri is expected to win.

People were hopeful that the return of Jordan Barnett and Reed Nikko would solidify the roster and turn Mizzou from a questionable 150-ish team to a solid top 100 team, one that could be a building block for the future. That hope doesn’t appear to be realistic.

Barnett looks the part and is a solid player; he’s probably one of the five best guys on the roster. That isn’t good enough to turn the Tigers’ season around, and they’re in desperate need of a spark to turn the season around.

Where is the progress?

  • 2015 Efficiency O & D: 222, 165
  • 2016 Efficiency O & D: 173, 168
  • 2017 Efficiency O & D: 297, 67

In three years, this year’s defense is the only unit to crack the top 100. For context, Quin Snyder got fired (or resigned on his own accord if you believe the reports at the time) in early February 2006. The Tigers were 10-11 at the time, and finished the season 150th. If you recall that season, it felt like a very, very, very low point for the Missouri program. Since then, the worst showing had been the 70th-ranked team from 2014, which had many fans ready to run Frank Haith out of town on a rail.

The last two and a half years have been worse by all measurable standards. The bottom line: It’s not a fun time to be a Missouri basketball fan. From the way the Haith era ended to where we are today, it’s been nearly constant tumult. And we don’t have anything to show for it.

While we weren’t watching, Missouri went and got behind Rutgers (10-1, 126th in KenPom) on the rebuild. At least we’re still ahead of Boston College and DePaul right?

Home court advantage is enough to cover for about 70 spots where Pomeroy is concerned. At least, it does where the Tigers are ranked. LSU is currently ranked 96th; the Tigers are favored by a point when they come to Mizzou Arena in the beginning of January. The LSU game is a toss up because it’s within a 60-40 split, and Missouri only has five of those games left on the schedule.

The reality of another 10-win season is a real one. The Tigers would have to beat Illinois & Lipscomb, then win all of their “toss ups” just to get to 12 wins. If you think Anderson needs to be .500 in conference to retain his job ... they’d have to go 9-2 in games in which they have at least a 20% chance to win as of today. What do you figure the odds of that are?

A Disappointing Pattern

This past week, I wrote about the lack of production from the sophomores, the class we were counting on to help rebuild the Missouri basketball program. Here’s their production from the EIU game:

  • Terrence Phillips: 26 min, 8 pts (1/6 FG), 92 ORtg, 7 assists
  • Kevin Puryear: 24 min, 8 pts (4/9 FG), 72 ORtg, 6 reb
  • Cullen VanLeer: 28 min, 6 pts (2/6 FG), 104 ORtg, 5 RB
  • K.J. Walton: 14 min, 9 pts (3/5 FG), 124 ORtg, 2 Stl

That’s a combined 92 minutes, 31 points on 38% shooting. That isn’t going to take you very far; in fact it would rank near the bottom 10 in Division I, and these are the guys Mizzou is counting on to move the program forward. And it’s not just one game — those four players are shooting 38% on the season collectively. Ten games in is a pretty substantial sample size, it’s one-third of the season.

All of this has comes despite the fact that Missouri’s strength of schedule to date is 323rd in the country.

There is what I’d call a combination of despair and complete apathy throughout the widest swath of the fan base. The weather was terrible in Columbia, so only a thousand or so people turned up for the game, but the reality is there hasn’t been much to turn out for in the last few years.

For the sustainability of Missouri basketball, next season is important because of the talent in the upcoming classes of Missouri recruits. And I'm not just talking about the players from Missouri: The Tigers are legitimately in on four- and five-star players who could be foundational and transformational. One bad season is forgivable, but it can't happen again next season or one Dark Winter will turn into many.

I wrote that almost two years ago.

When a team can’t shoot and struggles against low- to mid-major opponents, it’s not a fun and exciting brand to watch. This is Missouri right now.

I dubbed year one the #DarkWinter. Year two wasn’t much better, and right now we’re looking at three straight years of abysmal basketball. Where is the path forward?

I feel like I’ve written a lot of these pieces over the last few years and I’m tired of it.