I’ll start this off by reiterating what I’ve been saying about this Italy trip: the wins and losses of the trip do not matter. This trip was important for a lot of reasons, and winning was probably more likely to happen than not, but winning more games than they lost is not indicative of future wins or future losses.
Don't get excited about results from your team's foreign tour. "Madrid All Stars" could be 5 guys off street. It's for chemistry/ practices.— Fran Fraschilla (@franfraschilla) August 11, 2016
Exactly what Fran said. You don’t go overseas to play against the best competition, sometimes you’re able to find good competition, but you’re going over there to practice, play basketball and build team chemistry. On top of that, Kim Anderson was explicit about their plans, they were going to experiment with some things in Italy. They were going to be doing things they wouldn’t normally be doing once the seasons starts. So unknown opponents, experimenting in games... yeah there’s really nothing to get excited or down about with this trip.
Now, with that said, let’s attempt to derive anything from this trip because it’s August and there isn’t a lot of other basketball to talk about.
First, some stats, good and bad:
- Willie Jackson nearly averaged a double-double at 11.3 ppg and 9.5 rpg, so if anyone was worried he might not be ready to contribute I think you can put those fears to rest.
- Cullen VanLeer shooting the ball well is probably the best news of the entire trip. I don’t expect him to shoot 47% from three-point range during the season, but if he can be in the high 30’s or low 40’s I think you have the outside threat Missouri thought they’d have last season.
- Look at Russell Woods at nearly a 10&7 per game!
- Frankie Hughes is not gun-shy.
- Terrence Phillips probably shouldn’t lead the team in shots, I think TP has come a long way as a scoring threat, but the entire team would be better off if he’s probably taking half that many shots.
- Kevin Puryear needs to shoot better. Without seeing the games we don’t know the shot selection, but Puryear is a good mid-range shooter, and he’s crafty around the rim, and he needs to be closer to 50% for Missouri to be better this year.
- I think we are all really expecting more from K.J. Walton this season. Eight points on 36% shooting isn’t going to provide the impact the Tigers need from him.
- 54% free throw shooting? Ew.
- 0.95:1 Assist to Turnover Ratio? Double Ew.
After four games VanLeer was the scoring leader, bolstered by his 26 point performance in the second game, followed by Phillips, Hughes and Jackson. The Cleveland duo are looking to make a big impact this season. Most, I think, felt Jackson would contend to start this season, but I don’t know anyone who targeted Hughes to be as big of a part of the rotation.
Hughes was a part and was not afraid to put it up. Hughes’ advantage has always been the compactness of his jump shot, meaning he can get his shot off quickly and in tight spaces. He obviously had the green light, as only Phillips took more shots.
So there’s a small four-game sample of a team that has about the lowest of expectations heading into the season. That is important when gauging success against teams we have little to no understanding of the quality of their play. I don’t think 0-4 or 4-0 would have changed my perspective on what I thought this team could achieve, and it will almost certainly not change the national perspective of Missouri being a bottom-tier SEC team.
For the optimists out there, there are plenty of nuggets to see and play from players you’d hope could help this team turn a corner. For the pessimist there are a lot of things you can point to that says this team is going to be another stinker. I’ve always tried to provide the realistic view, which tells me there’s enough good to see this team is making progress, but probably not enough to think this team is going to be drastically better. They’ll be moderately so, and you just hope between now and the start of the season they improve enough to keep everyone happy. Or maybe if you’re the eternal pessimist you just want them to be bad so the coach can be fired.
Either way, I hope everyone had a good time and got to really enjoy a beautiful country.