I did this last year, figured it would be fun-ish to do it again. Before we dive into anything, I’d like to quickly recap how things went on our checklist for 2016:
- Wes Clark take ownership: Clark was dismissed from the team in February
- Sophomores step up: every single sophomore transferred
- Kim Anderson keep his job: this happened, though he didn’t exactly earn it
- Get a scoring guard in the spring: Nope
- Player Development, Strength & Conditioning: Mizzou fired their strength coach, and the roster holdovers look about the same as last year in most cases.
- Have a quiet and loud summer and fall: Things were quiet I guess but Michael Porter Sr accepted a job at Washington ending Missouri’s hopes of landing Michael Porter Jr.
- Start the 2016-17 season strong: two games in we thought Mizzou might be okay, then the rest of the non-conference happened...
So basically none of this happened. We hoped for some level of continuity, and instead the entire first recruiting class was gone. We hoped for offensive and defensive efficiency to improve and it has since gone the other direction.
So yes, things are bad. But how do we start to dig out of this mess?
Kevin Puryear & Jordan Barnett show out a little
Part of the disappointment of the season (and past seasons) is the lack of progress made by so many of the year to year holdovers. Despite the struggles of the rest of the roster, Kevin Puryear has steadied after an early season swoon. He’s not shooting it as well as he did last year but his rebounding is up and four of his last five games have featured an Offensive Rating of over 100. If he can continue to be more efficient on offense he’ll provide the consistent reliable scoring the Tigers desperately need this year.
The Tigers also need Jordan Barnett to play more like he did against Lipscomb. Perhaps 15 points and 13 rebounds is a lot to ask on a nightly basis, but a reliable secondary scorer who can attack from the wing and provide needed rebounding would be fantastic. Puryear and Barnett are both players that Missouri can build around to be solid and competitive through conference play.
Kim, trust K.J. Walton a little more
Take a guess at how many times this season K.J. Walton has played more than 20 minutes in a game?
He’s played 20 minutes exactly one time and every other game he’s been in the teens, three times even less. What K.J. needs is trust from the head coach, trust to perform. Walton has the third highest ORtg on the team, the other two are Russell Woods and Reed Nikko, both of him whom are incredibly low usage players. I don’t think I’m alone in advocating for more opportunity from Walton. In fact I’m not even advocating he suddenly get 30 minutes a game, just get into the 20s on a consistent basis. If Walton has opportunity, and Barnett and Puryear play with consistency, I think the ceiling for the Tigers raises considerably. They are still a basement SEC team, but a team with those three playing well is a team who will be more entertaining and competitive.
Restore hope to the fanbase
I like Kim Anderson. I wanted this to work. There was a lot of skepticism around the hire but I think we were all hopeful it would work out. Coach Anderson is a terrific person and was a highly successful coach at Central Missouri. Barring some sort of miracle in conference play, we’re looking for a new coach to lead the Tigers in 2017-2018 and into the future. There will be time once the news is official to do a post-mortem on the last nearly three years, but for now what is needed is for Missouri fans to have hope again.
Since we are most likely facing a change in head coach, what Missouri fans want to see is a competent search performed, a promising hire made, and for the Athletic Director to not be limited by finances. It seems simple, don’t make it harder than it needs to be. Hire smart and pay them. Show the many forlorn Mizzou fans the last three seasons were a blip and not a trend. Fans will be watching Jim Sterk very closely over the next few months.
Begin the rebuild
Depending on your perspective, a new coach could be walking into a better situation overall than where Missouri was three years ago. After this year the APR situation of the last transition year will be behind the program. Also behind the program will be the sanctions from the last NCAA investigation which left them without a 13th scholarship this season. With Willie Jackson transferring out, that leaves at least 2 open scholarships for the upcoming season.
If Kim Anderson is let go, it’s very possible or even likely C.J. Roberts can be let out of his Letter of Intent. Roberts is a talented young player who would be a nice addition to the roster if he could be kept, but if he asks out that’s three scholarships. Based upon this season and the possible, if even likely, coaching change, more may come available.
- 2016 (Anderson): 7 newcomers
- 2015 (Anderson): 6 newcomers
- 2014 (Anderson): 6 newcomers
- 2013 (Haith): 8 newcomers
- 2012 (Haith): 8 newcomers
- 2011 (Haith): 3 newcomers
Who knows what the turnover in 2017 will bring, but it’s at least 3 newcomers... at least. Stability is something the roster needs in the worst way. So whoever is picking the roster spots in March or April will need to identify who they want on the team and do so quickly.
Breathe new life into In-State recruiting
One of the things Kim Anderson said he was going to do but has failed to follow through on it making Missouri a priority. The reality is the only time people complain about not having enough Missouri kids on the roster is wen things are going well. But things would probably be going much better with a few more Missouri kids on this roster. It’s not easy to watch players like O.G. Anunoby, Landry Shamet and Xavier Sneed succeed and play well at other schools knowing Missouri barely recruited them.
There are still some big names available in-State for the new coach to hone in on. 2017 is gone but the 2018 class still has Courtney Ramey, Torrence Watson, Jordan Lathon, Christian Bishop and Karrington Davis available. Ramey is a 4-star wing from Webster Groves who hasn’t had much interest in Missouri under the new coaching staff, but I’ve been told he would listen to a new staff if it comes to that point. Watson has already been to Mizzou several times. Lathon is a high ceiling guard from Grandview who the current staff hasn’t prioritized due to not needing a point guard in the class. Bishop is a slender combo forward from Lee’s Summit West who will likely see his rating and ranking increase this summer. And Karrington Davis is an athletic wing from Chaminade.
2019 has Mario McKinney, from Vashon in St. Louis, and Marcedus Leech, from Poplar Bluff. Both will be highly sought after. Breathe life into in-State recruiting and it will be a lot easier to breathe life back into the program.
Find a way in 2017-18
The sledding doesn’t get easier next year. Missouri did a good thing by going out and scheduling former Big12 opponent Iowa State to kick off the season next year. It’s a tough opener and the SEC is actually improving. Kentucky is Kentucky, Florida is really good, Frank Martin has South Carolina rolling, Avery Johnson is landing four and five star players, and Bruce Pearl is just scratching the surface this year at Auburn. It’s not going to be easy to turn things around. There’s a strong possibility the roster won’t be much better next season, but what you want is tangible improvement. Marked player development over the summer coupled with the maximization of the existing assets should have Missouri flirting with a top 100 KenPom rating in year one.
We don’t expect miracles, we do expect a reason to believe. Many fans have lost that reason over the course of the last three years and this year feels like a new low. There’s certainly potential for improvement during this season, but most people will be watching the Missouri Athletic Department shortly after the conclusion of the Tigers in the SEC tournament and probably more than they’ve tuned into the play of the team this season.