One year ago today I published this piece: Preseason Polls are not very friendly towards Missouri Basketball. Every preseason ranking had the Tigers last. And the Tigers fulfilled their destiny by winning just eight games. Things were going so well we started talking about the head coaching job coming open on January 17th, and that was about 3-4 weeks after Bill and I had a private conversation on when we wanted to start covering the coaching change.
Most of those pieces are still true if you wanted to catch up:
- The Missouri basketball head coaching job is a good one. Really
- The challenges of the Missouri basketball job
- Missouri and the college basketball coaching landscape
- Missouri and the college basketball coaching landscape, part 2
- Then, Missouri head coach Kim Anderson to step down
- and finally, It’s time to talk about who will be Missouri’s next basketball coach
Before Kim Anderson coached his last minute, I had to get poetic about his last win, a thrilling overtime win over Auburn:
From things that don’t matter like losing basketball games, to things that do like dealing with pediatric cancer, we’ve seen a group of people band together and fight and scrap and not give up despite all the reasons for them TO give up.
As I watched the end of the game it became fitting. It was fitting Cullen VanLeer hit big three after big three including the one to give them a shot. It was fitting the feistiness of Geist drawing a charge with a “bit” of acting that extended that chance. It was fitting Frankie Hughes, forlorn and lost for so much of the year found his 3-point stroke long enough to bury a game tying three with virtually not time left in regulation, then hit another in Overtime to tie the game at 83. And it was fitting Kevin Puryear, who puts far too much pressure on himself to be great found greatness in a 30 points night, culminating with a three pointer to extend the career of his head coach, if only for another night.
And like that, it was over. Mizzou lost the next night to Ole Miss, Kim Anderson made his exit. And Jim Sterk began making moves.
Before Cuonzo Martin was hired, we talked about him ad nauseam. Bill thought the hand being dealt was tough, but playable. And then we waited. The waiting didn’t take too very very long, and Jim Sterk made it clear he knew who he wanted.
There was a lot of reason to be skeptical of Cuonzo Martin, but very early on the trends were incredibly positive. Tramel Raggs spoke with C.J. Roberts dad Craig about the signee and the chances he might stick with Mizzou. St. Louis area basketball types were ecstatic with the hire. And Josh Matejka thought the risk of Martin at Mizzou was greatly overstated.
Bill does as Bill does, by diving into the history:
I spent time looking into how Martin might reshape the Missouri roster (Hint: there was a kid named Michael Porter Jr who could kick start it). Basically trying to figure out who was going to bolt and who was going to stick around.
Then there was a press conference. And the dominoes started falling into place in an almost unreal fashion. Lorenzo Romar had been fired, which meant Michael Porter Jr was no longer going to Washington. Then Cuonzo Martin hired Michael Porter Sr as an assistant, bringing the Porter family back to Columbia. Following his dad, Michael Porter Jr, the nations number one overall recruit, committed to Missouri. And immediately Porter Jr (and maybe to a slightly lesser extent Cuonzo Martin) went to work recruiting his friends to the Tigers.
The timing, long something that seemingly went against Mizzou, was on the side of the Tigers for once.
I wrote that last February, when Mizzou was mired in Year 4 of a slow-motion collapse. The odds of the Tigers landing Michael Porter Jr. at that point were minuscule, and that was beforeMichael Sr. took an assistant coaching job on Romar’s staff.
But after five years of getting everything wrong, Mizzou spent the last week and a half getting every single little detail right.
This hasn’t resulted in a single on-court win, mind you. We know Michael Jr. is an incredible basketball talent, but so was Ben Simmons, and he couldn’t get LSU to the NCAA Tournament in 2016. So is Markelle Fultz, and he couldn’t even get Washington to 10 wins. The hard work has just begun here. But for once, Mizzou fans get to bask in actually getting some breaks. It’s been a while.
Watching Michael Porter Jr. posting about showing recruits love or talking about Mizzou being home has been an out-of-body experience.
After MPJ won the McDonalds All-American game MVP, he took an official visit with fellow 5-star Kevin Knox, and his friend and 4-star PG Blake Harris, and Harris committed to Mizzou while on the trip, explaining the fans made the guys feel like rock stars. Meanwhile, CJ Roberts reaffirmed his commitment to Mizzou. And during the same week, Jeremiah Tilmon asked out of his NLI with Illinois. In mid-April, we waited to hear from Kevin Knox and Tilmon on their decisions, but MPJ and Blake Harris both signed as soon as they could. Missouri was well on their way to building a pretty incredible recruiting class.
Much has been made over the comparison of Michael Porter Jr to Markelle Fultz and Ben Simmons, but MPJ is joining Mizzou on the way up instead of the way down. Part of the reason for Mizzou contending this year is the commitment of Kassius Robertson, the grad transfer from Canisius. Then, without any fanfare, Jeremiah Tilmon signed with Missouri. Shortly after Tilmon signed, Mizzou got the commitment of a 5-star 2018 kid named Jontay Porter to keep the ball rolling.
Not everything was perfect as some players left the program. It was bound to happen as Frankie Hughes and K.J. Walton were the first to exit after the season. Not long after Jakoby Kemp made it official and left the program. And Kevin Knox wound up picking Kentucky. But the pendulum swing was short and swung back to Mizzou quickly.
The remake of the roster was nearly complete, Mizzou was just waiting to see if they were gonna fill out their last roster spot. So they turned their focus on the 2018 class and added a former Illinois signee in Javon Pickett, who was reclassifying from 2017 to 2018. Pickett would eventually settle on Sunrise Christian in Kansas, and we caught up with the coach there to find out what he could expect.
Coming off the Peach Jam, Mizzou led the charge in recruiting St. Louis Chaminade product Jericole Hellems, who caught up with us to talk about it. Then got a surprise commitment from an Illinois-Chicago transfer heading to JUCO in K.J. Santos.
I'd like to announce I am verbally committing to the university of Missouri!! pic.twitter.com/NDrxYPHJ2g— K.J. Santos (@Silky_Sm00th1) August 1, 2017
We broke some news about a future Ohio State buckeye, which was okay because an Ohio State commit, Torrence Watson from Whitfield School in St. Louis, changed it up and picked Mizzou. So the 2018 class was rounding into shape before it took a hit, but in a good way because Jontay decided, officially, to reclassify. Jontay joining the 2017 class bumped Mizzou to a top 5 recruiting class. Not bad for a first few months on the job for Cuonzo Martin. So what lineup do you go with?
We had a great time doing some deep dives:
- Matt looked at the scheduling possibilities
- I dove into the offensive changes with a dive into quick hitters
- And part two was transition offense
- While Matt tried to figure out MPJ’s value to Missouri
- And then took at look at how paying players might actually work
- Bill figured out where Mizzou needed to improve the most
- And spent time counting the “ifs”
- Tramel spent time with Michael Porter Sr with a great Q&A
- I looked at what could be Mizzou’s best lineups, Big or Small?
- and Jarrett figures it’s a brand new day for Mizzou Hoops
So there you go. Basically all of our offseason Hoops coverage. It was a doozy. Today, the offseason officially ends as we start our preseason coverage tomorrow.
Did I mention Mizzou and KU play basketball this weekend?