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Mizzou Basketball position previews: The point guards

We’re just over two weeks out from opening night. Time to start breaking down the roster!

In case you’re not already counting down, we’re just about 2 weeks away from opening night of the Mizzou men’s basketball season. And if you’re not counting down, we here at Rock M Nation will safely presume you’ve been soundly sleeping under a rock for the past few months. Go ahead and get caught up on why the rest of us are so excited.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve started switching gear into basketball-season mode. Sam is regularly posting his previews of each SEC team, including picks done by respected basketball bloggers. And as we do every year, we’re going to take a look at Mizzou’s roster headed into the season.

Each Tuesday and Thursday, we’ll break down a different position group, including a look at returning contributors, new faces and a few guiding thoughts from Rock M’ers. We’ll kick off the proceedings with a look at what Cuonzo Martin has to work with at the point guard position.

The Players

Juniors - Terrence Phillips, Jordan Geist

NCAA Basketball: Missouri at Tennessee Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports
NCAA Basketball: SEC Tournament-Auburn vs Missouri Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Statistical Profiles (2016-2017)

Player Terrence Phillips Jordan Geist
Player Terrence Phillips Jordan Geist
Minutes % 70.86 55.23
Points % 15.09 10.17
Assist % 33.6 18.4
Total Rebound % 6.9 7.1
Turnover % 19.7 14.4
Effective FG % 46.2 42.3

Freshman - Blake Harris

The Preview

1. Let’s address the elephant in the room: can anyone unseat Terrence Phillips as the starter?

Sam Snelling - I'd be surprised if Phillips wasn't the starter game one, but not shocked at all if he is coming off the bench by the end of the year. Truth be told, we've over-valued Phillips a bit over the years as he was a solid player on bad teams. The ceiling for Blake Harris is higher by a significant amount, but I still think you need a healthy dose of Phillips throughout the year regardless of if he's starting or not.

Chris Bohkay - No... and a little yes. Looking at what's available on the PG depth chart, I don't see anyone being ready to step in. We've heard a lot of great things about Blake Harris, but he had a wrist issue that put him a little behind the curve if he were to consider unseating TP. Based on the comments from the coaching staff, it sounds as if they are very happy with what they've seen. The other potential interloper would be Jordan Geist, who the coaching staff seems to love, though I don't think he would fit the mold of the surrounding players that we expect to see in the starting five. That all said, if TP hasn't gotten out of some of the bad habits he's shown over the past two years - fouling away from the basket, getting a little worked up and trying to do to much - he could see some of his minutes getting eaten into. However, with a new cast that can actually put the ball in the hoop, he should be able to go back to being the pass-first, pass-second, and pass-third guard we all expected when he came to Mizzou. Having outlets on the wing with Kassius [Robertson], [Jordan] Barnett and the Porters should open things up for TP to let the game come to him. I am looking forward to seeing what Harris can contribute however.

Josh Matejka - I actually had something ready to go before Sunday’s scrimmage against Kansas. And after that match up, I changed my answer. Before, I said Phillips would have to lose the starter’s position. Now, I’d be shocked if Harris wasn’t the regular starter by mid-season, if not opening night. The two split time pretty evenly - 21 minutes for Harris, 18 for Phillips. But some of those minutes came with both of them on the court... and Harris running the point. He doesn’t have the shot Phillips has, but what he does have is elite vision, athleticism and motor. And all those things stood out against an elite Kansas squad. I’ll stand by the rest of my answers below, but Harris the real deal. Plus, having Phillips off the bench will be a nice boost.

2. Phillips is known and relatively battle-tested, so we know what we’re getting. Geist is kind of a wild card and Harris is the new kid. Out of the latter two, who’s going to surprise us the most this year?

Snelling - I think Harris was a bit underrated by the recruiting services. He's not a great shooter, but his ability to pass and defend out of the gate are through the roof. That said, I've heard the staff likes what Geist brings, so we may be seeing more of him than a lot of people expect. Though I think Harris is going to provide a lot of WOW moments this year.

Bohkay - I think we kind of have an idea of what we're getting from Geist: a guy that's going to put his head down, be a little chippy and score on occasion. I am most excited about what Harris can do, so what he does with his minutes to spell TP is what I will be most surprised by. Freshman PGs are always a little grabby, so if he can find a way not to get in foul trouble when he's on the court, I will be very pleasantly surprised.

Matejka - I want to say Harris, but as a 4-star recruit with some national hype behind him, should we really be surprised if he performs well out of the gate? I’m more intrigued by the prospect of Jordan Geist, who has acquainted himself well with the new staff. He had moments last year where he looked like he could be more than an energy guy, but I figured he would get lost in the shuffle with the influx of new faces. The fact he’s been able to maintain relevancy on this squad is already surprising enough. Everything past this point is a welcome bonus.

3. Point guards aren’t always asked to be scorers, but the more points you get, the more likely you are to win. Which one of this group is most likely to put points on the board?

Snelling - I think of the three, Phillips leads them in scoring. He shoots the ball better than Harris and Geist. But I think this is one of those 6-7 ppg will probabaly lead the way from the PG spot.

Bohkay - Just based on minutes they will receive, I'd say TP. Phillips has also served as a primary scorer on this team for the past two years and has a surprisingly good three point shot. I don't see Geist putting up a ton of points based on the players around him and think that Harris will have some growing pains that all freshmen point guards do.

Matejka - Easy. Phillips isn’t built to be the main scorer, but he’ll be able to get points up when needed. Geist, god bless him, is not a scorer, and Harris will have to adjust his offensive game to Division 1 competition. Phillips fills this role almost by default.

4. No doubt the Tigers have some talent at the point this year, but each player comes with his own noticeable flaws. Phillips has been turnover prone, Geist is unpredictable and Harris is unproven. What are some of your biggest question marks about this group?

Snelling - I don't know how many questions I have about this group. Mainly because I think Harris is going to play a lot, and he's going to have some growing pains. Cuonzo knows he can always go to a reliable guy in Phillips. Geist will be Geist: he'll stir the pot and make the other team mad. For me, I think it comes down to how much trust the freshman can earn over his more experienced counterparts. But the good news is Phillips has spent time off the ball so he can earn minutes at other spots.

Bohkay - The biggest concern I have with Phillips is the turnovers and the fouling. But an under-the-radar one could be failing to take advantage of the players around him and still trying to do too much and not counting on his teammates. That could be warranted based on the past two years he's been at Mizzou where he had pretty much no reliable help when it came to putting the ball in the hoop. With Geist, my concern is that he plays into that agitator role that he's taken on which some fans just eat up and some fans hate (Sam and I myself included). This team doesn't need an "enforcer" or a Jason Sutherland type a-hole; it's a group that's going to run and score and the less slow down for BS, the better. With Harris: he's a freshman, so can he lead when he's out there? Is the game moving too quickly for him on defense? Ticky-tack fouls at crunch time in a close game could be problematic, especially if TP still has some fouling issues.

Matejka - My concerns with Phillips have always stemmed from one of his strengths: he’s a good guy to have the ball in his hands, namely because he can then effectively get said ball to other guys. The problem comes when that second part of the equation isn’t available. As we’ve seen, when he tries to do too much he can become a TO machine. And as for his fouling issues, I also think that comes from a mindset of, “I have to do everything.” Surrounding him with more talent should help mitigate those concerns. As for Geist and Harris, I’m mostly concerned what happens if they get overexposed. I think they both are fine players, but until they show they’re more than that, I don’t know that I trust them.* So if I had one all-encompassing concern about this position, it’d be depth.

*I’m not as concerned about Harris being overexposed anymore, but having Phillips behind him will still be key.

5. Give us your one-sentence preview for each player.

Snelling - Terrence Phillips will dive over tables to get Mizzou back to the dance.

Blake Harris will make his presence felt in a defensive stance.

Jordan Geist will probably get into a fight with the wrong glance.

Bohkay - Terrence Phillips will lead the team and the SEC in assists and charisma, #trueson.

Jordan Geist will do something some people love and some people hate every game, but effort won't be a problem.

Blake Harris will have growing pains but his growth will be accelerated compared to most freshman due to his surrounding cast.

Matejka - Terrence Phillips will flourish in his role as passer-in-chief, while also hitting some big shots along the way.

Jordan Geist will be the guy everyone in the other fanbase loves to hate.

Blake Harris will make some costly mistakes along the way, but will also have flashes of greatness that show his ceiling.

Thanks, y’all. We’ll be back Tuesday with a look at the combo guards.