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Mizzou Basketball position previews: The combo guards

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A look at Mizzou’s combo guards for the 17-18 season, including a grad transfer, two juniors and one freshman

2015 Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic - Louisiana Monroe v Canisius
LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 22: Kassius Robertson #5 of the Canisius Golden Griffins shoots against Jamaal Samuel #5 of the Louisiana Monroe Warhawks during the 2015 Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic basketball tournament at the Orleans Arena on December 22, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Happy Halloween, Mizzou fans! We’re currently in the midst of pretty spooky times with the football program. But not to fear! Basketball is only 10 days away, and the hope of this upcoming season is enough to drive away the ghosts of Mizzou’s failures on the gridiron.

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Now that we’re through with those admittedly awful Halloween references, lets get on with the basketball previews. We’re currently breaking down Mizzou’s roster (loosely) by position group. Last week, we tackled the point guards. On Thursday, we’ll discuss the wings. And today, we’re talking combo guards.

The Players

Graduate Transfer - Kassius Robertson

Statistical Profile (Canisius)

Player Kassius Robertson
Player Kassius Robertson
Minutes % 83.46
Points % 20.56
True Shooting % 60.4
Effective FG % 57
Turnover % 10.5
Assist % 13.6

Juniors - Cullen VanLeer, Jordan Geist

NCAA Basketball: CBE Hall of Fame Classic-Missouri vs Northwestern John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports
NCAA Basketball: Missouri at Florida Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Statistical Profiles (2016-2017)

Player Cullen VanLeer Jordan Geist
Player Cullen VanLeer Jordan Geist
Minutes % 59.3 55.23
Points % 8.13 10.17
True Shooting % 52.5 49.6
Effective FG % 50 42.3
Turnover % 13.2 14.4
Assist % 11.3 18.4

Freshman - CJ Roberts

The Preview

1. With all the size on this team, it’s gonna be a fight for these guys to get floor time. That being said: who’s starting?

Sam Snelling - The traditional '2' spot will likely be Kassius Robertson. I can see many lineups where Robertson slides to the PG spot, as he showed more than capable of handling the ball in the Kansas game. So I feel comfortable sliding him into a combo guard role as opposed to a more traditional wing spot.

Chris Bohkay - Kassius Roberts is going to start, and play major minutes in the combo guard area. After that, my initial thought had been CJ Roberts would get some run. But based on his playing time against Kansas, it's clear he still doesn't have the trust of the coaching staff just yet. The less we see of CVL and Geist in important minutes, the better. Let them come in for small stretches and at victory formation time.

Jarrett Sutton - Kassius Robertson is my starting shooting guard, a catch and shoot knock down weapon from deep. He’s an X-factor and has the ability to be an unsung hero of this team. He can play the point guard position, but is really effective off the ball in spot up situations. He takes smart shots, and has high basketball IQ and experience that this team needs.

Josh Matejka - HA. Kassius, and it’s not really that close. He might draw the short straw when Mizzou wants to play with some more length. But he’s got too much skill, value and veteran presence to not be starting most, if not all, games.

2. One of the guards’ biggest issues last year was that they simply couldn’t shoot - or really score for that most part. How does this group help fix that problem?

Sam - Terrence Phillips was the team/s best outside shooter last year - on this team he might be the 5th best. That’s important for Mizzou's season this year; in order for their front line to be competitive and driving lanes to be open, they have to have guys who'll knock down open shots. The most important part of that equation has to be Robertson. I expect Geist to get some off the ball minutes, but he proved last year you're not really going to count on him as a shooter. So maybe the wild card is CJ Roberts. If he can find his way into regular rotation and hit a decent percentage from deep that will be a positive.

Bohkay - Kassius showed he could shoot lights out last Sunday, and that's pretty much what we knew coming in, so that's going to help spread the floor. We all saw what he did against Kansas and we know what the stats showed he did at Canisius. Shooting is shooting and ball don't lie.

Sutton - Over the past 3 seasons, my biggest frustration of the offense was the ball sticking, and sticking constantly. No, they didn’t make shots, but it was painful to watch the offense in the half court. It was difficult for them to get easy buckets and difficult for them to create. That will all change with the presence of Michael Porter, Jr. and the change of system that Cuonzo Martin brings with the addition of Charles Mann. Driving lanes will be open, defenses will have to help on Michael, thus opening up Jordan, Kassius, Blake, KP, or VanLeer. Creating better opportunities to get high percentage shots is how this offense will be different, as opposed to forced shots or rushed shots in transition, or playing under the rim in a league with length, size, and physical toughness and athleticism in the SEC.

Matejka - That’s a pretty simple answer when it comes to Robertson. He was brought on to shoot the lights out, and there’s no reason to think he won’t, especially when you’ve got so many guys that can kick it out to him. VanLeer fits kind of that same mold, though he’s not nearly as good of a shooter. He’ll be asked to make a few open 3s every once in a while and that’s it. Geist is not a scorer unless you’re giving him some sort of fun, new circus shot to try out. And I’ve seen CJ Roberts’ high school highlights, so I know he can score it a bit. It’ll take some time to see if he can translate that skill to the next level though.

3. This group is relatively thin on successful, SEC-level experience. Are you worried about this group as a potential hole in the rotation?

Sam - Aside from Robertson, this is probably the biggest hole in the roster. They're two deep at every other position except here, where it's going to have to be a combination of guys playing the wing and guys playing the point providing minutes at the combo guard spot. Hopefully, that combination is enough.

Bohkay - I'm a little worried about what happens if Robertson has an off night, or if he gets into foul trouble, because what we know behind him isn't much right now.

Sutton - There’s inexperience, but I wouldn’t say there is a hole in this rotation. I do think CJ Roberts is going to surprise some people as a freshman. He’s still learning about himself and what he can be in a role for this team. The future is bright down the road, but he’ll be another factor off the bench at some point this season. I don’t worry about the young guys in an SEC setting when they just battled and fought the #3 team in the country, in their first collegiate basketball game in a Tiger uniform, and were fine.

Matejka - Not particularly, if only because I think the entire roster has enough flexibility that you won’t always need a strict “combo guard” on the floor. I can see some sets where Harris and Phillips run the floor together and others where Barnett acts as the 2 “guard.” So Robertson might be the only one suited to play heavy minutes here, but Mizzou should be able to cover pretty easily.

4. Aside from the previous question, what are some of your other big question marks with the combo guards moving into the season?

Sam - Whether you refer to it as offensive production or depth, the biggest question just comes from inexperience for the guys they're going to have to count on. I will say a lot of my concerns were alleviated with how well Kassius played against Kansas, but he hasn't gone through the rigors of a power conference schedule and behind him are guys who just haven't proven they can do it. I'd love to be sitting here in March or April talking about this position as a surprise, but in reality it's likely we'll get below average production from everyone not named Robertson and just hope when he's off the floor it doesn't cost Missouri. I guess my biggest question is whether or not CJ Roberts is ready to play a primary backup to Robertson. If he is, I think Mizzou will be OK at the position.

Bohkay - How quickly can CJ Roberts be game ready? All freshman have a learning curve, but he needs to speed that up if this team is going to be able to push into March. The sooner he develops to the point where the coaching staff can trust him to provide real minutes the better. We know what we're getting from CVL, and it's not great; Geist as well.

Sutton - One thing I think will be an important piece of the combo guard’s conversation is what they do in crunch time, in crucial late game situations, when you need to execute and trust each other. How do they respond? How do they answer and fight back? I think they answered that in a way at Sprint Center not long ago. They were down early, they were down by double digits in the 2nd half, and they answered the call to get back into the game and didn’t lay down.

Matejka - I think this group is fascinating because, after Robertson, you’ve got the 3 guys competing for the 9th spot in a 9 man rotation. Each brings his own particular set of skills. I know how I’d order them, but I don’t think my opinion has a lot of sway with this staff. I’m curious to see what Cuonzo Martin wants out of his 9th guy and how each player fits into that plan.

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

Sam - Jordan Geist will stir the pot.

Kassius Robertson will bury the shot.

Cullen might sneak into a spot.

And CJ Roberts might be better than we thought.

Bohkay - Kassius Roberts is going to make us wish he had one more year eligibility.

Cullen VanLeer will have games where he scores and a segment of the Mizzou fanbase will wish he was starting - they will be wrong.

Jordan Geist will do something that both enrages and elates the Mizzou fanbase.

CJ Roberts will be an effective role player by February 2018, because he will have to be.

Matejka - Kassius Robertson will be money all year long.

Cullen Van Leer will provide a few minutes a game as a lite 3-and-D guy.

Jordan Geist will not play this position very much.

CJ Roberts will be the guy a lot of people are always asking to see more of.