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Missouri Basketball will begin the season just outside the AP top 25

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Here are today’s Mizzou Links.

From worst(ish) to 31st. Mizzou Hoops finished the 2016-17 season 8-24 and 156th in the KenPom rankings, just behind Grand Canyon, Fort Wayne, Evansville, and Rice. The Tigers will begin 2017-18 ranked the equivalent of 31st in the AP poll.

The Tigers appeared on eight ballots among the 65 media voters and peaked as high as No. 20, according to poll website collegepolltracking.com. If the rankings were extended beyond the top 25, Mizzou had the votes to land at No. 31. In the preseason coaches poll released last month, MU would have been No. 29.

The last time the Tigers began the season ranked in the AP Top 25 was 2012-13, when Frank Haith’s second Mizzou team was No. 15 in the preseason poll.

Granted, that seems almost underwhelming after seeing the summer Vegas odds, but it is all sorts of fair. There are obviously still all sorts of unknowns involved here.

By the way, Kansas, which defeated Mizzou by six in a preseason exhibition, starts the year fourth. Wisconsin, another Mizzou conqueror, is in the Receiving Votes pile.

As important as Michael Porter Jr. is to Mizzou’s fortunes, you could make the case that fellow freshmen Jeremiah Tilmon and Jontay Porter are every bit as important. We talked about Tilmon on Wednesday, and Cuonzo Martin is happy with the duo’s progress.

Maybe the most encouraging sign from the duo was their work on the defensive side, providing Missouri with some muscle where it really needed it last year — around the rim.

Jontay, “right along with Jeremiah, are our two best defensive anchors,” Terrence Phillips said. “They are very vocal, focused on being where they need to be and always ready to help.”

Phillips said Porter is already the Tigers’ best on-ball hedger. Tilmon has some serious potential on the defensive end, too ... if he can stay out of foul trouble.

Obviously shooting will play a role in Jontay’s success, but he really does seem to be shaping up as a Little Things guy, and I’m looking forward to it. Little Things Plus, maybe.


More Links:

  • My favorite evergreen piece of the year went up yesterday: This is November.
  • New PAPN! In which I plead for Tennessee to hire Jon Gruden, talk about Mizzou’s potential place in the job carousel, discuss charity rivalry exhibitions (in football?), and talk about what it would take for me to agree to the Kansas job.