In a way, the beginning of a season is really about trying to figure out your team’s ceiling and floor. I’m not sure any team in the country has defined a wider range between former and latter than Missouri in just five games this season. Crush Iowa State, crush Wagner, get destroyed by Utah, try really hard to lose to Emporia State, crush Long Beach State. Yeesh.
The narrative pretty quickly became “Knowing that Michael Porter Jr. is out, the team relaxed and played well again!” Maybe that’s true. Or maybe this was one of the games where the outside shots fell and the freshmen didn’t look like freshmen. We’ll see.
The freshmen really, really didn’t look like freshmen, though.
We knew that Mizzou could be super-efficient in terms of 2-point shooting and drawing fouls, and we know that Mizzou is going to win just about every rebounding battle this year, especially against mid-majors. That all came to pass. The Tigers also made some 3s again, too, which was lovely.
But the most exciting thing about the above box score: the ball-handling.
Blake Harris’ first Mizzou start was a brilliant one. It damn near produced a double-double. The freshman scored 11 points on seven FG attempts and produced eight assists and two steals to one turnover. Damn.
It goes without saying that the St. John’s game today (10:00 a.m. CT, ESPN News) will produce a much greater challenge, and as a freshman, Harris is going to have plenty of duds spread out over the rest of the season. But we saw all the good he has to offer, and it was awfully impressive.
(By the way, at some point opponents are going to back off of him and force him to shoot from the outside, too. He’s 0-for-1 on 3-pointers this year. And Mizzou’s ceiling might in some way be defined by how well he shoots from the outside when he has to.)
Mizzou won by nearly 40, however, because Harris maybe wasn’t even the best Mizzou point guard in the game.
Poor Terrence Phillips picked a bad time to play well. In a game in which Harris and Jordan Geist weren’t combining for 47 minutes, 27 points on 15 FGAs, 10 rebounds, 13 assists, and four steals, Phillips might have logged double-digit minutes.
Regardless, when these three guys are combining for 32 actual points and 43.5 Adj. GS points in 52 minutes, Mizzou’s going to win almost every single time.
Mizzou’s also, of course, going to win more often than not when Jontay Porter and Jeremiah are combining for 40 minutes, 24 points (10-13- FG, 2-2 FT), and five blocks, too. Porter ran out of steam to some degree in the second half, and Tilmon did still have three turnovers and three fouls in 17 minutes. But we’ve gotten quite a few glimpses of what’s in store from this duo. It’s damn exciting.
Earth to Jordan Barnett:
Barnett has had what I’ll call an eventful first five games of the season. There have been some plot twists, at least.
- Barnett, first 2 games: 54 minutes, 28 points (4-7 2PT, 4-10 3PT, 6-7 FT)
- Barnett, last 3 games: 83 minutes, 14 points (5-9 2PT, 0-12 3PT, 4-4 FT)
Yuck. He’s gone from averaging 2.0 points per FGA in the first two games to 0.7 in the last three. He hasn’t made a 3-ball since Wagner.
We’ll say he’s been saving them up. The next two games would be a pretty good time to progress back toward the mean.
Harris had an almost perfect ratio for a point guard: 83% pass, 11% shoot, 5% fouled, 2% TO. He really was awesome. We’ll see if it continues against a St. John’s backcourt that features a couple of exciting sophomores in Shamorie Ponds and Marcus LoVett. Ponds is an awesome ball-handler, and LoVett’s made half his 3s so far this year.