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Don’t count your chickens before they’ve hatched

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Mizzou suffered a second half meltdown as WVU stole a win and the AdvoCare Invitational title.

NCAA Basketball: Missouri at West Virginia Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Mizzou went up 68-52 on a Jontay Porter putback off of a missed three pointer from Kassius Robertson. A 41-36 halftime lead had ballooned to 16 as the Tigers looked confident in handling the press, to the point where the Mountaineers had tried switching to a 1-3-1 zone in order to slow the Tigers offense. It didn’t work. They were making three’s and owning the glass and playing defense that would almost make you weepy to watch.

And then it switched. Mizzou went from 11 turnovers at that point to 20 by the end of the game. Those turnovers started when Jordan Geist had two consecutive and it led to his frustration enough to get a technical foul. And from that point on it was all West Virginia. What followed was a 27-7 run which included just one FG and nine turnovers from the Tigers.

MIZZ-WVA Box Score

I expected Mizzou to turn the ball over a lot, but nine in eight minutes when you only get one bucket is the recipe for a loss to a legit top 25 team. Mitigate that by just a hair and maybe the turnout is different.

NCAA Basketball: Missouri at West Virginia Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

1. After all of that, I’m encouraged

I didn’t expect the game to play out this way... at all. I figured Mizzou would be a little more sporadic in scoring, doing enough to stick with the Mountaineers for much of the game but ultimately falling short. Sure there was a pretty epic meltdown over the course of about eight minutes but that also meant that Mizzou was the better team for 34 of this game.

It reminded me a lot of the Kansas exhibition game. A veteran team lead by veteran guards took advantage of the inexperienced guards of Missouri and went on a big run. The run Kansas went on happened earlier in the game which probably made the loss a little less painful (that and the fact it didn’t count). But the results are the same. Mizzou lost by four to a near certain NCAA team with a lot of experience at guard.

Consider this, WVU’s defensive turnover percentage is going to go DOWN after this game because Mizzou ONLY turned the ball over on 27.7% of their possessions instead of the normal 30.2%. Consider this along with the fact nobody left on Mizzou’s schedule will defend the way West Virginia does. So basically if you’d have told me Mizzou would have 20 turnovers and they’d lose by four points I’d have considered taking that result.

2. Find a Point Guard

It’s clear at this stage Cuonzo knows who has the most talent and who he trusts the most. Unfortunately it’s not the same player. He starts Blake Harris, who has the most talent. He plays Jordan Geist the most, because he’s who Cuonzo Martin trusts the most right now. Somehow Terrence Phillips needs to factor into that discussion more but he’s been prone to soft turnovers and poor defense.

So the answer is... hope Harris begins to gain the trust of the staff more and more.

NCAA Basketball: Missouri at West Virginia Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Geist is clearly a guy who is better in a limited role. In the first half he played 11 minutes, was 2-2 from 3-point range, had no turnovers and one foul. The second half was a different story. 15 minutes with no made shots in four attempts, four fouls and four turnovers. I’m not sure the problem is Geist as much as it’s exposure. Somewhere in there Mizzou needed either Harris or Phillips to be reliable enough to get into the action earlier and more often to hopefully settle themselves in that situation.

Mizzou got 40 minutes from the three PGs, nine turnovers, eight assists. Some good, some bad, but a lot of room for improvement.

3. Jontay Watch

Jontay went for nine points, nine rebounds, five blocks and a couple assists in just 23 minutes tonight.

He went for 16, five, two and three in 27 minutes against St. Johns. And 15, five, four and one in 23 minutes.

The way Jontay plays is so important. For people that follow and know how the modern game has changed so many things including what you do with a big guy as skilled as Jontay is. Mizzou and it’s basketball coaching staff has done a masterful job of utilizing Jontay’s skill set. He spends some time on the block, but Jontay is best as a facilitator around the perimeter with an occasional mid-post look. Some may want to pigeon hole him into a low block role, but we’ll leave that for Tilmon.

Jontay uses an extremely high basketball IQ with a unique skill set to impact the game in a variety of ways. One of my favorite things he does, ball screen defense... he does a great job of soft hedging, which slows the guard down and gives his teammate time to recover while limiting driving opportunities. He did this enough times against WVU that I had to clap out loud at the TV I enjoyed it so much.

And he just turned 18.


I said before the tournament Mizzou needed to go 2-1 and face West Virginia to make sure their tournament resume stayed in tact. It did. Mission accomplished. There is a lot to feel good about this team. They played as well as you can ask and didn’t get much from Jeremiah Tilmon. Tilmon figured out how to stay on the floor longer, now Mizzou needs to find a way to make sure he’s still getting the output he’s capable of.

The positives are numerous. Mizzou is 5-2 and we haven’t seen the ceiling on this team yet. We’ve seen the makings of a ceiling, but there is still a lot of room for them to grow.

I felt like Missouri, with a healthy Micheal Porter Jr, would be a bubble team with a ceiling of around a 5 or 6 seed in the NCAA. But now after watching them compete at a good clip and getting some ugliness out of the way, I feel like they could be that good WITHOUT Michael Porter Jr. Mizzou needs to win out the rest of the way, and there isn’t an opponent left on the schedule who they should lose to until conference play. That puts them at 11-2. Go 9-9 in this years version of the SEC and that should be good enough to get into the tournament.