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Can Mizzou land 3 top recruits? Waiting to find out is the hard part.

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After a whirlwind few weeks, it feels like the news cycle has screeched to a halt for Mizzou Hoops. Where do things go from here?

High School Basketball: McDonald's All-American Portraits Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

As Mizzou fans sit and wait to find out what decisions Tiger targets Jeremiah Tilmon, Kevin Knox and Mark Smith are going to make, there’s a general feeling of unease. A fan base that feels the bottom is always about to fall out has had an almost perfect five to six weeks of news since the end of the basketball season. So naturally, the other shoe has to drop at some point, right?

Maybe, maybe not.

As we sit today, Missouri has two open scholarships and three high-priority targets remaining. With Tilmon, Knox and Smith still there, I feel pretty good saying Mizzou would take all three and make the numbers work.

Here’s our current scholarship count...

Mizzou Hoops Scholarship Count 4-9-17

We’ll start with the most likely to end up a Tiger and work our way down.

Jeremiah Tilmon: the saga continues

There’s been no shortage of drama when it comes to Tilmon and his recruitment. Since he committed to Illinois, he required constant maintenance from the Illini staff to keep him on board, and they even had to work to get him to sign his National Letter of Intent. But once you fire the coach he committed to, all bets are off.

Tilmon has been released from Illinois and is currently considering Mizzou, Kansas, and the Illini. Most figure the Illini are out of it, and Kansas may or may not have a scholarship available for him.

NCAA Basketball: Texas Tech at Kansas
Whether Svi Mykhailiuk turns pro may decide if Kansas can take another player #SviTraveled
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas had 12 scholarship players this past season. The Jayhawks currently have seven players coming back for sure, two signees, and the Lawson brothers transferring in from Memphis). Here’s a KU roster breakdown:

Gone
  • Frank Mason - Graduated
  • Landen Lucas - Graduated
  • Carlton Bragg - Transfer
  • Josh Jackson - Turned Pro
Coming Back
  • Devonte Graham - Sr, CG (1)
  • Dwight Coleby - Sr, Post (2)
  • Svi Mykhailiuk* - Sr, Wing (3)
  • Lagerald Vick - Jr, Wing (4)
  • Malik Newman - So, CG (5)
  • Sam Cunliffe - So, Wing (6)
  • Udoka Azubuike - So, Post (7)
  • Mitch Lightfoot - So, CF (8)
Coming In
  • Billy Preston - Signed, CF (9)
  • Marcus Garrett - Signed, CG (10)
  • Dedrick Lawson - Transfer, Post (11)
  • K.J. Lawson - Transfer, Post (12)

Now, this is probably more than you ever wanted to know about Kansas and its roster, but it’s important when considering the picture with Tilmon.

With four gone, and four coming in, that means KU has one scholarship left. The Jayhawks are certainly going to wait on Trevon Duval, as he is their top priority, with Thomas Allen as the top backup in they miss on Duval. Kansas is also considering Shakur Juiston, a forward from Hutchinson CC and the top overall JUCO recruit.

The trick comes with Svi’s decision to stay in the draft as a likely second-round pick or come back to school for his senior year. If Svi, who traveled, lands in the draft, the Jayhawks are likely looking for a post player.

At this point, we don’t know what Svi will do. There’s enough ball handling on the roster that KU will be okay without another guard, but they’d still be better off with one more.

All that said ... Mizzou is the clear leader, and it’s not close. Every thing I hear around this recruitment is “Tilmon to Mizzou,” and there is no buzz around him landing at Kansas other than what paranoid Missouri fans are telling themselves. I believe it’s possible Tilmon is wanting to take a few more visits since he only took one during the last go-around. He may visit Missouri officially, and it’s possible he may take a visit to Kansas. I still expect him to land in Columbia.

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2017 McDonald's All American Game Photo by David Banks/Getty Images

Just the fact we’re actually discussing Kevin Knox as a potential addition to the roster next season is kind of unbelievable. Schools like Mizzou (read: non-bluebloods) don’t go 8-23, hire a new coach, and then land two McDonalds All Americans. But then again, most schools in Missouri’s position don’t call the No. 1 player in the country a “home-town kid.”

When it comes to Knox and his recruitment, there are a lot of people who think they know what’s going on, but the truth is no one really knows. Knox obviously enjoyed his visit to Mizzou and has been clear that he likes the idea of playing with MPJ, but is that enough to lure him away from perceived favorites Duke and North Carolina? Is it enough to sway him from his legacy of following his father’s path to Florida State? Nobody knows.

Knox will make his choice in a few weeks, and Mizzou is a contender. There are little signs of the Tigers being a serious contender. Signs like this:

Two Duke insiders picked Knox to go to Mizzou and one said the forecast was foggy. This is significant because for a while the Blue Devils were though to be the leader. It also significant because Coach K and company have begun recruiting Jordan Tucker a lot harder than before, which would make you wonder if they are starting to question their place in the pecking order with Knox.

At this stage we’re just going to have to wait and find out what Knox wants to do. I know Missouri and its people are very confident they can land Knox, but he and his father have done a great job of being very analytical about the process. So I expect them to make a rational decision. The decision may wind up being good for Mizzou or not, but it will be well thought out.

I think the odds are trending towards the Tigers right now, but there is ground to make up, and it would seem Carolina might be the team Mizzou will have to fight off the most, with Florida State as the dark horse.

Mark Smith, the quietest big time recruit

Perhaps it’s his late arrival to the scene, but Mark Smith has been very quiet in his recruitment. Smith is a quiet kid by nature, and he hasn’t been seeking the spotlight, choosing instead to go through the process with the determination to just find the best fit for himself.

It would appear, if you’re a Crystal Ball type, that the Michigan State Spartans are the leader for Smith. This also lines up with a lot of what I’ve been hearing around town. There is one big catch on this, and that is that Smith’s parents like the idea of Mark playing a little closer to Edwardsville so they can make games on a more regular basis.

Distance to:

  • Columbia, MO: 137 miles
  • Champaign, IL: 158 miles
  • East Lansing, MI: 467 miles
  • Lexington, KY: 339 miles
  • Columbus, OH: 402 miles

This is why I’m not quite ready to eliminate the Tigers or the Illini just yet. There have been rumblings that things are down to either MSU and Mizzou, or MSU, Mizzou and Illinois. I don’t know if Smith is that far yet.

The fit, program-wise, for Smith at Michigan State is hard to deny. But Smith is wanting to make sure he can play early, and the Spartans are young at guard. Tum Tum Nairn will be a senior, Matt McQuaid will be a junior, and Cassius Winston and Joshua Langford will be sophomores.

Plus with Miles Bridges coming back, the playing time could be sparse for any new coming guards.

Smith is good enough to play despite that, and you have to think Tom Izzo is telling him as much.

I’d still peg the Spartans as the favorite, but this chase is ongoing, and both Missouri and Illinois are still involved.

Waiting is the hardest part

For a long time it seemed like Mizzou fans were getting good news every day or two. Probably for that reason it was pretty well expected that Tilmon would commit last week. So logically, when that didn’t happen, the panic began to settle in just a bit.

Don’t panic.

I expect Tilmon to be the first domino to fall, then Knox, and then I think we’ll hear on Smith. At this stage I’d be surprised if Smith decides before Kevin Knox, but we’ll see.

Mizzou has a chance to land all three.

We just have to wait to find out how it all comes to pass.