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Cuonzo Martin’s Missouri roster makeover is almost complete

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With Jeremiah Tilmon on board and Jakoby Kemp headed elsewhere, where does this leave the Missouri hoops roster?

After going through what felt like a lull in the news cycle, we finally hit a bit of a groundswell of news over the last few weeks. We found out:

We’re still waiting on Jontay Porter’s decision, which looks like it will extend for a few more months — he plans on finishing the AAU season.

So while the 13 scholarship limit was officially filled for about three hours, we’re right back where we started with the count, just plus one Tilmon and minus one Kemp. Even the classes are exactly the same since Kemp was going to be a redshirt freshman next season. Now, the scholarship graphic:

Mizzou Basketball Scholarship Count 5-15-17

With one open scholarship still to go, the position is clearly Jontay Porter’s if he wants it. As I mentioned above, Porter is expected to play out the full AAU season which finishes at the Nike EYBL Peach Jam in mid-July. Once the AAU season wraps up, Porter is then expected to make his decision on whether or not he’ll reclassify.

At this stage, I expect him to reclassify, and that seems to be the prevailing opinion among many who have followed the situation. Jontay has said repeatedly he is ~50-50 on his decision, and hopefully he makes the best decision for himself. I certainly don’t want to see him asked 100 times a day over the next few months what his plans are.

With or without Porter, the addition of Tilmon was an important one. He is raw offensively, but when he plays hard he’s an elite defender and rebounder, and most recruiting experts believe he’ll find a more consistent motor when engaged at the college level. His ability to protect the rim and finish at the rim are precisely what Missouri needs next season.

Positional breakdown by class

With the addition of Tilmon, you obviously have a higher ceiling player joining in basically the same position as the guy who just left. Kemp’s size projected him towards the interior, as he wasn’t likely to log many minutes on the wing with more experienced and just flat better players out there.

Mizzou Basketball Position Breakdown by class 5-15-17

As you can see I’ve eliminated the traditional 5 positions of PG, SG, SF, PF and C. I wanted something simpler — this simply shows who handles the ball, who plays outside, and who plays inside.

There are players who can fill multiple roles, and the fluidity of the roster will be interesting to watch as we finish up the summer and move closer to the season. How the minutes break down depends on a lot of things, and we’re all trying to figure out who is going to play big minutes. But there’s a lot of reason to be excited about the deep and talented freshmen class.

Right, there are really 40 minutes for Terrence Phillips, Blake Harris and Jordan Geist to figure out, 80 minutes for C.J. Roberts, Jordan Barnett, Kassius Robertson, Cullen VanLeer and Michael Porter Jr., and another 80 minutes for Kevin Puryear, Reed Nikko, Mitchell Smith, and Jeremiah Tilmon (plus maybe Porter and Barnett). Good luck figuring out the minutes right now. It gets even harder if Jontay Porter enters the mix.

We know MPJ is going to play a lot. We know the freshman guard combo is going to push for minutes. We know Terrence Phillips and Kevin Puryear don’t plan on letting the new breed take over their leadership roles.

What we don’t know is how the roles will flesh out in the next few months. We don’t now if Tilmon is a starter or if he’s a 15-minute guy because freshman big men are hard to project. We don’t know if Cullen VanLeer and Jordan Geist can carve out roles.

Missouri could get away with not starting Tilmon if Jontay stays in high school — if Jontay is on the roster, I’d expect him to start — and going with Puryear, Barnett and MPJ. The athleticism of MPJ and Barnett make up for the lack of size with Puryear on the floor. And that lineup creates a lot of mismatch problems, as a traditional big man will have a lot of trouble guarding KP, and MPJ is a walking mismatch no matter who is guarding him.

Rankings are fun when you’re high in them

mizzou basketball sixth ranked recruiting class

The Missouri Tigers went 8-24 last season, and this season they hold the sixth-ranked recruiting class according to 247sports Composite. If Jontay Porter indeed decides to reclassify it would further bump the class even higher, likely into fourth place. This doesn’t factor in the impact of Kassius Robertson, who could be the single most important addition after MPJ.

It’s really astounding what has happened in a short period of time. I was prepping pieces on how Mizzou can find the path out of the basement of the SEC, and now they have the 11th highest odds of winning a national championship according to Vegas.

Cuonzo Martin was asked by Frank Cusumano on the radio yesterday how excited he is about the highly rated class, and he said the rankings are fun but ultimately don’t mean anything. What matters in the end are wins. This class goes a long way towards making it easier to win, but it certainly doesn’t guarantee wins.

People are rightly getting very excited, but there’s still a long way to go before we get to see this team in action. It certainly feels like the return of Missouri Basketball is upon us.