Missouri’s last basketball game was an 86-74 loss in the second round of the SEC Tournament. It capped an 8-24 slog of a season and got Kim Anderson fired after three years and 27 wins.
Missouri’s next basketball game will tip with the Tigers receiving at least some sort of top-25 level hype. Don’t believe me? Here’s ESPN.com Myron Medcalf ranking Mizzou 25th in his way-too-early top 25 for 2017-18.
Just four years ago, Missouri mattered. In 2013, the Tigers completed their fifth consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament. And then things fell apart amid scandal in Frank Haith's final season in 2013-2014 and turbulence during the Kim Anderson era that followed. Anderson never had a chance. He immediately lost good players when he arrived and could not reassemble Missouri's image as a pertinent force on the national scene. Two months ago, Missouri athletic director Jim Sterk did what any campus leader must consider when he wants to clean up a mess. He opened his wallet. The seven-year, $21 million deal for Cuonzo Martin, who left Cal to move two hours from his hometown of East St. Louis, Illinois, led to the formation of a recruiting class now ranked sixth in the country by ESPN.com. Martin has Michael Porter Jr., the No. 1 prospect in the 2017 class and the son of assistant Michael Porter Sr. He also has top-100 standouts Blake Harris and Jeremiah Tilmon. C.J. Roberts is a four-star point guard. Canisius grad transfer Kassius Robertson (16.1 PPG) made 41 percent of his 3-point attempts last season. The top three scorers from last year return, too. Oh, and Jontay Porter (ranked 25th in the 2018 class by ESPN.com), may reclassify to player with his brother and father in 2017-18. Missouri matters again.
If both Porters are in uniform, I could honestly see Mizzou deserving top-25 hype. I’m not going to lie; I fear someone’s going to take a flyer and put the Tigers in the top 10 or something, and that would skew expectations to an alarming degree.
Still, it’s not hard to see “Key losses: Russell Woods” and “Key additions: Michael Porter Jr.” and not realize just how drastically, ridiculously, insanely different next year’s Missouri team is going to be. It will be young (again), and it will possess the volatility and inconsistency that young teams tend to have to deal with. But a) veterans like Terrence Phillips and Jordan Barnett will ensure that even this young team has far more continuity and veteran presence than recent Tiger teams have, and b) the talent is undeniable.
This is nuts.