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Missouri’s hoops veterans are justifiably excited about how things have turned out for 2017-18

Here are today’s Mizzou Links.

CBE Hall Of Fame Classic Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

We talk so much about the new guys, so it was almost jarring at Missouri’s media gathering on Tuesday to see Cuonzo Martin ... and the old guys. Jordan Barnett, Kevin Puryear, and Terrence Phillips are still the veteran leaders and will likely do most of the speaking for the players in the coming months. And for obvious reasons, they appear pretty excited about how things have turned out.

With still more than 150 days before the opening of the 2017-18 season Nov. 10 against Iowa State at Mizzou Arena, there’s a palpable sense that the dark cloud of losing that’s hung over the program has lifted.

“It’s definitely a relief,” said senior wing Jordan Barnett — a St. Louis native and last season’s leading scorer, who transferred from Texas midway through the 2014-15 season. “We know we’re going to be good. Our biggest challenge is just getting better and doing better than what’s expected. I just can’t wait, man.”

Their games should also improve with the new competition.

They’ve done a good job of being level-headed,” Puryear said. “I think everybody’s just come to practice hungry thus far. Since we’ve started, everybody’s come ready to work, not putting themselves on a pedestal.”

There’s already excitement about how the new additions — particularly Michael Porter — might be able to provide better on-court opportunities for the returning players. Martin said Puryear has improved his shooting off the dribble and anticipates him getting more matchups against smaller opponents. Barnett said playing with Porter would be like “showtime on the wings.”

It’s also jarring to think back a few months ago, when we were assuming a coaching change but still assuming that next year’s Mizzou team would be more about becoming more competitive and not, you know, suddenly dealing with top-25 expectations.

Jordan Barnett has played 14 games in a Missouri uniform. He is averaging 12.4 points per game on 44% field goal shooting, he’s making 76% of his free throws (best among those with at least 15 attempts), he’s grabbing 6.1 rebounds per game, and he’s averaging 1.2 combined steals and blocks. And after beginning his season 8-for-37 on 3-pointers (22%), he has since gone 13-for-36 (36%).

Barnett has been everything Mizzou fans could have hoped for, someone you could see challenging for all-conference status as a senior in 2017-18.

Mizzou is 1-13 in his 14 games. The Tigers were 154th in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings the first time he suited up, and they are 185th now. Mizzou is 6-17, and the Tigers would probably only be one game worse without him.

That’s insane. I guess you could take that to mean Barnett hasn’t actually made Mizzou any better, but ... think of how bad the Tigers would be without him. [...]

If nothing else, this gave us a glimpse of what a decent Missouri team might look like next year. No, I’m not going to say anything about who might be coaching that team, but an actual, sustained senior leader (Barnett) with a bunch of sophomores-turned-juniors and freshmen-turned-sophomores?

There would still be clear, obvious issues regarding size and outside shooting, but ... well, I said “decent,” not “tourney-caliber.” But we’ll see if the continuity you can see on paper actually carries over; it’s been easy to project forward for a while, but when you lose multiple transfers and actually get younger every single year, all the theoretical continuity in the world doesn’t matter.

Regardless, Jordan Barnett’s good. And he appears to be getting better. That’s fun, even if little else is.

Life moves pretty quickly sometimes.

Oh, and not that it matters, but ... Jontay Porter is now up to sixth among 2018 prospects per the 247Sports Composite. Damn.

More Links:

  • New Podcast Ain’t Played Nobody! We talked to Athlon editor Mitch Light about magazine stuff, the 50 best players of the last 50 years, and the crazy-experienced 2017 SEC East.