Late yesterday, Mizzou announced the final piece of its non-conference slate for the coming season: a home game against Emporia State on November 20. The game against ESU completes the schedule, meaning we waited weeks to finalize a schedule when the only remaining game was a matchup most would consider an exhibition game.
Now would be a good time to do a quick primer on each team to see how this schedule matches up.
vs. Iowa State Cyclones, Nov. 10
- Last season record: 24-11
- Last season KenPom: 17
- Returning Offensive Value: 16.3%
A quick glance at the season opener for the Tigers would make you think Mizzou is walking into a potential buzzsaw. The issue for the Cyclones is their top returning producer is Donovan Jackson, a nice player but not really someone you build your offense around.
The Cyclones are certainly going to be rebuilding this season, with a handy 5-star point guard to build around in freshman Lidell Wiggington, plus a few graduate transfers. I would expect this to be a close game, but ultimately I think the energy of the home crowd, coupled with Mizzou’s infusion of talent should be enough to get the win.
vs. Wagner Seahawks, Nov. 13
- Last season record: 16-14
- Last season KenPom: 247
- Returning Offensive Value: 38.9%
Wagner is coached by a young up-and-comer Bashir Mason, but they’re flipping the majority of their roster (four of their top six) from a year ago. The Seahawks do return a few players who were injured for much of the season and could be a team to watch in the Northeastern Conference.
Still, this should be an easy win for the home team, as even if things go well for Wagner this year, they’re still a likely 200+ KenPom team.
at Utah Runnin’ Utes, Nov. 16
- Last season record: 20-12
- Last season KenPom: 47
- Returning Offensive Value: 37.4%
The first road challenge is actually a winnable game for Mizzou. Larry Krystkowiak is a formidable coach who’s done a nice job in Utah, but the Utes lose four of their top six from a year ago and attempt to replace the lost talent with some graduate transfers. Sedrick Barefield could be due for a breakout season, but losing Kyle Kuzma and Devon Daniels is a big blow. I imagine Mizzou will be a slight underdog.
vs. Emporia State Hornets, Nov. 20
- Last season record: 13-16
- Last season KenPom: n/a
- Returning Offensive Value: n/a
This is an exhibition game that’s not an exhibition game. Mizzou must have had a hard time filling its last spot and ended up doing what most power conference teams dread doing: booking a Division II school. Emporia State wasn’t very good a year ago and may be only moderately better this year. Mizzou should win by a lot.
Advocare Invitational, Orlando, Nov. 23-26
Long Beach State 49ers
- Last season record: 225
- Last season KenPom: 15-19
- Returning Offensive Value: 39.5%
Dan Monson had a good thing going for a while at Long Beach State. But after a 12-seed in 2012, the Beach has had a tough go of things and have only hit 20 wins once and been above .500 twice.
Dynamic scorer Evan Payne is back — he should be a matchup problem for Mizzou, but there isn’t enough for Long Beach State to be a legitimate threat. Mizzou should be a double-digit favorite.
St. Johns Red Storm
- Last season record: 14-19
- Last season KenPom: 99
- Returning Offensive Value: 73.3%
The Tigers will take on either St. Johns or Oregon State, and both will prove tough. St. Johns is mid-rebuild, but they’ve got a lot of young and talented players and return nearly three-quarters of their production from a year ago. Shamorie Ponds, Marcus Lovett and Bashir Ahmed will be a tough matchup for a lot of teams.
Inside the Red Storm have bodies but nothing scary. Slow their guards and win the game.
Oregon State Beavers
- Last season record: 5-27
- Last season KenPom: 264
- Returning Offensive Value: 92.9%
Be wary of this record and KenPom ranking. The Beavers have a lot of young talent and suffered through a host of injuries a year ago, leading to an ugly finish. But Stephen Thompson, Jaquori McLaughlin and Tres Tinkle should help the Beavers turn things around in a hurry. No matter who Mizzou matches up against, it won’t be an easy task.
The other side of the bracket: West Virginia, Nebraska, UCF and Marist. Mizzou will play one of these teams. For strength of schedule purposes, let’s hope it’s WVU.
at UCF Knights, Nov. 30
- Last season record: 24-12
- Last season KenPom: 68
- Returning Offensive Value: 55.9%
If you don’t know Tacko Fall, I don’t know that we can be friends. A 7’6 bio-engineering major and FG% master, Fall is just a specimen. He makes for a big problem in the middle, and overall UCF might be the best team on the schedule. They return their top scorer, and he wasn’t even Fall! If the Knights can find a way to get Fall involved early, this is a dangerous, tough game for the Tigers.
vs. Miami (Ohio) Redhawks, Dec. 5
- Last season record: 11-21
- Last season KenPom: 279
- Returning Offensive Value: 24.3%
New coach Jack Owens, the former associate head coach at Purdue, takes over a serious rebuild for the Redhawks. They cleaned house and and replaced just about everyone.
Only three players who did much of anything a season ago return, and gone are the Weathers brothers. Michael Weathers nearly single-handedly made Miami a tough team to beat ... but they still weren’t that tough to beat. I’d imagine they won’t be worse this year, but at the same time they probably won’t be a whole lot better.
vs. Green Bay Phoenix, Dec. 9
- Last season record: 18-14
- Last season KenPom: 190
- Returning Offensive Value: 18.4%
Man, there seems to be a theme of Mizzou playing teams who are in a rebuild. Green Bay loses seven of its top eight contributors, including Kerem Kanter and Charles Cooper.
Head Coach Linc Darner has a tough turnaround. Darner is a solid coach and they’ve got a decent group of newcomers, enough to be decent.
vs. North Florida Ospreys, Dec. 16
- Last season record: 15-19
- Last season KenPom: 255
- Returning Offensive Value: 21.5%
I don’t expect much out of North Florida. They’re only returning a handful of guys and are trying to flip the roster quickly with transfers and young players. Despite losing eight of their top 11, there are a couple guys who could help out, including Ole Miss transfer J.T. Escobar. Overall the Ospreys don’t have enough to challenge MIzzou at home, but their style of play (hoisting a bunch of 3s and playing lots of possessions) could make things interesting.
vs. Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks, Dec. 19
- Last season record: 18-15
- Last season KenPom: 233
- Returning Offensive Value: 72.1%
Maybe the most dangerous of the mid- to low-majors that the Tigers are playing, the Lumberjacks bring back their top five guys. Kyle Keller did a great job under Billy Kennedy at Texas A&M and is a good fit at SFA. He’s got a ton of returning talent and could restore the ‘Jacks to where they were under Brad Underwood. This is a challenging matchup, but one the Tigers should still win.
vs. Illinois Fighting Illini, Dec. 23
- Last season record: 20-15
- Last season KenPom: 66
- Returning Offensive Value: 27.5%
I love Brad Underwood as a coach. He built an offensive powerhouse at Stephen F. Austin, then went to Oklahoma State and turned the Cowboys into a buzzsaw.
I’m not entirely convinced his 2015-16 roster at SFA wasn’t better than what he has in Champaign this year. Underwood is a wizard, but he’s going to have to pull out all the stops to keep the Illini competitive in the Big 10.
The Braggin’ Rights game should be a fight as always, but Illinois’ starting five is looking like Te’Jon Lucas, Mark Smith, Mark Alstork, Leron Black, and Michael Finke. I don’t love the look of that. But again, Underwood is a wizard.
I feel like anything less than 10 wins in these 13 games would be disappointing. A ceiling of probably 12 wins, a floor of likely around eight ... split the difference for a young team and you end up with 10.
This isn’t a murderer’s row. Quite the opposite. This schedule reminds me of a Mike Anderson cupcake special. (It’s ironic, then, that a day earlier the Razorbacks released a schedule full of tough games and power conference matchups.)
Mizzou is almost banking on winning a couple games in Orlando to get a matchup with West Virginia. Outside of that, there are zero guaranteed NCAA tournament teams, only several who are projected on the bubble. Winning on the road in Utah and UCF would be great, but Mizzou is putting a lot of pressure on itself to win a lot of SEC games to land safely in the NCAA tournament.