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Mizzou Basketball faces a workable early non-conference schedule

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A tough early road test may prove the biggest bump.

And like that, we’ve got a non-conference schedule.

On Monday MUTigers.com populated with the non-conference slate for the forthcoming basketball season and a small quiet ‘squeeee’ could be heard from hoops fans around the state (and beyond). So since there is still going to be plenty of time to break down the schedule but how about just a quick primer on each team Mizzou is going to face.

Nov 6 vs Central Arkansas

NCAA Basketball: Central Arkansas at UCLA Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
  • Conference: Southland
  • Last season: 18-17
  • 2018 KenPom: 213
  • Head Coach: Russ Pennell, 5th season

The Bears of Central Arkansas have had a rough go since joining Division One basketball 12 seasons ago. To give you an idea they have just a .311% winning percentage and have exactly one season above .500. You know which season that was? Last year! Congrats to Russ Pennell, a Kansas native who got his start in coaching at Pitt State.

Last year the Bears went 10-8 in the Southland conference and played in the CBI tournament which is quite the accomplishment. The downside is they lost their two leading scorers including 5’11 scoring point guard Jordan Howard who averaged 25 ppg and nearly 28% usage.

Nov 9 @ Iowa State

NCAA Basketball: Big 12 Conference Tournament-Texas vs Iowa State Amy Kontras-USA TODAY Sports
  • Conference: Big 12
  • Last season: 13-18
  • 2018 KenPom: 103
  • Head Coach: Steve Prohm, 4th season

Last season was a rough one for the Cyclones, and many saw it coming. We previewed the lost production before the home opener last year. A bright spot emerged in the form of Liddell Wiggington who found his footing early and ended up averaging over 16 points per game as a freshman.

Enter a team rebuilding with a solid recruiting class including a college basketball ready made incoming freshman like Talen Horton-Tucker and a surprise performance from Cameron Laird and you have things looking good. Add in Solomon Young, who’s shown he’s a solid piece and Iowa State might be set for a bounce back season. Going on the road for the Tigers should make this a tough one to pick up.

Nov 16 vs Kennesaw State (Paradise Jam)

Others: Old Dominion, Oregon State, Northern Iowa, Penn, Eastern Kentucky, Kansas State

NCAA Basketball: Kennesaw State at Texas Tech Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
  • Conference: Atlantic Sun
  • Last season: 10-20
  • 2018 KenPom: 309
  • Head Coach: Al Skinner, 4th season

Anytime a team’s mascot is the Owls they have my attention. Kennesaw State, located in the suburbs of Atlanta, has been in Division One basketball for 13 seasons and like Central Arkansas has largely found the waters rocky. The Owls have yet to crack .500 and hoped Al Skinner, the long time coach at Boston College, could breath some life into the program. While they haven’t gone 3-28 like they did in 2012 it’s been tough to get the team over the proverbial hump.

And just when you thought things might be trending in the right way the Owls lose their top two scorers, one to graduation and the other to transfer. It’s hard luck being towards the bottom of D1 NCAA basketball. So basically the Owls should have another rough season and Missouri should play a small part in that season.

Old Dominion

NCAA Basketball: Southern Mississippi at Old Dominion Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports
  • Conference: Conference USA
  • Last season: 25-7
  • 2018 KenPom: 64
  • Head Coach: Jeff Jones, 6th season

versus

Oregon State

NCAA Basketball: Oregon State at UCLA Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
  • Conference: Pac 12
  • Last season: 16-16
  • 2018 KenPom: 100
  • Head Coach: Wayne Tinkle, 5th season

This is an intriguing matchup with a solid Mid-Major+ school like Old Dominion who has won 25 or more games in three of the last five years playing a building Power Conference team. Oregon State has recruited well and has some nice building blocks to hopefully take the next step. While Old Dominion has made a living off of transfers and under recruited guys to build a potential NCAA contender. Missouri is likely to play with winner of this game and face a tough semi-final matchup regardless of who wins.

Northern Iowa vs. Penn / Kansas State vs. Eastern Kentucky

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-South Regional-Loyola vs Kansas State Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Obviously we’ll cross this bridge when we get there but the obvious hope is Kansas State.

  • Conference: Big 12
  • Last season: 25-12
  • 2018 KenPom: 42
  • Head Coach: Bruce Weber, 7th season

The Wildcats should be a top 25 team in the preseason. They snuck into the NCAA tournament in the 8/9 game, got lucky with UMBC’s upset of Virginia, and played an incredible game in taking care of Kentucky before bowing out to the Cinderella of the tournament Loyola-Chicago. The Wildcats return everyone of note and were missing Dean Wade, likely their best player, throughout the tournament. So it’s easy to see why there might be some preseason hype surrounding Bruce Weber’s team.

I’m a little more skeptical because I tend to think teams who were solid but not great who go on post-season runs and bring back everyone don’t always make the next step. I think the Wildcats will be good, but I’m not convinced they’re a protected seed level good. But either way it’s best for Missouri if they make it to the championship game and play their old conference foe.

We’ll talk about the rest of the conference slate next week.