Early June is a time when we begin to know things.
We know what the final roster is going to look like (barring any September surprises like last year), and we know who has made it to campus for summer workouts. The combination of those things means we know what the 2019-20 Missouri Basketball team is going to look like.
Each year since I’ve been writing for RockMNation I’ve done this exercise and it’s always fun. Here’s the premise:
It's that time of year, Mizzou has it's roster set (seemingly)... so tell me who are your TOP EIGHT (do NOT give me nine guys) Like this:— Sam Snelling (@SamTSnelling) June 4, 2019
SUB, SUB, SUB
I asked who you would pick to be the five starters, and the top three subs. This season I think most of us expect Cuonzo Martin to play closer to 10 guys on a regular basis, but therein lies the fun. Even if 10 guys are routinely seeing the floor each night, two of those players will play fewer minutes than the other eight. Who are going to be the top eight?
Click on the tweet above to read the full thread. There were a lot of submissions so I opted to credit all starters with 2 points and bench players with 1 point for each submission. Here are your results:
- Mark Smith: 58 points
- Dru Smith 57 points
- Jeremiah Tilmon: 56 points
- Tray Jackson: 51 points
- Torrence Watson: 49 points
- Javon Pickett: 35 points
- Xavier Pinson: 31 points
- Mitchell Smith: 12 points
- Reed Nikko: 8 points
- Mario McKinney: 7 points
- Kobe Brown: 6 points
- Parker Braun: 5 points
A couple of impressions — I’m not surprised by the top three vote getters at all. At this stage you know what you’re going from Tilmon and Mark Smith, and everyone figures to know what they’re getting from Dru Smith. Mark had a starters vote on every ballot and the only ballot Tilmon misses was from @MizzouGump who I’m pretty sure was making a joke to have a lineup of Smiths and Brown/Brauns.
I’m a little surprised by the steadfast faith from nearly everyone in Tray Jackson to be the starter. I lean that way most days but I also think we’re propping him up a little too much right now and there are some legitimate challengers at the position who could gain minutes and Cuonzo Martin’s confidence as Jackson finds his footing.
I’m also a little surprised by the majority assumption in which Watson usurps Pickett. I tend to think Pickett will keep Watson on the bench for at least the start of the season, but both will see plenty of hefty minutes.
There also seems to be very little faith in McKinney and Brown which I’m interested in how it plays out. I tend to think Martin will invest in his young players and make sure they’re seeing the court plenty, so I think two crack the top eight and one lands just outside of it.
So how does this all play out?
Let’s pinpoint some matchups to watch and the key preseason practice battles which will determine the early minutes distribution.
Pinson-McKinney: Mario McKinney is not a traditional point guard, and Xavier Pinson was much more of a high usage lead guard last season so this isn’t a like-for-like battle but I think the minutes distribution between the two is going to be something to watch. Pinson was more enigmatic and streaky as a freshman so as a Sophomore it’ll be important for him to find his higher level and keep it consistent. McKinney can eat into Pinson’s minutes if he’s able to bring energy off the bench and play through the offense while defending and making shots.
Watson-Pickett: Everyone right now thinks Watson has overtaken Pickett with his late surge coupled with Pickett’s late fade. Recency bias can be a tough thing as Matt pointed out in his recent piece. Long term Watson’s ceiling projects higher but Martin has proven time and again that he trusts Pickett, so I have a hard time seeing Watson over Pickett at least at the start of the season. We’ll see but the division between the minutes for these two is something worth watching.
Brown-Braun-Mi. Smith-Jackson: The biggest struggle for Missouri and their offense last year was getting consistent production from the combo forward spot and there is no shortage of auditioners for the spot. I actually think the battle of the freshmen is where it all gets interesting because each guy brings a different look. Jackson brings the talent and ceiling, Brown brings the skill and versatility, and Braun provides the biggest question mark. We should know what to expect from Mitchell Smith, and the votes for Smith show that a known is graded higher than three unknowns. But I tend to think the unknowns will win the battle in some way.
So who are my top eight?
You’ve shown me yours, so I should show you mine, right?
PG: Dru Smith
CG: Mark Smith
WING: Javon Pickett
CF: Kobe Brown
POST: Jeremiah Tilmon
SUB: Tray Jackson, Torrence Watson, Xavier Pinson
This might come as a surprise but I think this might just be how the year starts out. On the depth I think Pinson backs up Dru Smith and occasionally pushes Dru to an off-the-ball position. Mark Smith starts off the ball, but can move to the wing easily when Pinson comes in and pushes Dru off the ball. Watson and Pickett split most of the minutes and if one can play the four in spots all the better. And Tray Jackson eventually becomes the guy at the four, but I think Brown’s versatility and ability to pass is what intrigues me the most for his spot. If he can be consistent shooting the ball he’ll be hard to keep off the floor. And obviously yeah Tilmon is important.
I don’t want to discount the role I think Parker Braun and Mario McKinney can play. But McKinney in particular is going to play, and significant minutes. But I still think he’ll be the 9th guy.
So who are your top eight? Let us know in the comments below!