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The Hall of Fame classic will see Missouri play either Oklahoma or Stanford... but not both

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These tournament formats can be tricky, so I wanted to be clear it’s one of and not both.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Mississippi vs Oklahoma Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

With Missouri releasing their season non-conference schedule, we’re taking a brief look at each of their opponents. You can catch up with the previous posts in the series here:

After taking on Butler, Missouri will take on Oklahoma or Stanford because that’s how a tournament works,and the Hall of Fame Classic is basically a four game tournament. So we’re going to do quick hitters on each instead of going super deep into someone Missouri might not even play.

So there’s a pretty good educational school out in Palo Alto, California which fields an occasionally good basketball team. Recently, Stanford hasn’t been all that good. Under Mike Montgomery, the Cardinal were one of the more reliable programs in the Pac-10. He left after the 2004 season and things have never quite been the same. They’ve flashed occasionally, but have only been to the NCAA Tournament four times, and just once since 2009.

Stanford Cardinal

Last season: 15-16, 112 in KenPom

Torvik Projection: 110

Head Coach: Jerod Haase

NCAA Basketball: Washington at Stanford Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Under Jerod Haase, progress has been slow. He’s basically produced what Johnny Dawkins did in the early going. Dawkins hovered around the 100 line in KenPom and that’s mostly where things have been the last three years. The slippage in the Pac-12 hasn’t helped, but Stanford has also been a part of the problem. When your traditionally strong programs struggle, it usually drags the whole league down.

RETURNING PLAYERS OF NOTE:

  • Daejon Davis — 63.2% %min, 11.4 ppg
  • Oscar Da Silva — 70.4% %min, 9.5 ppg
  • Bryce Wills — 60.5% %min, 6.0 ppg

There was just more loss last season than a rebuilding team can withstand. They lost KZ Okpala to the NBA Draft, 3rd leading scorer Josh Sharma to graduation, and 5th leading scorer and promising transfer Cormac Ryan to transfer. With Daejon Davis and Da Silva, plus a few decent enough incoming freshmen, Stanford should be able to put up a fight in the Pac-12, but will likely be the inferior team to Oklahoma. If Missouri wins, you have to think they’re more likely to face the Sooners. Let’s assume that and talk about OU.

Oklahoma Sooners

Last season: 20-14, 32 in KenPom

Torvik Projection: 26

Head Coach: Lon Kruger

NCAA Basketball: Oklahoma at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

If there was a coaching hire met with an overall collective shrug when it happened, it was Lon Kruger to Oklahoma. He’s now entering his 9th season in Norman and has taken the Sooners to six NCAA tournaments, including two protected seeds. Many of you will know Kruger’s history, but in case you didn’t, he was a point guard for the Kansas State Wildcats in the early 70’s and began his coaching career in 1976. He was a K-State assistant before taking his first head coaching job at UT-Pan American, then turning that into the head job at his alma mater.

I’m sure most people would like to land a head coaching job at their alma mater at the age of 34. But Kruger left Manhattan, KS for Gainesville in 1990 (oh come on, you’d do the same). After leading Florida to its first ever Final Four, Kruger took the job at Illinois, then the Atlanta Hawks, then as a New York Knicks assistant, then UNLV, and now at Oklahoma.

He’s a coaching lifer and he’s been to quite a few places.

RETURNING PLAYERS OF NOTE:

  • Brady Manek — 69.2% %min, 12.1 ppg
  • Kristian Doolittle — 72.4% %min, 11.3 ppg
  • Jamal Bienemy — 63.1% %min, 4.9 ppg

You might remember Brady Manek as the kid who looked like Larry Bird last year. No, I mean it...

Manek isn’t as skilled as Bird with the ball, but he is an excellent outside shooter and handy around the rim with his size. Doolittle and Bienemy bring back some excellent pieces. Doolittle is a little bit of that combo forward who is really a wing, and Bienemy took a little while to figure out the college game, but played really well down the stretch. The Sooners also have a very good incoming recruiting class which should make them a team to watch for an NCAA tournament bid.

If you’re taking bets, I think Missouri wins against Butler and faces Oklahoma. If Oklahoma is the matchup, then you’ll have a very real picture on how good Missouri can be. Beating OU would automatically put Missouri on the radar of the NCAA tournament selectors and place them on center stage in the SEC.