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Barry Odom, Cuonzo Martin and the path to recruiting success

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Mizzou’s high profile coaches are on the same path to success, but one is further along than the other.

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Missouri Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Perspective is an important thing to have in life, especially if your enjoyment of it depends on the whims of high schoolers.

This, of course, is a rule that only applies to college sport fandom and parenting, the latter of which you can at least argue you have some measure of control over. The former, however, is as fickle as... well, a teenager, its whims swaying back and forth depending on which way the wind is blowing or who has the coolest new clothes on any given day.

Missouri fans are no stranger to the unique highs and lows of the recruiting life, and to take any given win or loss and extrapolate it into something bigger would be nonsensical. You win some and you lose some, and so it will go until the sun explodes.

It is statistical more than it is personal — a player who has more options is less likely to choose the one you want them to. This may seem like a particularly cold way to look at things, but sports fandom is a unique type of hysteria that very few of us share. Recruits are often choosing for different reasons than you or I would, and loyalty rarely has anything to do with it. That’s not a moral judgement — it’s just the way it is.

Recruiting can, however, tell us about the state of a program, specifically at a school like Missouri. Yesterday’s two recruiting headlines in particular tell two individual stories of coaches who are on the same path, if not in the same spot.

Both men’s basketball and football have hit — depending on how you look at things — rock bottom over the past half decade. Cuonzo Martin and Barry Odom were both brought on, in part, to rebuild cultures that had been torched by a lack of between-the-lines success or outside influences — sometimes both. Culture building is not a particularly fun brand of sport to watch, admittedly, as it involves lots of trial and even more error. Everyone wants to be successful, but you’d rather not have to lay the foundation to get there.

However, as much as we’d like it to be different, that’s where things are. Barry Odom is four years into a tenure that has progressively improved in almost every way — record, bowl prestige, recruiting, etc. Heading into year three, the jury was still very much out on him, and it wasn’t until the year was complete that there seemed to be a measure of confidence in the direction his efforts were taking things.

Cuonzo Martin, even amongst all the differences between football and basketball, is very much in the same place Odom was one year ago. There are things to praise about the direction of his program. The foundational pieces are promising, and an identity seems to be forming. But the on-court success hasn’t quite been there. Try as you might, you’ll never be able to make culture-building as sexy as modern-day Rupp Arena.

So, while it certainly isn’t ideal to lose out on your top target to an in-conference opponent, maybe fans should take heart. Remember the #Tiger10 football class of 2018 and look at where Missouri stands in St. Louis currently. All signs indicate that Barry Odom and Cuonzo Martin are on the same path to success, especially as it involves recruiting. Odom, however, is one whole year ahead, an amount of time that could make all the difference.