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Mizzou Hoops Preview: UMKC is smaller, meaner and still beatable

Missouri returns to action against the Roos, who are looking for a spark under Billy Donlon.

NCAA Basketball: UMKC at Kansas Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The date was Friday, November 14, 2014. Seven years ago yesterday. The day that Mizzou Basketball went black.

We’re more than seven years removed from the UMKC loss that started Kim Anderson’s Missouri tenure still feels like a shock to the system. And while it seemed (generously) like growing pains at the time, it was truly a hallmark of what was to come.

Seven years later and Mizzou, thankfully, is far removed from that era, if not some of the mistakes that plague it. UMKC, on the other hand? Well, they’re still figuring things out under Billy Donlon, who has built them into the Summit League’s best defensive unit, but still has not topped 16 wins in a full season as of yet.

It’s been a murderous stretch for the Roos to start the 2021-2022 season, traveling to Minnesota and Iowa before capping the trip with a visit to Columbia. The Roos, hungry for their first win, might have a little extra zest behind their effort as they try to once again knock off the flagship.

The Scout

The Starters

Position Missouri (1-0) UMKC (0-2)
Position Missouri (1-0) UMKC (0-2)
PG Jarron Coleman (R-Jr., 6'5", 210) Evan Gilyard II (Sr., 5'10", 170)
CG DaJuan Gordon (Jr., 6'3", 190) Marvin Nesbitt, Jr. (Sr., 6'4", 180)
WING Javon Pickett (Sr., 6'5", 215) Anderson Kopp (Jr., 6'5", 190)
PF Kobe Brown (Jr., 6'8", 250) Jacob Johnson (So., 6'5", 180)
POST Jordan Wilmore (So., 7'3", 300) Josiah Allick (Jr. 6'8", 240)

Note: These starting lineups are projected.

Missouri fans should be at least somewhat aware of UMKC’s (mis?)adventures in the NCAA transfer portal — Brandon McKissic was at the top of the Tiger’s wish list before committing to Florida. Fortunately for Donlon, reinforcements came the other way with Evan Gilyard II making his way east from New Mexico State and Anderson Kopp defecting from Lamar. Both upperclassmen played big roles at their old schools, and both are following that up in Kansas City. Kopp is the Roos’ most dangerous shooter thus far, while Gilyard dicates a lot of where the ball heads while keeping a pretty tight handle. They’ll both be heavy-usage players.

The real guy to watch will be junior Josiah Allick, who is off to a strong start in his junior campaign. His astronomical turnover rate is killing his offensive rating, but the junior has a 70.2 true shooting percentage while drawing the most fouls of his career and blocking a good number of shots. He’ll be a tough hang for the post men. The Roos also return Marvin Nesbitt, a tenacious rebounding guard with limited range, and Sam Johnson, a play-driving attack-oriented guard. Freshman Jack Chapman rounds out the major contributors with some serious bounce in the paint, but he hasn’t found his offensive edge. Sam Martin, Caden Boxer and and Shemarri Allen fill the gaps, but there’s not much in the way of statistical juice from their end.

When Missouri has the ball...

What to Watch | Who produces in the paint?

Under Donlon, the Roos have sold out in their aggressive defense, trading abysmal foul rates for lots of turnovers and steals. What that approach covers up is that the Roos aren’t all that effective in preventing good shots, especially down low. Add in the fact that the Roos are one of the country’s smaller teams, and the paint should be full of good looks. Javon Pickett attacked the paint well against CMU and the rest of the team cleaned up via the offensive glass. But for Missouri to control the game, they’ll need some consistent producers around the cup. Kobe Brown, Ronnie DeGray III and the post players all stand out as potential contributors against the Roos.

When UMKC has the ball...

NCAA Basketball: UMKC at Kansas Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

What to Watch | Who dictates the pace?

One of the ways Central Michigan was able to claw its way back into last week’s game was by abandoning pace and turning the game into a slog. “Slog” is a default mode at which Billy Donlon’s team is more than comfortable operating, so the Tigers will need to find ways to disrupt their rhythm. That may be difficult with Gilyard at the point (he doesn’t turn it over much), but there should be opportunities to attack in the transition game. If Missouri can control the pace more than they did against the Chippewas, you’d have to feel pretty good about their chances.

KenPom predicts...

Missouri 72, UMKC 59 | Missouri’s game against Central Michigan was a little too close for comfort, but it was a classic case of never feeling truly out of hand. UMKC isn’t much better, but they’ve got an experienced roster and plenty of motivation to knock off the state’s flagship university. Mizzou will need to control the pace and avoid long cold stretches that plagued them against the Chips if they want a smooth sailing victory.