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Mizzou Hoops Preview: Central Michigan

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The Chippewas start year one under Tony Barbee with a host of new faces... sound familiar?

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: DEC 22 CBS Sports Classic - North Carolina v Kentucky Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Looking at the Mizzou Basketball roster page is sort of jarring these days, isn’t it?

It’s not as if continuity has been the benchmark of Cuonzo Martin’s first four years at Missouri, but there always felt like more than a few anchor players to whom fans could grab hold of, right? Jeremiah Tilmon, Xavier Pinson, Dru Smith, Jordan Geist, etc. Every year featured at least four or five players with whom we had some sort of relationship.

This year? It’s Kobe Brown, Javon Pickett and... Jordan Wilmore? It’s the freshest a Mizzou Hoops team has felt since Martin’s first year at the helm, when Michael Porter, Jr. was still lining the digital ad material and Kassius Robertson was the first of a few transfers who would soon transform into All-SEC performers.

With that unfamiliarity comes both trepidation and a bizarre sort of hope, at least for the cynics. The former obviously comes from the fact that Mizzou is coming off an NCAA Tournament season, but lost the vast majority of its production, replacing players like Dru Smith, Jeremiah Tilmon and Xavier Pinson with mid-major call ups like Jarron Coleman and Amari Davis. We don’t know that they won’t pan out, but we can’t be certain they will, either.

And yet, there’s excitement to be found in the unknown. The possibilities, limited only by the scouting of previous years, are untapped. Many of Mizzou’s newcomers seemingly have a lot to offer from their mid-major days. The freshman class is Cuonzo’s best since 2017 and seems to be a sign of even better things to come. And the two chief returners are both proven leaders with resumes boasting clutch moments in black and gold.

There’s no getting around that expectations are seemingly pretty low all the way around. But who’s to say that Missouri won’t find a way to prove the naysayers wrong? At the very least, we have very little in the way of cold hard facts to say that they won’t. And until we have that data, the 2021-2022 Tigers will be a team brimming with potential.


The Scout

The Starters

Position Missouri (0-0) Central Michigan (0-0)
Position Missouri (0-0) Central Michigan (0-0)
PG Jarron Coleman (R-Jr., 6'5", 210) Jermaine Jackson Jr. (GS, 6', 175)
CG Amari Davis (Jr., 6'2", 175) Cameron Healy (GS, 6'3", 190)
WING Javon Pickett (Sr., 6'5", 215) Ralph Bissainthe (R-Sr., 6'7", 205)
PF Kobe Brown (Jr., 6'8", 250) Aundre Polk (So., 6'10", 210)
POST Yaya Keita (Fr., 6'8", 240) Harrison Henderson (GS, 6'11", 240)

Note: These starting lineups are projected. Like, extremely projected. Guess work, really.

At the risk of sounding like some rube Sam pulled off the street to fill a content gap... please take these projections with a grain of salt. I’ll be happy if I get 3 of the 5 Chippewa starters right. I guessed using a combination of (a) returning players and (b) graduate students who I can’t assume were transferring to CMU to ride the pine.

Of the known quantities, Barbee’s best returning asset is redshirt senior Ralph Bissainthe, who played about 57 percent of the minutes last year while acting as a defensive specialist/rim protecting combo forward. He wasn’t much help on the offensive end, but did well enough on the defensive glass and blocked more than a fair share of shots at 6’7”. Aundre Polk and fellow sophomore Caleb Hodgson both stand at 6’10” and offer Barbee some height to play with, though neither could stay on the floor much as frosh due to heavy foul issues. Hard to say what the scout is on them.

Barbee did manage to snag a trio of grad students who should get heavy minutes all season long. Jermaine Jackson Jr. joins the Chips from Long Island, where he acted as the Sharks’ main distributor who specialized in cleaning up at the free throw line. Harrison Henderson comes to Mount Pleasant from Southern University, where he was a holy terror on the boards (27 percent defensive rebounding rate!), but didn’t offer much in the way of defense. He’s at least got the boldness to heave up some jumpers, so the Tigers may have to at least keep an eye on him. Cameron Healy transferred over from Albany, where he only played spot minutes for Will Brown and didn’t chip in much when he saw the floor. It’s also worth noting that junior Ryan Wade transferred to play for Barbee after getting around 66 percent of minutes at Holy Cross. Wade didn’t make a huge impact in his time, but he also wasn’t much of a drain, playing sound defense and putting up a limited number of shots. He’ll likely factor in early.

After those six, it’s anybody’s guess (and I mean anybody! got any tips, please send them my way.) Brian Taylor was a daring, if inefficient, jump shooter at UIC. Oscar Lopez played mop up duty at DePaul. After that, it’s a mish mash of freshmen and little known transfers who round out Central Michigan’s roster.

When Missouri has the ball...

NCAA Basketball: SEC Conference Tournament-Missouri vs Arkansas Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

What to Watch | How weird is Martin willing to get?

I’ll start by saying that usually there’s a table here comparing the KenPom offensive and defensive numbers of both teams. We’re not including those in the opener because, frankly, we barely know either of these teams. Clearly we know a little more about what Missouri has to offer, but we likely won’t know a whole lot until we’ve seen how Cuonzo Martin deploys his roster.

Which begs the question: How wacky will Martin get against the Chippewas? We know they’re likely not going to be any good (at least not better than Missouri, anyway) so Martin could afford to experiment and run the rotation a little longer. He’s done it in the past, in any case. But will we see some of the fluidity of position that Martin teased in the preseason? Does Kobe Brown get some run bringing the ball up the court? Will Trevon Brazile get early looks at the wing? Would Martin deploy both Keita and Wilmore for a jumbo lineup? The possibilities are endless in game one, and they’ll tell us more about who’s got the early lead on rotation spots.

When Central Michigan has the ball...

Syndication: Louisville Mike Weaver/Special to Courier Journal

What to Watch | How does Tony Barbee’s rotation shake out?

Talk about roster turnover. Central Michigan is working with less than 30 percent continuity in Tony Barbee’s first year with a smattering of freshmen, international grabs and transfers filling out his roster. The returning players (listed above) will likely see more run, so we can be somewhat certain what to expect there. But as for the rest of the roster? It’s any person’s guess.


KenPom predicts...

Missouri 83, Central Michigan 65 | There’s no need to overcomplicate this, even in a season when Missouri is fighting to stay out of the SEC basement. Central Michigan was sub-250 in KenPom last season and starts the Barbee era with almost no continuity. On Mizzou’s home court, this one shouldn’t have any drama after the first 30 minutes, and maybe even after the first half. If it does, we’ll have a whole host of other issues to address.

Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.