We’re one game deep, and I hate to jinx it folks, but Mizzou is staring down the possibility of an undefeated season!
All jokes aside, it was a delight to see the Tigers take the (brand spanking new) court at Mizzou Arena once again, a pleasure that was only emphasized when they came away with a 10-point win over Central Michigan.
One of the enduring stories of the offseason that carried into the first game was the abundance of newcomers on Cuonzo Martin’s roster. Of the nine new players, only three didn’t see the floor against the Chips, all three having been held out of the game for varying reasons. The result was impressive to say the least, with three of the newcomers scoring in double digits and all but two seeing double digit minutes.
With a bit of down time before Mizzou takes the court again, we want to examine the performances of the new guys with a bit more scrutiny. We rounded up the masthead, who offered their thoughts on the newbies, Central Michigan and what lies ahead.
It’s hard not to get carried away with #taeks after one game. After all, we’re excited about hoops being back! But after game one vs. Central Michigan, if you had to sum up Mizzou’s newcomers in one sentence, it would be...
Matt Watkins, Guest Speaker: Harkening back to the simplistic grading college days of old: Pass. The new guys filled in 125 of the 200 minutes played. Most flashed signs of why Coach Martin brought them in. With Gordon’s one game suspension supposedly ending, I’d expect to see the former number rise. (Editor’s Note: Look at the new guy, deflecting like an old pro!)
Sam Snelling, Whiskey Taster: This group appears to be an eclectic group of specialists who, in time, can become a more consistent and possibly even good, basketball team.
Parker Gillam, Basketball Beat Writer: A committed, exciting, yet raw group of players that are going to be a work in progress all-season long.
Matthew Harris, Basketball Editor: A group of workmanlike veterans remained unruffled enough to offset freshmen acclimating to the speed of the college game.
Quite a few of Mizzou’s new guys put up big numbers right away against the Chippewas. Which one impressed you the most?
Matt Watkins, Guest Speaker: The easy answer is likely the correct one. Ronnie DeGray put together a Dru Smith style stat sheet. 13 points, 12 boards, 3 blocks and only 2 turnovers. He’s a different player than Dru, and I don’t expect him to be All-SEC year 1, but he’s that type of guy. Honorable Mention goes to Amari Davis. Most of the new guys mostly did what the numbers would say they would, but Amari flipped the script a bit. Six of his 14 field goals were from long distance. His first two years featured 90 of 684 field goals from behind the arc. Should he demonstrate a capable stroke from the three-point line, his game could move to another level.
Parker Gillam: I would like to be different, but it doesn’t feel right to say anyone other than Ronnie DeGray. He stuffed the stat sheet and was seemingly all over the floor this game, and his impact was felt. If he can continue to be a do-it-all kind of guy, then his minutes will only increase as the season goes on.
Matthew Harris: For variety’s sake, I’ll go with Jarron Coleman. In the spring, his former coaches all mentioned his shooting mechanics were stellar from the waist up, but it’s been ongoing process to get his footwork more consistent. During the closing stretch of last season, Coleman looked like he was putting it all together, but would it translate in a new season at a new program? On Tuesday, we saw encouraging signs that his jumper will hold up in a variety of situations: a guarded catch-and-shoot 3 in transition, spot-ups in the half-court, a one-dribble pull-up 3, and a pull-up 3 after a handoff. If Coleman keeps it up, that’s a boon for Mizzou, which could use the redshirt junior and freshman Anton Brookshire generating shooting gravity that keeps defenses from shrinking the floor.
Obviously not everyone had big roles to play right away. Anton Brookshire only played eight minutes and Sean Durugordon only played one. Was this a sign of things to come or will these guys get other chances for more playing time?
Parker Gillam: I give it about a 7-8 game ceiling of Cuonzo Martin keeping this consistent rotation of players going. It takes coaches a ton of time to really solidify their rotations, and guys get their chance oftentimes based on the personnel and play style of the opposition. There will be times when Brookshire and Durugordon are set up to succeed, and they will have opportunities. If it doesn’t pan out, then Martin will merely label them as longer-term projects.
Sam Snelling: I wouldn’t worry all that much about Brookshire and Durugordon. I’d imagine Cuonzo will do his best to find minutes for Durugordon, but I believe they’ve always looked at him as more of a longer term bet. He has all the measurables, but it’s going to take him some time to really put it all together. Brookshire is a guy who I imagine will have plenty of chances this season. His playing time will yo-yo, but that’s life as a freshman point guard. And as the game slows down for him some, those jumpers will start falling.
Matthew Harris: Necessity dictated paring back minutes. Brookshire got seven in the first half, but once Central Michigan began throwing out token pressure and mixing zone looks with man-to-man, Martin decided to lean hard on his veterans and platoon the front court. Had Mizzou held or extended its lead, Brookshire and Durugordon probably get a tad more mop-up duty.
Obviously Mizzou was missing three of its anticipated newcomers in DaJuan Gordon, Trevon Brazile and Kaleb Brown. How would their return change the equation for the Tigers?
Matt Watkins, Guest Speaker: Gordon’s return appears the most imminent, as does his impact on the rotation. I see him as top 4 or 5 in minutes played when it’s all said and done. I think you’ll see some of our 30+ minute players last night (DeGray, Davis, Coleman, Pickett) have some time shaved off as well as some post minutes for smaller lineups. As for the freshmen? Hard to say. Brazile’s absence carries a bit of mystery. I saw him as a potential rotation piece. If he’s been missing time in practice, that lengthens the odds on near term impact once he’s available. With Brown the younger, I’ll need to see a bit more on his usage type. If he’s playing more on the ball, his path to minutes is made easier.
Matthew Harris: Well, Javon Pickett can actually rest. Getting Gordon back allows MU to keep applying a heavier dose of pressure on the ball and shores up rebounding. It’s not hard to envision some of Pickett’s transition opportunities going to the K-State transfer once he’s back in the rotation.
Brazile’s another matter. There was word floating around that could be perceived as ominous. If it’s not academics, legal trouble, or a common injury, I’m curious what the program eventually releases on him. Should Brazile get in the mix, I’d hope he’ll evolve into a viable enough option that the bulk of the minutes at the five spot are parceled out among him, Keita, DeGray and Brown.
Sam Snelling: Gordon is going to play a lot. He’s simply too good at the things Cuonzo loves guys being good at to not play a lot. In fact, I’d be surprised if he’s not a starter for much of the season. That said, I was looking forward to seeing what was going to happen with Brazile more than any player on the roster. It wouldn’t completely surprise me if they decided to redshirt him, but realistically I think he’s worth playing (provided he’s able to). Brazile gives Zo another player who can defend the block while also being able to switch onto guards. I hope he can play and play soon.