Let’s not pretend like we didn’t see this coming.
On Tuesday evening, Missouri’s second leading scorer, Xavier Pinson, entered the transfer portal, and the collective freak-out started. The junior guard showed out at times this season, and when he did it was a lot of fun to watch. But as the season wore on, there seemed to be a fracture of sorts. Pinson, for all his gifts, stopped creating and impacting the game like we knew he was capable.
In the final 10 games, as what felt like a special season slipped away, Mizzou slumped, winning only three games. As the team slumped, so did their starting point guard. Pinson went from averaging 26.2 minutes and 14.7 points to averaging 24.5 minutes and 11.9 points per game. Not a huge drop off, but enough of a decline to be noticeable. His free throw attempts went from over 5 per game to just over 2 per game, he just wasn’t creating like he was previously.
With basketball today, efficiency is the name of the game, and Pinson struggled to be efficient. If you couple the dip in efficiency with his occasional lackadaisical defense, it was easy to see Cuonzo Martin’s frustration build.
After all, Mizzou’s head coach changed the offense to cater to the skills of Pinson; they went from a more pace and space offense to one which heavily featured ball screens and put the guards in position to attack downhill. When Pinson was in the game, he ended up with a career high 30.7% usage rate (the highest at Mizzou since Leo Lyons 30.8% usage in 2009) with more minutes played and started every game. So funneling possessions in an offense catered to your skills, I think you have to give the head coach a little credit for catering to the player with the highest ceiling on the team. It was more about whether or not Pinson was going to reach that ceiling on a given night.
For months we’ve talked about the likelihood of Pinson’s return next season. It was always a low probability. Now we just have it officially on the books. Clearly, losing a mostly productive guard prior to his eligibility expiring is less than ideal, especially when it looks like he may be changing schools and not turning pro. The head coach bears as much responsibility as anyone for it not working out. But I’d stress some level of caution here— Pinson may play out his last year elsewhere, but he still may decide to play professionally as well.
So far Pinson has announced offers from Auburn and Nebraska, and he was named the #7 transfer available by Eric Bossi of 247sports.com, so he should have opportunity. He leaves a scholarship behind, which means it’s that time... for the Scholarship Graphic:
We knew Missouri was likely looking for at least two spots to fill, and now we know for sure it’s at least two spots.
The five incoming freshmen fill out a good amount of space — Sean Durugordon has already been on campus and practicing since January — but with the amount of production leaving there are still some big spots to fill. At what position?
The line at the bottom is kind of fun... but you should definitely feel concerned about the GAP of names in the PG and CG categories, and zero names with any college experience. We’ve seen Javon Pickett and Torrence Watson handle the ball enough to know we’d probably rather have Kobe Brown bring the ball up against the other team’s forward.
This means Mizzou is looking for guards. They’ve already offered Amari Davis, an all-Horizon league guard from Wisconsin-Green Bay. Davis isn’t a great three point shooter but a big time penetrator:
Blessed to receive an offer from Mizzo University Thanks to Coach Martin and his staff for recruiting me! pic.twitter.com/VAySpKj1ge— Amari Davis (@Amari937) March 24, 2021
Other than that, we don’t have much in the way of concrete information as to who Missouri might be pursuing. They were named as a team who reached out to Northeastern transfer Tyson Walker, but he appears to be a Michigan State lean. Suffice to say there could be bigger things on the horizon, as several recruiting writers have hinted as some much bigger names and programs experiencing the bleed. Namely North Carolina and Michigan State.
Who knows at this point what transpires, Michigan State has only lost one player to transfer so far in lightly used guard Jack Hoiberg (yes, Fred’s son), and North Carolina has already seen Walker Kessler announce a transfer, and Day’Ron Sharpe declare for the NBA draft. So not the bloodletting some expected... yet.
We sit here today and it’s only March 25th. There’s still a few weeks of guys announcing they’re landing in the portal left ahead of us. And very soon we’re going to be seeing Missouri involved in more names.