We’ve entered into the meaty part of the non-conference schedule after previewing SMU last week. With Missouri entering into a tournament format their results in the game against the Mustangs will determine who they play next.
Waiting in the wings will be either Florida State or Loyola Marymount. I’m going to talk briefly about each since it doesn’t make sense to go deep on either when there’s a 100% chance you will not face one of these two teams.
First here’s a quick recap of the schedule (with links to the past previews):
- November 9th — Central Michigan Chippewas
- November 15th — UMKC Kangaroos
- November 18th — Northern Illinois Huskies
- November 21st — SMU Mustangs
- November 22nd — Florida State / Loyola Marymount
- November 26th — Wichita State Shockers
- December 2nd — L*berty Fl*mes
- December 7th — Eastern Illinois Panthers
- December 11th — kansas Jayhawks
- December 18th — Utah Utes
- December 22nd — Illinois Fighting Illini
- January 29th — Iowa State Cyclones
So let’s talk first about the…
Head Coach: the ageless Leonard Hamilton
I call the Florida State Head Coach ageless because he’s 73 years old and looks fantastic. May we all live to look like that at 73, but I’m skeptical I’ll be that lucky. Just google ‘young leonard hamilton’ and you’ll see a man who looks largely the same other than maybe a few extra pounds.
Hamilton is often what some fans point to when listing a positive outcome for Cuonzo Martin. He’s a coach who had good but not great runs at his stops before Florida State. He didn’t make an NCAA Tournament until his 12th season as a head coach, and didn’t make a tournament at Florida State until his 7th season in Tallahassee. But the product since has been a top 25 level program in just about every season since the 2008-09 season. Overall, he’s won over 1,000 games and has a .578 win percentage, but it’s .637 at Florida State, and .674 since 2008-09.
Even as he turns over the bulk of his roster, FSU should still be a major challenge for anyone this upcoming season.
SERIES HISTORY | FSU leads 3-1
The above picture is a likely memory for most Mizzou fans. Florida State pantsed a short-handed Missouri team in the first round of the NCAA tournament, effectively ending the Porter era in Columbia. Beyond that, the two teams haven’t faced each other since 1980 when Stormin’ Norman was still stalking the sidelines and the incomparable Joe Williams led the Seminoles. FSU won that matchup and the one before that in 1977, but Mizzou took the 1976 matchup when they were led by... * ahem * Kim Anderson and company.
What about the team now?
There’s been a lot of turnover on the roster for a team which finished 15th in KenPom and were a 4 seed in the NCAA tournament. Gone are Scottie Barnes, MJ Walker, RaiQuan Gray, Balsa Koprivica, Nathanael Jack, and Sardaar Calhoun. Coming back are Anthony Polite, Malik Osborne, Tanor Ngom, Quincy Ballard, and Wyatt Wilkes. Combined they scored a little less than 25 points per game.
But as usual, Hamilton recruited well and is importing a few key transfers so they should be quite good again. Coming in are 5-star wing Matthew Cleveland, 4-star combo guard Jaylen Warley, a top 70 center in John Butler, and because we know Hamilton likes his size, he imported a 7’3” JUCO Product by the name of Naheem McLeod. Also, he’s brought in two big time transfers in former Vashon High product Cam’Ron Fletcher from Kentucky, as well as former All-AAC guard Caleb Mills from Houston, who is perhaps more impactful of an addition.
The Seminoles will be the favorite to win this game. But let’s see who their competition is...
Loyola Marymount Lions
Head Coach: Stan Johnson
Stan Johnson is a bit of a lesser known name than Leonard Hamilton is at this point, but he’s certainly in the “Rising Star” category of young coaches. Johnson’s first coaching job was right out of his playing career at Bemidji State in Minnesota. From there he worked his way up to Jim Boylen’s staff at Utah, which represented his first real high major job. Johnson worked under Herb Sendek at Arizona State but became a name on the rise when he got to Steve Wojciechowski’s bench at Marquette. Johnson was on the bench with Woj for 5 years before taking the job to help rebuild Loyola Marymount.
Johnson’s first and only season at Marymount was a good one. The ‘Mount went from 204th in KenPom to 94th. The Lions lost 9 games but only two of those losses came to teams outside the top 100 in Kenpom, and none outside the top 150. And the only losses which weren’t avenged were to Gonzaga, BYU, St. Mary’s and Minnesota. Not a bad group of teams, especially considering the two losses to Minnesota were early in the season when the Gophers were ascending the rankings list and reached the top 25 before the Big 10 schedule got a hold of them.
SERIES HISTORY | 0-0
Yup, these two teams haven’t played.
Marymount is a short drive from LAX and not far from the Pacific Ocean in Los Angeles, and a mid major squad from Southern California just isn’t high on the booking list for a state school in the middle of the country. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention what the Lions are most known for, which is the tragic death of Hank Gathers, and the subsequent tribute and NCAA run from his friend Bo Kimble during the Paul Westhead era in the 1990 NCAA Tournament. Gathers and Kimble were NBA prospects and LMU would just run teams off the court with a frantic pace and no need for a shot clock. Gathers collapsed and died during the West Coast Conference tournament and the Lions entered the NCAA tournament with heavy hearts. But Kimble’s play was inspired as he attempted his first free throw on the game left handed in honor of his friend, and the Lions ran the defending NCAA champion Michigan Wolverines right off the court to move onto the Sweet 16 (really, the final score was 149 - 111) before eventually succumbing to the eventual National Champion UNLV Running Rebels.
Loyola Marymount hasn’t made an NCAA tournament since, and have only won 20 games or more in a season just twice since the 1990 season. And Johnson is the 9th head coach to walk the sidelines since Westhead left.
What about the team now?
Coming off a big season like LMU had last year, you’d have to feel optimistic that you bring back 5th year senior Eli Scott, who averaged over 18 points per game and played 88% of the minutes with an Offensive Rating of 104. He’s a rebounding machine with a high assist rate and gets to the Free Throw line a lot.
Also coming back are second and third leading scorers Dameane Douglas and Keli Leaupepe. Douglas is a talented combo forward who is an efficient low usage scorer, and Leaupepe is a bulky undersized interior post player who has the ability to stretch the floor.
All in all, the Lions were a good team last year and they’re brining back just about everyone from that good team. Will they be better in year 2 under Johnson? Or has the talent maxed out and they’ll be pretty much who they were. Even if it’s the latter, LMU will still pose a real threat to any high major team they take on, including Florida State and Missouri, should they meet up.