Welcome to the Missouri Tigers 2022 men’s basketball season.
Thursday night’s 89-61 exhibition game victory over Division-III Washington University in St. Louis gave fans a glimpse of what could be to come, but the Tigers will take to Norm Stewart Court for their first official regular season game of the Dennis Gates era Monday night against Division-I newcomer Southern Indiana.
Both the Southern Indiana Screaming Eagles and future Mizzou opponent, the Lindenwood Lions, made the move to jump from Division-II to Division-I prior to this season. For Southern Indiana, though, the contest against the Tigers will highlight the dawn of a new age of basketball for the team based out of Evansville, IN.
Both programs will be looking to prove doubters wrong as they begin their respective campaigns toward an NCAA Tournament berth at the end of the season. Southern Indiana is predicted to finish seventh in the Ohio Valley, which includes 10 teams, including in-state Southeast Missouri State University.
The Tigers, meanwhile, are projected to finish 11th (9th by RMN’s prognosticators) in their inaugural season under Gates despite bringing back Preseason All-SEC First Team forward Kobe Brown and adding MVC star Isiaih Mosley from the Missouri State Bears. Mizzou returns only three members from last year’s 12-21 team, so expect there to be growing pains early on.
This matchup will feature a lopsided battle between two teams ranked quite a bit away from each other in the KenPom rankings. Southern Indiana is slotted in at 256th, which is actually the second-highest among Ohio Valley Conference teams. On the flip side, Mizzou finds itself in the 41st spot (eighth among SEC teams). The Screaming Eagles showcase a -7.27 adjusted efficiency margin to the Tigers +16.09 mark, further emphasizing the difference in skill.
The Projected Starters
PG: Nick Honor
CG: D’Moi Hodge
WING: Deandre Gholston
CF: Noah Carter
POST: Kobe Brown
Gates has remained adamant about not naming a true starting five, instead, opting to play his lineups based on matchups. Against Southern Indiana though, it’s likely fans will see a similar lineup to the one Gates ran out in the exhibition win, so that’ll be the projected lineup heading into the opening game.
If fans were to see a change, pay attention to the SF and PF slots where Columbia native Isiaih Mosley could get the start, or possibly Ronnie DeGray III, who did not play in the exhibition.
PG: Gary Solomon
CG: Isaiah Swope
WING: Jeremiah Hernandez
CF: Trevor Lakes
POST: Nick Hittle
Similar to Mizzou, this is the lineup Southern Indiana presented in its 35-point exhibition victory over Midway University. The Screaming Eagles jumped out to such a hefty lead in their exhibition courtesy of Trevor Lakes, who scored eight of Southern Indiana’s first 14 points, and Isaiah Swope’s team-high 18 points.
Jacob Polakovich, a senior forward named to the All-Great Lake Valley Conference First Team in 2021, and Peter Nwoke, a redshirt freshman transfer from Michigan State, were the only two members of the team who did not suit up in the exhibition. Jelani Simmons, an All-GLVC Second Team selection last season, played on a minutes restriction due to a knee injury as well.
Get to know Southern Indiana
The Screaming Eagles finished their final season in Division-II with an 18-8 record, including a 12-6 mark in GLVC play. The University of Missouri-St. Louis knocked out Southern Indiana in the GLVC Tournament to end the Screaming Eagles’ 2021 season.
Southern Indiana averaged 73.3 points per game last season, while holding opponents to 66.1 points, which ranked as the third-best scoring defense in the GLVC. The Screaming Eagles led the conference in opponent field goal percentage (39.7%), opponent three-point percentage (29.2%) and rebounds per game (40.6). Their defensive-minded approach is one that Mizzou will have to take seriously, especially considering the Tigers’ inefficiency at times last season.
Polakovich and Simmons were the only Southern Indiana players to earn conference honors last season. The former averaged a GLVC-high 11.5 rebounds per game and added 11.6 points per contest to provide a steady balance of scoring and defense.
As for Simmons, the guard averaged a team-high 13.8 points per game, while tallying 4.6 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game. The former Youngstown State standout reached the 1,000-point plateau in the Screaming Eagles’ first round victory of the GLVC Tournament last season.
Swope, the team’s leading scorer in the 85-50 victory over Midway (Kentucky), will look to take on a larger role in the team’s offense after averaging 8.2 points and 1.9 rebounds per contest as a freshman. He finished with 18 points, six assists, five steals and four rebounds in 28 minutes against Midway while also shooting 4-7 from beyond the arc.
Southern Indiana, similar to Mizzou, welcomes a few transfers. The NJCAA Division-II assist leader, Gary Solomon, joins the team after averaging 14.0 points, 6.6 rebounds and 6.4 assists per game at Henry Ford Community College. The Screaming Eagles added five Division-I transfers as well— Jeremiah Hernandez (Kent State), Nick Hittle (Indiana State), Trevor Lakes (Nebraska), Sam Mevis (Indiana State) and Peter Nwoke (Michigan State).
Even with all of the talent, the Screaming Eagles are projected to finish seventh in the Ohio Valley Conference, which is perhaps out of respect to their recent elevation to Division-I and their incoming record.
Stan Gouard, Southern Indiana’s third-year head coach, has led the Screaming Eagles to a 30-13 record in his first two seasons, which have included a NCAA Division-II Midwest Regional berth in 2020-21 and a second-round exit in the GLVC Tournament in March. Gouard spent 12 seasons coaching at the University of Indianapolis prior to joining his alma mater.
3 Keys to the Game
- 3-PT Efficiency
Southern Indiana can provide suffocating defense, as seen with its statistics from last season, so it’ll be on the Tigers to fight through those challenges to produce. One of Mizzou’s biggest struggles last season was three-point shooting, and the exhibition game did not help to lessen those worries. The Tigers shot 5-18 (27.8%) from beyond the arc against a Division-III team, so those figures only raise concern with a feisty (now) Division-I team entering Columbia. Establishing the three-point shot will be important, but if the Tigers become too reliant on it, then it could spell worry later and keep the game close.
- Control the rebounding battle
Similar to the defensive side, Southern Indiana is a strong rebounding team and that’ll play a large role in deterring second-chance points as well as points in the paint. Whoever controls those two areas of the game will likely come out with the victory because neither team is extremely talented with shooting the basketball. Against Wash-U, Mizzou had 64 points in the paint, while Southern Indiana had 34 of their own. Both teams will aim to establish themselves early and often in the paint, so look for those points to be the difference maker.
- Perhaps most importantly, find a way to gel
Both Mizzou and Southern Indiana features rosters full of transfers and new additions. For the Tigers in particular though, the best time to mesh these players together is against non-conference competition. For Gates, this experimentation will help to establish who Mizzou’s ‘go-to’ players will be outside of Brown and Mosley. Additionally, the Screaming Eagles will offer a strong change of pace to practice or an exhibition, giving Mizzou an opportunity to showcase different looks both offensively and defensively. For a bit of the Tigers’ exhibition, Gates sent out a 1-3-1 defensive scheme, so expect different strategies similar to that. If Mizzou can find a lineup or two that can provide a healthy balance of offense and defense, that’ll not only give the Tigers their first victory in the win column, but it’ll prove that they are trending in the right direction developmentally already.
Mine: Mizzou 88 | Southern Indiana 66
KenPom: Mizzou 81 | Southern Indiana 61
I think Mizzou’s first regular season contest under Gates will go exactly how the Tigers want it to. Of course there are always causes for concern, as we all saw against Kansas City last season, but this group feels different. Gates has been pushing fans to buy tickets, hoping for a sell-out crowd and if his pleas are met with ticket sales, I think the fans will overwhelm the Screaming Eagles.
On the actual basketball side of things, Kobe Brown and Isiaih Mosley are going to will the Tigers to victory, but I think we’ll also see a 15+ point performance from D’Moi Hodge, Noah Carter or Nick Honor. If we see Polakovich for the Screaming Eagles, it’ll be up to the defense to stop the double-double machine. Overall, Southern Indiana’s talent is there, but Mizzou’s depth and skill will prove to be too much in the Screaming Eagles’ Division-I debut.