A phrase we often hear throughout our adolescence is “nobody’s perfect.” This phrase has held true for eternity, but to say my Mizzou WBB non-conference schedule preview wasn’t perfect would be an understatement. I predicted that the Tigers would finish with a 9-4 record in the non-con and said that I “would not be surprised if Head Coach Robin Pingeton’s team can ‘muster up some magic and finish 10-3 or even 11-2.’”
Well, so much for magic because that seemingly illustrious 11-2 start is now guaranteed with the Tigers sitting at 11-1 ahead of their final non-conference game against B1G foe Illinois, who they’ll face on Sunday.
When I first predicted 9-4, I assumed Mizzou would pick up one random loss, and then also lose to Virginia Tech, UMass, and Missouri State. Instead, this team has handled their business against opponents they were favored against, and then picked up big-time wins over UMass, who they were underdogs against, and Jackson State, a tourney team from a year ago returning a lot of firepower.
Let’s look at what went wrong for me.
Well, first of all, I made the critical oversight by placing too much emphasis on teams that were tournament teams a year ago. I know, I know; I’m new here. I should have been able to understand that in women’s basketball, teams can either completely fall off a cliff or reach its peak in an off-season’s time, and that using a previous season’s results is asinine. Missouri State, for example, lost their coach and had to deal with roster massive turnover, losing their three best players (and 8 players total). And Jackson State is off to a rough start after winning the SWAC a season ago.
When a team experiences significant roster changes like Missouri has, one would expect new players to take a bit to acclimate into the culture. which makes what’s happened so far this season unexpected. The culture within the team with the additions of such players as Notre Dame transfer Kate Gilbert and freshmen Averi Kroenke and Ashton Judd is completely different. Take into consideration this quote from Sara-Rose Smith after the Tigers blowout win against Omaha.
For me, this starts at the top with Coach Pingeton, who really strikes me as someone that prioritizes the culture, making sure her team buys into what she establishes.
I initially thought the loss of leading rebounder Aijha Blackwell would loom large on this team, and I didn’t foresee the rise of Sara-Rose Smith as a rebounder. Her role off the bench has really offset that loss. In both my preview and in the preseason WBB roundtable I participated in with Lauren Rosenberg and Brandon Haynes, I predicted the team’s rebounding would significantly fall off. Well, let’s look at the non-conference statistics for this year’s team and last year’s team in the rebounding department.
The numbers are pretty impressive considering how much the loss of rebounding talent was emphasized preseason. Coach Pingeton has clearly changed the scheme of this team from relying on one player to corral most of the rebounds to a more cohesive and team-centered rebounding scheme, and it’s worked brilliantly.
In the roundtable, the question was posed who would be the biggest contributor to this team now that Blackwell is gone, and essentially everyone said Hayley Frank. However, Lauren Hansen has stepped up massively alongside Frank, and the two have formed quite the dynamic duo, as Hansen has averaged 14.8ppg, while Frank has averaged 14.6.
This duo.— Mizzou Basketball (@MizzouWBB) December 5, 2022
46 combined points on Sunday
123 combined points over the last three games pic.twitter.com/0MM0hKHlJu
It’s hard not to be optimistic about this team going into the conference slate, which begins December 29 against Kentucky at home. This team has only faced a couple of teams who have given them a glimpse of what SEC basketball may look like, and both those opponents, UMass and Virginia Tech, gave the Tigers a big run for their money. As of right now, Missouri is listed as a tournament team, but as we found out last year, that can change in an instant.
Oh, and don’t listen to my predictions. I’m pretty much an idiot. Thank you.