While the tide of Football season content laps at the shore, let’s take a moment to forget about the pigskin and talk hoops!
Mizzou released their non-conference schedule last week and it wasn’t exactly a gauntlet. To recap here’s the schedule:
- Nov 7th — Southern Indiana
- Nov 11th — Penn
- Nov 13th — Lindenwood
- Nov 15th — SIUE
- Nov 20th — Mississippi Valley State
- Nov 23rd — Coastal Carolina
- Nov 26th — Houston Baptist
- Nov 29th — @ Wichita State
- Dec 4th — SEMO
- Dec 10th — Kansas
- Dec 17th — UCF (in Miami)
- Dec 22nd — Illinois (in St. Louis)
- Jan 28th — Iowa State
We’ve already discussed the lack of intrigue. And Matt Harris took a dive into how the schedule is about par for the course for 1st year head coaches. But what can we expect from these teams?
Instead of going into a deep dive right now, I figured we’ll do an overview of a few teams at a time. The first eight or nine games should result in relatively easy wins.
Let’s take a look with some light previews to better understand the opponents.
GAME 1: Southern Indiana Screaming Eagles
Head Coach: Stan Gouard
Last Season: 18-8 (NCAA D2 — Great Lakes Valley Conference)
Stan Gouard is proof that you can go home again! Gouard has been the coach at Southern Indiana since the start of the 2020 season, prior to that he held the same position at the University of Indianapolis. Over 12 seasons at UofIndy, and two more at USI, Gouard has amassed a record of 258-130. All 14 seasons as a head coach have been with NCAA Division 2 schools, and now USI moves to Division 1 and the OVC.
Before becoming a head coach, Gouard was an assistant at Indiana State, and played for USI in the mid 1990s.
The program makes the move to the Ohio Valley Conference, which just lost Murray State and Belmont to the Missouri Valley Conference. You have to go back to 2009 to find the last time a team not named Belmont or Murray State were atop the league standings at the end of the season. So the league is in a bit of a major reset. Last season the Conference was the 22nd best Conference per Kenpom.com, and that was with Murray ranked 36th, Belmont ranked 86th, and Morehead State slated in at 118. The rest of the league slotted between 244th and 357th (there were 358 teams in D1 last season). So very likely that is where USI will end up.
There is no history between these two programs since Southern Indiana is joining Division One competition for the firs time. The GLVC is a consistently good athletic conferences for the D2 ranks, with Drury, UMSL, Truman State, U of Indy, Quincy and my alma mater, Rockhurst University.
USI is perhaps most well known for being the home of Bruce Pearl for about a decade. From 1992 to 2001, Pearl guided the Screaming Eagles, even winning the 1994 National Championship behind the play of his lead guard and National Player of the Year Stan Gouard.
USI also made the Final Four in 1995, 2004 and 2019, and has made the NCAA Tournament each of the last three seasons.
What about the team now?
Making the transition to Division 1 is never easy, but it should be made a little easier by returning your top five scorers from a season ago. Jelani Simmons (14.2 ppg), Tyler Henry (12.2 ppg), Jacob Polakovich (11.5 ppg), Isaiah Swope (8.2 ppg), and Jeremiah Hernandez (8.8 ppg) all combined to score almost 73% of the teams points from the 2021-22 season. The Screaming Eagles were a very respectable 18-8 team a year ago, and bringing back all those scorers could provide them a softer landing in the OVC.
I would still expect a rough night for them in Columbia though.
Game 2: Penn Quakers
Head Coach: Steve Donahue
Last season: 12-16 (9-5 in the Ivy League)
Steve Donahue enters his 8th season as the head coach of the Penn Quakers. Though he only has records for 7 of them since the Ivy League cancelled all play in 2020-21 due to COVID. He has a 92-76 overall record, and a 44-34 league record.
Prior to Penn, Donahue coached at Boston College, and Cornell before that. But the largest part of his coaching background was the 10 years he spent as a assistant to Fran Dunphy at Penn.
Missouri has no history whatsoever with Penn, and very little history with the Ivy League in general. They beat Yale back in 1952, they’re 2-0 against Brown with the last game happening in 2004. They’re 2-0 against Cornell with the last game a win over the Big Red in a 2009 NCAA Tournament opening game. They have also beaten Princeton twice with the last win in the early goings of the 1999-2000 season.
So Mizzou is 7-0 against 4 teams in the Ivy League, and 0-0 against the other 4 teams. But after playing Penn they’ll have played the majority of the Ivy League and not just half. See? Non-Ivy people can do math, too!
The Ivy is a good league, but rarely a great one. Harvard, Princeton, and Yale all seem to jostle for the top spot in most years so it’s been a while since Penn has made the NCAA Tournament. But the last time they made the tournament, Donahue was the head coach. That was 2018. The previous trip to the tournament was in 2007, which was on the heels of the Fran Dunphy era, one of the most successful in Penn history. The only other era which would rival it would be the CHUCK DALY era! You read that right, the former Detroit Pistons Championship Head Coach and NBA Dream Team Head Coach Chuck Daly coached at Penn for 6 years, making 4 NCAA Tournaments in the mid-1970s.
Dunphy was at Penn for 17 seasons and coached in 9 NCAA Tournaments and as many Conference titles.
What about the team now?
Last year a solid and stingy Penn team went 9-5 through conference play. That team was led by three sophomores who led the team in scoring, and it could provide a boost for the program since they all are returning for their junior seasons.
The trio was led by 6’3 point guard Jordan Dingle, who averaged over 20 points per game last year. He scored with relative efficiency with a 102 Offensive Rating. Behind him was Clark Slajchert, a combo guard who shot 35% from deep and averaged 10.7 ppg. And Max Matz, a 6’6 combo forward who can stretch the floor and even play some small ball five.
That’s one of the main benefits of the Ivy League; players are more likely to stick around because the educational benefits are so great.
But the Quakers don’t have a lot of size. Gus Larson is a 6’10 sophomore who averaged 0.4 points per game in just 7 appearances. Max Lorca-Lloyd stands at 6’9, and he started the first six games before getting injured. Before his injury he was still more of a role player, averaging just 4.3 ppg.
So the Quakers could make some noise in the Ivy League, and they should be a tougher opponent than USI, but this is still a game Mizzou should win with relative ease.