Now we’re getting somewhere.
After three posts and six teams we’re finally reaching an opponent who could and might beat Missouri. So as I’ve said in previous posts, the Mizzou Non-Conference schedule is a bit soft. So instead of doing a team-by-team preview, I figured we would save some time and energy by spending a little less effort on some of these teams and just condense the previews into two-per-post.
But we have an actual road game! After 7 home games, Mizzou takes to the road. 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
So after hosting Houston Baptist, the Tigers will travel to Wichita to take on the State Shockers. So after spending time talking about the lack of intrigue with the early parts of the schedule, we also had Matt Harris take a deep dive into how the schedule is about par for the course for 1st year head coaches. So with all that said, it’s time for the seventh and eighth games of the season!
GAME 7: Houston Baptist Huskies
Head Coach: Ron Cottrell, 31st season (you read that right, Three One)
Last Season: 11-18 (6-8 in the Southland Conference), 337 in KenPom
The Huskies, yes... because when you think of the city of Houston, the first image that springs into mind is that of a dog bred for the polar climate... Anyway, I digress.
Houston Baptist Head Coach Ron Cottrell has been around coaching for a while. Clearly since he’s been the head coach at HBU now for 31 seasons. But he actually got his coaching start under Nolan Richardson at Arkansas when he was a student assistant. He moved onto North Dakota State College of Science for a year beofore going back to Arkansas. Then he landed the gig at Houston Baptist. In 1990.
Back in 1990, Houston Baptist was an NAIA school. It remained in NAIA until 2007 when they joined NCAA Division II, and then bumped up to Division I for the 2013 season where they joined the Southland.
Cottrell had a real long solid run of success at HBU including a 31-3 record in 2003. From 99 to 07 HBU ran the Red River Athletic Conference, finishing first in the regular season each year, and winning the conference tournament 6 times in 9 seasons. The move to NCAA Basketball has been a bit rocky. But HBU did make the CBI and the CIT post-season tournaments in 2016 and 2017.
Missouri and Houston Baptist have never face each other in Men’s Basketball. In fact their opponents from the Southland Conference are few and far between.
Last year HBU faced off against three high major teams (Texas, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma) and lost by an average of 28 points. The closest they came was against OU where they actually led at the half! But a 22-2 run to start the second half put it away and OU won by 17.
The last time Mizzou faced an opponent from the Southland was the season opener in 2019-20 season. That team finished 97th in KenPom and went 15-16. They beat Incarnate Word by 40 points. Incarnate split the season series with Houston Baptist that same year.
What about the team now?
So you can see the level of competition. This is a game Mizzou should win by a lot of points.
Houston Baptist has not updated their online roster for the season yet, so I don’t know everyone on the roster. HBU had four players enter the transfer portal, two are listed as having homes per VerbalCommits.com. And I’m secretly hoping that Za-Ontay Boothman is coming back, but that’s to be determined.
In tragic news, HBU’s leading scorer Darius Lee was killed by a stray bullet in a shootout over the summer. Lee was a senior who was set to graduate in December, and it looked like he was planning on playing his extra COVID year.
So it’s possible the team could still be struggling mentally with the challenge of losing a close friend and teammate. But I’m not sure even with Lee this would be much of a contest. They added three transfers and a Prep guard in the spring.
Game 8: Wichita State Shockers
Head Coach: Isaac Brown, 3rd season
Last season: 19-14 (8-8 in the Sun Belt Conference), 155 in KenPom
Isaac Brown played the long game and won. A well respected, long time assistant. Brown worked the High School, Junior College, Low Major, Mid Major and High Major ranks as an assistant. Then Gregg Marshall got found out, and when he did the Athletics Director named Brown interim head coach. All he did was steer a mediocre roster into the NCAA Tournament and a 1st place finish in the American Athletic Conference regular season. All during the 2020-21 COVID shortened season.
Brown was rewarded with the permanent Head Coaching position. And the Shockers are back after a fairly bumpy year 2 under Brown.
Both Mizzou and The WuShox have recent history as this game has been part of a series. Two years ago the Tigers travelled to Wichita in the middle of the pandemic and handed the Shockers a relatively easy 10 point win. Mark Smith was the MVP of that game with 19 points and 6 boards. Then last season WSU returned to Mizzou Arena for a late November matchup and beat the Tigers in one of the uglier games of the season. Mizzou had just 30 points after 30 minutes of play, and could not handle Tyson Etienne.
But last year was the first time the Shockers have beaten a Missouri team. Granted, the previous contests prior to the 2020 game were in 1950 and 1951, but still. Mizzou holds a 4-1 advantage in the “series”.
It may seem hard to remember at this point but it wasn’t long ago that Wichita State was a Missouri Valley Conference team. From 1946 until 2017 the Shockers were one of the more consistent programs in the Valley. But after Eddie Fogler left in the late 1980’s the program fell on hard times. That is until Mark Turgeon took over the program and rebuilt it all over the course of 7 seasons. After Turgeon, Gregg Marshall took the reigns and along with a significant investment, the program took off.
Of course, we all know what happened next. Mizzou did not hire Gregg Marshall.
What about the team now?
Leading scorer Tyson Etienne left for the greener pastures of the NBA and was signed after the draft by the Atlanta Hawks. Second leading scorer Ricky Council transferred to Arkansas. Third leading scorer Morris Udeze transferred to New Mexico. Fourth leading scorer Dexter Dennis transferred to Texas A&M. But FIFTH leading scorer Craig Porter is back for the Shockers, as is former 4-star Center Kenny Pohto.
Since Brown lost so many players to the transfer portal, he decided to dip into the portal himself to fortify his roster. New are familiar faces James Rojas from Alabama, and Quincy Ballard from Florida State. He also added Xavier Bell from Drexel, Gus Okafor from Southeastern Louisiana, Colby Rogers from Siena, and Jaron Pierre from Southern Miss.
While it might be another rougher year for the Shockers, this will still very likely mark the toughest test to date for the Tigers in their non-conference schedule. After all Wichita was still inside the KenPom.com top 100 at years end last year. I’d expect them to be at least that good again in year three under Isaac Brown.