We’ve delightfully trudged through four of these previews so far, and found Mizzou’s Non-Conference schedule to be light, but filled with interesting items. So far we’ve talked about TWO teams who will be playing in their first season of Division 1 athletics, two more who have been in Division 1 for less than 15 years, and several who you have to scroll pretty far down the page at KenPom.com to see where they land.
Regardless, these are who Mizzou is playing, and if you wanted a recap here’s the schedule (with links to previous previews):
- 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 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 9th and 11th games of the season! Wait... what about the 10th game?
Well that’s a certain team from Lawrence. They’ll get their own preview.
GAME 9: Southeast Missouri State Redhawks
Head Coach: Brad Korn, 3rd season
Last Season: 11-18 (6-8 in the Southland Conference), 337 in KenPom
Southeast Missouri State is a tough job. Since joining Division 1 basketball in 1991, SEMO has seen just one NCAA Tournament, and that was in the 2000 season. Since then there have been zero 20 win seasons in Cape Girardeau, and just three seasons over .500 in conference play.
Enter Brad Korn. One of the earliest recruits for Bruce Weber at Souther Illinois, and one of the role players who helped elevate the SIU program from a middling Missouri Valley team to a perennial NCAA Tournament team. Korn wasn’t the star, but he was a important role player. Smart and heady. Destined to be a coach.
So he went from the floor to the bench after graduating in 2004. He stuck with Chris Lowery at SIU until taking a job with Bruce Weber at Kansas State. After K-State, Korn wanted to try being a head coach, so he took the SEMO job.
It’s gone... ok. Really for SEMO it’s gone quite well. He was 11-16 in year one, and a greatly improved 9-11 in the OVC. Last year they were 14-18, and 8-9 in league play. They’ve also improved almost 100 spots in Kenpom over where they were in Rick Ray’s last year. So by all means Korn is looking like a good hire for SEMO.
SEMO has never beaten Mizzou in 8 tries.
The first loss came in 1994 when Mizzou won by 22. They played the next four seasons in a row, with the Tigers taking each game. The last matchup in that series, in 1997, saw the Tigers win by just one point. That was the last time they played the Redhawks until 2012. After easy wins in 2011 and 2012, SEMO gave the Tigers a scare in 2014 in Kim Anderson, when Mizzou beat SEMO by four points. I laughed a bit when I looked up my post-game write up.
One interesting note, SEMO played Missouri State to open the season last year and Isiaih Mosley had 16 points but did not make a three ball en route to a Missouri State overtime loss. Hopefully history doesn’t repeat itself there.
What about the team now?
SEMO’s leading scorer from last year has saddles up in Starksville for the upcoming season. Eric Reed, Jr. averaged over 16ppg and now he’s a Bulldog. But second leading scorer was promising Freshman Phillip Russell, from St. Louis Vashon High School. Russell spent a redshirt year at SLU before heading to Cape, and put up 13.4 points per game last year. 5th year senior Chris Harris is back as well as the teams 3rd leader scorer.
In all the Redhawks lost 7 players to the portal, and added five others. three of those transfers were down transfers with Josh Earley and Gavyn Elkamil transferring from Tulsa, and Kobe Clark coming in from Georgetown (Clark was also a Vashon HS graduate). Israel Barnes also comes in as a well travelled Redshirt Senior. Barnes had some high major interest out of High School but ended up at Weber State. He started 29 games as a freshman, which was cut back to just five starts as a Sophomore. He transferred to Texas-Permian Basin, which I learned was a school today, and sat out the 2021 season with an injury. He then transferred to Newman University, in his hometown of Wichita, KS, where he averaged 19ppg for a team that went 6-21.
So it’s an interesting mix for sure. And it looks like the kind of team who should make a little noise in a softened OVC this season. But not a team who should be a threat to march into Mizzou Arena and walk out with a W.
Game 11: Central Florida Knights
Head Coach: Johnny Dawkins, 3rd season
Last season: 19-14 (8-8 in the American Athletic Conference), 155 in KenPom
Pay no attention to how we jumped from game 9 to game 11. There’s probably a reason we skipped talking about game number 10.
But let’s chat quickly about UCF! Johnny Dawkins, the Duke legend, and man who was mildly successful at Stanford and has been mildly successful at UCF. He made just one tournament in 8 seasons at Stanford but won 20 games in four of those seasons. At UCF he’s also made just one NCAA tournament, in 2019, but since has seen his program struggle a bit. While he does have the programs best season in the KenPom era when they were 34th , he’s followed that up with three seasons of sub-100 basketball.
It’s unclear if Dawkins is on the hot seat, but the Central Florida job is a tough one. The Knights have been in Division 1 sports since 1984 and Dawkins 2019 trip to the NCAA Tournament was the programs fifth appearance, but just the 1st time as an at large. The previous four appearances were all as the automatic qualifier as either the champion of the Trans-America Athletic Conference or the Atlantic Sun. But the program has scaled up and expectations are higher.
Mizzou and UCF have played exactly two times, and chances are you remember both of them. The Tigers took down UCF in a true road game with a 3 point win in Cuonzo Martin’s first year. Kassius Robertson led the Tigers with 19 points on 5 made three pointers.
The next year Mizzou won again, this time at home and in Overtime. Maybe your remember how it was sent to OT:
ICYMI: Jordan Geist's game-tying three-pointer propelled #Mizzou to a 64-62 overtime win over UCF.— Andrew Kauffman (@A_Kauff) December 3, 2018
Full Highlights/Reaction : https://t.co/92xdt1aI4G pic.twitter.com/5ijCH7A75l
Jordan Geist finished with 18 points in that game, and there’s no way Mizzou wins that game without him.
What about the team now?
Dawkins has only filled 11 scholarship spots, a nearly completely remade roster. Six players entered the transfer portal, including leading scorer Darin Green who ended up at Florida State. The rest of the transfers weren’t of any real consequence, with Isaiah Adams being the highest scorer at 4.1 ppg.
Darius Perry, the teams 2nd leading scorer, graduated. As did Brandon Mahan and Cheikh Mbacke Diong. Combined they averaged nearly 30 points per game.
Meanwhile Dawkins added five new players via the portal. Three of whom averaged double figures at their last stop, but none were elite scorers. Lahat Thioune was a serviceable backup big at Utah, and Michael Durr is hoping to recapture the role he had at South Florida before being a backup at Indiana last season. Brandon Suggs averaged 10.1 points at East Carolina, C.J. Kelly averaged the same at Mass, and Ithiel Horton was a hair under 10 ppg at 9.8 in his Junior year at Pitt.
Back is 6’8 former highly rated 4-star forward C.J. Walker, who transferred in from Oregon. Walker is a combo forward who plays with energy but doesn’t have a huge skill set. He is the leading returning scorer at just 8.3 ppg.
So it’s a bit of a mystery how good or average UCF will be, but in the KenPom era UCF ranks 116th so it seems safe to think they’d wind up in the sub-100 range. Just twice in the last 15 years have the Knights landed inside the KenPom top 100, and both were under Dawkins. Either way this is a game that should be winnable even though it’s a neutral site court in the Fort Lauderdale area.