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5 thoughts about Missouri basketball on this football bye week

This should be a fun team to watch. (Note: “fun” isn’t necessarily the same as “good.”)

NCAA Basketball: Tennessee at Missouri Timothy Tai-USA TODAY Sports

I’m basically doing this myself because in football mode, I haven’t really thought about Mizzou basketball for more than 5 seconds in a row at any point since the last season ended. So this is me forcing myself to give this team some thought ... just to see what I think.

1. Energy, energy, energy, Energy, fresh, energy, excitement, energy.

There has been, shall we say, a theme with the coverage so far this month. Kim Anderson’s team opened practice recently, and it’s impossible to find a story that doesn’t consistently use the word “energy.” Latest case in point: Newcomers bring ‘fresh vibe’ to Missouri men’s basketball team (KC Star).

Able-bodied and a driven talent from Garland Heights High School in Cleveland, Ohio, [Willie] Jackson has made impressions on Walton, a sophomore guard in Walton.

“He’s physical, he’s big and even a little bigger than me, so I definitely gotta play a little bit harder,” Walton said. “He’s pushed me a lot.”

The pushing has been a common theme. Sophomore guard Terrence Phillips said there’s “a fresh vibe, a lot of new energy and a lot of positive energy this year.”

Not complaining, mind you. Energy and freshness tend to be wonderful virtues when the number of games you’ve won over the last two years (19) probably wouldn’t be enough to get you into the NCAA Tournament.

Along these same lines...

2. Kim Anderson appears to have a Kim Anderson team now.

Granted, this team doesn’t have nearly enough size. That’s obvious. But from an effort and energy standpoint, this team might be what we were promised all along when Mizzou hired him. We’ll see if that’s enough.

3. Mizzou might better fit the profile this year

(This is more of a 2a, I guess.)

A team with iffy size can get by if its ball-handling and shooting are good enough. Mizzou’s very, very much were not. The Tigers didn’t take or make enough 3-pointers to stretch the defense out, and while their ball-handling was okay (171st in TO%), their perimeter defense was in no way disruptive (295th in Def. TO%, 296th in 3PA/FGA allowed).

I doubt that’s the case this year. Or at least, I doubt it will be as much the case. I can no longer find the box score to the first game in Mizzou’s Italian tour, but over the last three, Mizzou made 42% of its 3-pointers (Terrence Phillips went 7-for-11, Frankie Hughes 6-for-16, Cullen VanLeer 12-for-24) and combined 47 assists with 34 steals. Granted, that also came with 46 turnovers, and opponents made 40% of their 3-pointers, but there’s at least some potential for a perimeter game here.

Beyond that, Mizzou also had a lot of offensive rebounds — 21 in 45 missed FGs in Game 2, 12 in 39 misses in Game 3, 14 in 35 misses in Game 4. Mizzou was hustling, hitting the offensive glass, and stepping into passing lanes. That’s a fun team. Hopefully that keeps up.

(No, this competition was not very impressive. That goes without saying, so I won’t elaborate on it here.)

Plus, while the current sophomore class is built to provide leadership and potential quality, the freshman class looks the part. Willie Jackson is 6’6, 212*, and looks it. Frankie Hughes has an extra inch on K.J. Walton. Jordan Geist has three inches on Terrence Phillips. We’re indeed concerned about a lack of size overall, but Reed Nikko is 6’10, 250. That’s big. And while Mitchell Smith (6’10, 210) and Jakoby Kemp (6’9, 215) need to fill quite a bit, there are some impressive templates there.

It isn’t hard to see this being a team filled with leadership, length, and athleticism in the coming years when these sophomores are even older and the freshmen have been around the block a couple of times.

This creates quite the conundrum, doesn’t it? Let’s say that Mizzou shows the level of tenacity, defensive effort, and potential we perhaps expected to see in Anderson’s first year. Even if it isn’t a very good team, we just hope to be able to see the components of what we were promised — we want to see into the future, basically, and know that things could work out.

What if we pretty clearly see that ... in, say, a 13-win season? This isn’t Anderson’s first year, and Mizzou has been one of the worst power-conference teams in the country over the last two. In this 13-win scenario, should he be dumped with the simple logic of “You won 32 games in three years”? Or is seeing promise enough? Do you punish a guy for his overall record if you think there’s a legitimate chance for a turnaround?

I have no idea what the answer is, by the way. And I don’t know where Jim Sterk stands either. I very clearly understand both strands of logic.

* Really, really excited about watching Jackson. I might have unreasonable expectations for him.

4. Can CJ Roberts graduate early? Like, tomorrow?

Kind of excited about watching him play.

“The kid is so talented, I think college is probably going to be the best thing for him,” Bacon said of Roberts. … “I’m really excited to see him in college. I’ve seen a lot of players. Right now he’s lighting up the place.”

Bacon said Roberts, who will be a senior at Richland this season, has no problems creating his own shots, whether it’s from 3 or mid-range.

“No one can stay in front of him,” Bacon said. “He can create space. He can get to the basket or pull up and shoot it. … There’s not many shots he doesn’t have confidence making.”

Granted, Mizzou still needs bigs. But in lieu of quality, I simply want to enjoy myself watching Mizzou basketball again. I think I will this year, and we could even more when Roberts gets to campus.

5. I hadn’t really thought about this:

University of Missouri mindful of protests during national anthem as basketball season approaches

If you’re not a fan of real life and sports meshing together, you might not enjoy this basketball season very much. Really curious what happens here.

Bonus thought: This picture really is fantastic.

Again, I don’t expect much out of this team, but I do expect a team that’s reasonably fun to watch and that is very, very easy to root for. And I think we’ll get that. And we’ll see what that means for the future.