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Mizzou is 1-0! and other pretty basic thoughts from the basketball season opener

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NCAA Basketball: Texas A&M at Missouri Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

I have not yet set up my Study Hall template for basketball stat recaps because I am behind on basically everything. I know that shocks you. Regardless, let’s share some quick thoughts from the Tigers’ 2016-17 season debut, a 99-44 romp over hapless Alabama A&M.

1. This was basically one more exhibition game.

Alabama A&M currently ranks 350th of 351 teams in the Pomeroy ratings. Mizzou beat a similarly ranked UAPB team by 53 last year. The Bulldogs are projected to go 6-23 — 0-11 in non-conference and 6-12 in the SWAC. Bad. Really bad. Maybe worse than Central Missouri.

Probably worse than Central Missouri.

Still, 55 points is a lot. Among other things, Missouri State — currently 131st in Pomeroy, 15 spots higher than Mizzou — only beat A&M by 34 and led by only 13 at halftime. Mizzou was up 14 after nine minutes.

At worst, it was a test passed. And considering you really can’t say that about the UCM exhibition, we’ll call it progress.

2. Frankie Hughes & Cullen VanLeer: 7-for-14 on 3-pointers

Last year, Missouri was a perimeter-oriented team that couldn’t (and wouldn’t) shoot from the perimeter. The Tigers had no interior rebounding presence but ranked 314th in 3PT% (31.0%) and 241st in 3PA/FGA (32.5%). On Sunday, they made 50% of their 3s. Granted, they took fewer (28.6%), but part of the reason for that was that they actually didn’t have a size disadvantage on the interior.

This team has three players taller than 6’7 and one heavier than 243 pounds. 3-point shooting is going to be a must, and in Hughes and an older VanLeer, the Tigers might actually be able to create some things on the perimeter. They won’t be taking as many open shots as they did on Sunday, but 50% is pretty good against no opponent at all.

3. I’ve suspected for a while that I’m going to really enjoy Willie Jackson.

Now, with a couple of shreds of evidence, I can confidently say I’m going to really enjoy Willie Jackson. He’s physical but controlled, and his body is more college-ready than most of Mizzou’s sophomores. I’m assuming 11 & 9 in 20 minutes is probably a bit too much to expect from him on a nightly basis (call me crazy), but he’s a hustle guy who should be able to carve out a niche.

And if this program turns around soon, it’s probably going to be because of not only Jackson, but the high school teammate he convinced to come to Columbia with him. Jackson and Hughes: 41 minutes, 34 points (14-for-20 FG), 11 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals, only 1 turnover. Again, Alabama A&M is bad. But these two are going to be good.

4. Terrence Phillips: 3 FG attempts

The thought of Terrence Phillips taking on more of a scoring role has made me nervous. It’s not that he can’t do it occasionally but a) he probably won’t be able to do it very efficiently, and b) if he’s having to score, it’s because others aren’t. Best-case scenario is that he becomes a guy who dishes for most of the first 38 minutes of the games, then is able to either get to the line or nail a couple of 3-pointers or runners late. That’s a tough role to play (lord knows even Phil Pressey had trouble with that “last two minutes” part), but that seems to be his archetype.

When things are clicking, we’ll see some more games like Sunday’s. He took three shots from the field and dished five assists. Granted, he also had one-third of Mizzou’s turnovers (three of nine), but he was a background player, and a good one.

4. 21-for-33 on free throws, huh?

Phillips and Hughes were 4-for-9. Ew. Granted, Reed Nikko, Russell Woods, and Kevin Puryear made up for it by going 11-for-15, but ... that’s not the way that’s supposed to work.

5. Honestly, I kinda hoped for more than 15 turnovers forced.

The offense was efficient, and Mizzou did a lovely job on the offensive glass, but considering the size and perimeter orientation of this team, I would have hoped you could coax A&M into 20+ turnovers. It’s a nit to pick, but ... the bar is set pretty high when you’re playing someone this bad.


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