Two years ago things were looking pretty dire for our look ahead. Last year, slightly less so. But before we look ahead, let’s review how things went for Missouri this past year based upon that post from a year ago:
- Kevin Puryear & Jordan Barnett to show out a little: Barnett, 27.9 mpg, 13.0 ppg, 5.6 rpg; Puryear, 31.8 mpg, 11.3 ppg, 5.6 rpg
- Kim, trust K.J. Walton: KJ’s minutes went from 14.6 to 21.7, then he transferred.
- Restore hope to the fanbase: New coach, elite recruits, yeah I think this is a check
- Begin the rebuild: This got accelerated a little with the Porters
- Breathe new life into in-state recruiting: Jeremiah Tilmon and Torrence Watson are just the tip of the iceberg
- Find a way in 2017-18: Sitting at 10-3 with a realistic shot at an NCAA tournament bid
I’d say that’s a pretty solid return considering literally nothing went right in the previous year. Cuonzo Martin was hired and everything went right for the Tigers up until Michael Porter Jr.’s injury. Since the injury the Tigers have been good, though not great and certainly Mizzou fans have missed out on getting to see one of the five best players in the country.
With the excitement from Trae Young, the dominance from Marvin Bagley and DeAndre Ayton, and even Collin Sexton leading Alabama, it’s safe to say we could have had a first row seat for the MPJ experience at Mizzou. So with that said, what would we like to see from the Missouri basketball program in the calendar year 2018?
Michael Porter Jr. plays again
The season has been going well but the biggest of elephants in the room is what is going to happen with Michael Porter Jr. Since having surgery on his back, MPJ has teased the comeback on social media. There have also been reports from Doctors who have said they expect MPJ to play again.
I’ve long held the belief we would see Porter play for Mizzou before it was all said and done. One step at a time and Porter needs to practice before he can play. But College Basketball fans deserve to see Porter play, and Mizzou fans especially should get the chance to see MPJ play. Last, Jontay Porter and his father, Michael Porter Sr, should all get the chance to be on the same bench together before Michael Jr. heads off to the NBA.
Make the NCAA tournament
Whether or not the first part of this ‘wish list’ comes to fruition the goal doesn’t change. The NCAA tournament is the goal for this team.
The loss in the Braggin’ Rights game makes the task a little tougher, and the SEC is deeper than it’s been in years. But simply getting to 10 league wins would put Mizzou at 20 wins overall and that should be enough to get them an at-large bid.
The Tigers did solid work in the non-conference season and have a projected RPI inside the top 50, they have a KenPom rating currently just outside the top 50. They have home and homes against Texas A&M, Kentucky and Arkansas which should provide them ample opportunities to get wins against NCAA tournament bound teams. They also have Florida and Tennessee coming to Mizzou Arena. So the Tigers will have their chances to notch marquee wins. They just need to capitalize.
But with or without Michael Porter Jr. on the floor, this is the goal.
Limit roster turnover
There is an expected loss of at least three players since Mizzou has signed Torrence Watson, Javon Pickett and K.J. Santos already. One of those losses happened with C.J. Roberts decided to transfer essentially leaving Mizzou with one scholarship to give should Michael Porter Jr. decide to go pro.
Looking at the 2018-19 roster, I’d like to see both Jontay Porter and Jeremiah Tilmon return along with the rest of the roster. Turnover has been an issue at Missouri for a while, and you should expect some turnover, but the Tigers have endured an epic amount of turnover since Frank Haith’s second year and it would be nice to see Cuonzo Martin stem that tide a bit.
- 2017 (Martin): 6 newcomers
- 2016 (Anderson): 7 newcomers
- 2015 (Anderson): 6 newcomers
- 2014 (Anderson): 6 newcomers
- 2013 (Haith): 8 newcomers
- 2012 (Haith): 8 newcomers
If MPJ jumps (and he should be expected to) that would mean a minimum of four new faces on the roster next year. But perhaps more importantly, if there are no defections from the current junior class Mizzou could have three four year players for the first time since 2012 when Kim English, Marcus Denmon and Steve Moore all graduated.
Watching Terrence Phillips, Kevin Puryear and Cullen VanLeer on Senior night is going to be a great feeling.
Land local targets
The 2019 class is stacking up to be a special one of Missouri can do what it hopes to. They’ve very clearly made some local targets a high priority. We haven’t done an update in a while because not much has changed, but it’s clear the Tigers are very high on E.J. Lidell, Mario McKinney, Terrence Hargrove, Francis Okoro, and a few others. Liddell, Hargrove and Okoro are all Illinois guys and the Illini are in hard on Liddell and Okoro, so expect a dog fight.
I’m not asking Cuonzo to clean house, but get the guys you want. They’re also recruiting some non-Missouri/Illinois players but it appears clear they have their priorities.
It’s obvious at this point Cuonzo Martin has changed the way Mizzou is perceived in recruiting circles, and he can continue the momentum he picked up in the last 10 months by securing commitments from at least three of their priority targets in the area. Mizzou could have as many as five spots available for the class and they need a player at each spot. So landing a trio of McKinney, Hargrove and Liddell would solidify the baseline of the class at least.
Continue the momentum
It’s clear at this point the fans feel like Mizzou basketball is back. I’d like to see the momentum of 2017-18 carry into the 2018-19 season with an even better non-conference schedule, and a full and energy filled arena throughout the season.
Going into the season the likely focus will be on the Tigers front line with Jontay Porter and Jeremiah Tilmon dominating the headlines. Missouri has a chance to be a contender again the SEC, so use the experience the young guys get this season and build on it for next season.
Cuonzo Martin’s job is to keep Missouri at the top of the SEC standings for the foreseeable future. His first chance starts with a tough one tonight on the road in South Carolina.