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Mizzou’s already-weak depth becomes a big issue if Jordan Barnett doesn’t play

The senior’s mistake could have serious implications on Mizzou’s chances in the NCAA tournament.

NCAA Basketball: Missouri at Vanderbilt Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

I want to start with something very clear: we thus far have no idea how Mizzou is going to handle the situation with Jordan Barnett. Based upon the Mizzou student-athlete handbook, however, we can speculate:

Because student athletes are to be suspended from team activities for a week, we’re assuming at this point the Tigers will be without Barnett for at least one game, which, considering their seed and situation, might be the only game left in the season.

The good news is Mizzou at least has another body with Michael Porter Jr. back in the mix. But now, without the depth provided by Cullen VanLeer and Jordan Barnett, the already thin backcourt gets even thinner.

Despite MPJ’s incredible ability offensively, you don’t necessarily want him defending 6’4 wing players on a regular possession-by-possession basis. So let’s look at who is available:

  • PG: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
  • CG: Jordan Geist, Kassius Robertson
  • WING: Brett Rau
  • CF: Kevin Puryear, MPJ
  • POST: Jeremiah Tilmon, Jontay Porter, Reed Nikko

I really think that at some point in the first-round game, you’re going to see MPJ at the 2, his brother at the 3, and both Tilmon and Nikko in the game.

If I were Cuonzo Martin I’d be working on a 1-3-1 this week.

NCAA Basketball: SEC Conference Tournament-Missouri vs Georgia Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports

Not having Barnett increases the pressure for Porter to “get right.”

It was understandable for MPJ to be rusty in the Georgia game. He hadn’t played a meaningful minute of basketball in months and had only been practicing for a couple weeks.

If Robertson and Barnett had played like they were capable of playing most of the year, Mike could’ve had another game to try to knock some more rust off his game. Instead, they struggled, and now he just gets practice for another week.

Porter was always going to put pressure on himself to score, and now that could mount even more — not only in usage but also in minutes played. With Barnett, you maybe only need 20-25 minutes from MPJ. Now you might need 30 or more.

Brett Rau played nine minutes against Georgia, now you’re probably going to see that again at a minimum.

You have to fill 200 minutes, and Barnett was good for about 34 of those. That left 166 for the rest of the (available) roster.

  • Robertson will probably play 36-40 minutes.
  • Geist has averaged 31 MPG since conference play started, and he’ll likely get into the 34-36 range.
  • Rau was asked to step up in the absence of Cullen VanLeer and provided nine minutes against Georgia. I don't know how much you can expect from him in the NCAA tournament, but if it’s not Rau, then it’s MPJ at the off-guard position with either Jontay Porter or Kevin Puryear at the wing spot.
NCAA Basketball: SEC Conference Tournament-Missouri vs Georgia Joe Puetz-USA TODAY Sports

We don’t yet know who the opponent will be, but for Mizzou fans who expect the worst at all times, assume the Tigers will get matched up against a guard-heavy team, and the Mizzou bigs will get into foul trouble.

But if you’re an optimist, maybe this means Mizzou will fall flat in the tournament leading Michael Porter Jr. to decide he wants to return for a sophomore season and Mizzou lands elite point guard Courtney Ramey en route to a protected seed in the tourney next year and a Final Four birth. It’s destiny, man.

My thoughts? The Tigers do what they’ve done all season when being confronted with adversity.

They’ll fight through it, find a way to win a game, and see what happens in round two. Tune in tonight to see who they play in round one.