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The most likely scenario for Mizzou in 2018-19: One Porter returns (after testing the waters)

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Jontay returning could be enough to keep the train moving forward.

NCAA Basketball: Tennessee at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

On Tuesday we reset the offseason table and talked about who we know will (probably) return in 2018-19. Yesterday was a discussion with a little more hope. For the third leg of this journey we’re going to try an focus on most likely scenario: losing Michael Porter Jr. to the NBA.

We know what the rumors are, which have Michael Porter Jr. considering coming back to Mizzou. I’m sure they are 100% true right now. But the further MPJ gets from the disappointing finish to the season, the more likely he should be able to resonate the reality of his situation and understand he will still be a top pick in the NBA.

Jontay Porter is in a different place.

NCAA Basketball: Missouri at Texas A&M C. Morgan Engel-USA TODAY Sports

The younger Porter is an NBA talent in his own right. He could very well leave for the draft this year, and I halfway expect him to declare if at least to just test the waters.

Jontay’s final game is more evidence that he could really benefit from another season in Columbia. He still struggles with physical play at this level and while he is super skilled, a full offseason working with Nicodemus Christopher can only help shape his maturing body and prepare it better for the rigors of professional basketball.

But testing the waters and getting feedback from NBA people can only benefit him going forward.

As of now, Porter projects as a late-first round pick at best. Going through the process and coming back next season focused on how to improve in specific areas could result in him jumping up into the the lottery — maybe not the top five but certainly top 14.

So if you have Jontay Porter returning next season without his older brother Michael, then the scholarship count changes a bit.

mizzou basketball scholarship count 3-21-18

As always, one of those scholarships is Courtney Ramey’s to claim. The momentum is there, the minutes are available, and it makes sense from every angle. Plus, Cuonzo Martin has been as relentless as possible in his recruitment making sure both Courtney and his father see his face at every turn.

If Ramey takes one scholarship, this leaves one more scholarship to fill.

POSITION BREAKDOWNS

  • PG: Xavier Pinson, Courtney Ramey
  • CG: Jordan Geist
  • WING: Cullen VanLeer, Javon Pickett, Torrence Watson
  • CF: Kevin Puryear, K.J. Santos
  • POST: Reed Nikko, Jontay Porter, Jeremiah Tilmon, Mitchell Smith

With Jontay back in the fold, you’ve solidified the interior depth and have no need to even consider adding more through scholarship offers because Jontay, Tilmon, Nikko, Puryear, and Smith will take up all the minutes on the interior.

In times of crisis, Puryear and Porter can slide to the wing, and Santos is a more natural wing anyway. With Pinson, Geist, and potentially Ramey, you’d have three ball handlers available, but I’d imagine Cuonzo Martin and staff would want another combo guard type and one who can score the ball and shoot it a little bit.

NCAA Basketball: Arkansas at Missouri
Jordan Geist
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Without Kassius Robertson and Jordan Barnett, the Tigers need to replace 30 points and 42.4% from three on 441 attempts. Some of the production can be replaced by the natural growth of the fixtures from this past season’s team. But much of the production will need to come from newcomers.

I certainly don’t think you’re going to find another all-SEC guard from the MAAC just waiting to be discovered as a graduate transfer. Robertson was beyond spectacular, and most of the graduate transfers who end up on power conference rosters don’t end up on the all-conference ballot.

Right now Missouri is tracking way more players than we know about. But through social media, we see that they have reached out to at least a couple players.

  • Aaron Calixte, 5’11 PG from Maine - 16.9 ppg, 38.6% 3FG
  • Ryan Taylor, 6’6 WING from Evansville - 21.2 ppg, 42.1% 3FG
  • Kalob Ledoux, 6’3 WING from McNeese St - 14.8 ppg, 36.5% 3FG

I’m skeptical on the interest in Ledoux, as he is likely a transfer who will sit. And if you’re going to chase a transfer who has to sit a year, why not go after Illinois’ Mark Smith, who you wanted so badly last year? Or maybe even go after Tyson Jolly, who originally committed to Martin at Cal?

Some other names to keep an eye on: Cal transfer Don Coleman (originally signed by Cuonzo Martin), Vanderbilt transfer Larry Austin (originally signed by Martin at UT), and Wake Forest transfer Keyshawn Woods (11.9 ppg, 37.5% 3FG). I’m sure more names will pop up in the coming weeks, but for now, this is who I’m tracking.

NCAA Basketball: Maine at Georgetown
Aaron Calixte
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Adding experience to talented youth maintains a trajectory for the program.

I like the additions of Calixte, Taylor or Woods to compliment Ramey if you can add him. With this roster I feel like the NCAA tournament is a likely destination, and while maybe a protected seed isn’t achievable, I certainly think you can do better than an 8-seed.

Which would be progress year over year.