There is always room for a surprise or two when it comes to shaping and building the roster from one season to the next. But sometimes it’s also helpful to know where things are heading pretty early in the process.
We’re experiencing the second example. Missouri, and head coach Cuonzo Martin, seems to be executing their plan and it’s made this spring seem boring.
Most people were prepared for the loss of Jontay Porter to the NBA, despite his knee requiring a second surgery just a few months ago, Porter leaving after this season was always the plan. I’m not sure how many were prepared for the loss of Ronnie Suggs, but while Suggs provided a spark at times for Missouri last season, it made sense for him to play out his final season elsewhere after graduation. Suggs was going to find increasingly tougher sledding on the wing as Mizzou added depth and the younger players aged.
The news cycled seemed to culminate on Tuesday with the commitment, and Wednesday signing of 3-star wing Kobe Brown. Brown likely finishes off the 2019 recruiting class and further helps bolster the depth on the wing and combo forward positions. So let’s look at the scholarship count as it stands today:
With one spot available, it’s possible Missouri pursues another target — perhaps a transfer — but seems unlikely for who their pursuits are in the 2020 recruiting class. Looking at next season, there are two spots available, and it seems Mizzou’s most desired recruiting class has at least three recruits in it, so some flexibility is required. Meanwhile, Martin has been on record as wanting full program buy-in, and you can’t play 13 guys. So you take the most likely to get minutes and hope to get investment from the other two or three guys on the roster as they wait their turn.
A quick stab at the depth chart
I don’t really know what to expect from Brown, but his flexibility in position might provide the minutes since he could slot 2-4, in a way how we envisioned K.J. Santos working out. Overall I’m not sure how much the addition moves the needle. Missouri’s success next season will more likely funnel through guys like Dru Smith, Mark Smith and Jeremiah Tilmon and less on guys like Brown or even Mario McKinney.
There are minutes to be had at the four, more so than any other spot on the floor. Depending on what Mizzou gets from Tray Jackson. Jackson is higher touted but could also have a longer learning curve as he puts things together. Brown has a sturdy body and hits campus early enough to make the right impression. Coupled with an extensive skill set, the room is there for him to surprise.
What might be more intriguing is what happens on the wing. Javon Pickett and Mark Smith were entrenched as the starters, but Pickett wore down, and Smith got hurt while Watson surged at the end of the season. Could Watson’s late-season surge propel him into the starting spot?
More than anything, Mizzou has real roster balance right now
The senior class is light, sure, but they’ve got four juniors, three sophomores, and four freshmen next season. If they bring in a three-man class — and say lose Mitchell Smith to a grad transfer or something similar — you’re looking at a 2021 roster with three seniors, three juniors, four sophomores and three freshmen.
Continuity and stability. Boring offseasons are the result of continuity and stability.
Debate the ceiling for these rosters if you want, but Martin has built stability and continuity which is something Mizzou has largely lacked for nearly a decade. Reed Nikko is set to become the first out of state four year player at Missouri since Laurence Bowers.
There has been a lot of roster turnover at Missouri since Mike Anderson left for Arkansas and left behind a thinned out group. Frank Haith struggled to find the stability in playing catchup in his brief three years, and the bridge between Haith and Anderson left a revolving door. After some adversity in his first season, the Tigers and Martin have largely been able to find and recruit players who have bought in.
We’ll see if Kobe Brown fits into that same mold, but it’s nice to have a boring news cycle for a change. **knocks on wood**