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Non-Conference Preview: Four buy games

Jackson State, South Carolina State, Loyola of Maryland and Central Arkansas all make the trek to Mizzou Arena.

NCAA Basketball: Jackson State at Texas Christian Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Who’s ready for more previewin’?

Here are the dates (complete with any links to previous previews):

So here’s what we know so far:

We’re going to do a bulk preview here since these games are all games that Mizzou should win going away. So that means it’s time to preview the Quad 4 opponents all at once! Let’s dive in!

Jackson State Tigers

Head Coach | Mo Williams | 2nd Season 14-19

2016 NBA Finals - Post Game Trophy Shoot Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

That’s right, former Alabama guard, longtime NBA player and NBA Champion Mo Williams is coaching the Jackson State Tigers these days. After a long and lustrous NBA career, Williams made the call not to sit on his butt in the Caribbean somewhere, but to hop onto the sidelines and coach up some youngsters.

He joined his former coach at Alabama, Mark Gottfried, as an assistant at Cal-State Northridge even before he was officially retired from the NBA. Gottfried’s NCAA troubles while at NC State followed him to Northridge and Williams hopped on the chance to become the head coach at Alabama State where he improved from 4-14 in conference play during the 2020-21 season to 8-10 the next season. He used that success to propel himself into the Jackson State job, returning to his hometown of Jackson, Mississippi.

Series History | Mizzou leads 7-0

Jackson State is one of the better SWAC programs over the years, but such is life for a program like that where they spend most of their non-conference slate losing to power conference teams. So it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that Missouri has largely had their way with JSU over the years.

The two haven’t met since 2001 when a 3rd ranked Quin Snyder-led Tigers team beat Jackson State by 38 points. In fact, only once has this matchup been within single digits when Missouri defeated JSU by just 4 points in December 1993. That game followed a pretty well known 52 point loss to open Bud Walton Arena in Arkansas, and then led to one of the greatest runs in Missouri basketball history.

What about the team now?

Welcome back to the SEC, Daeshun Ruffin! One of Williams bigger recruiting gets was snatching up the Ole Miss transfer and former 4-star point guard. Ruffin struggled to stay healthy while in Oxford, but if he’s able to stay healthy he can elevate what already was one of the better rosters in the SWAC.

They were just 14-19 last year but went 12-6 in conference and did so with a balanced attack with no player averaging more than 12 points per game. But leading scorer Ken Evans is back after averaging 11.3 ppg last year. As is second leading scorer Coltie Young at 10.9.

Williams has focused heavily on Mississippi where 9 players hail from inside the state, and 6 from the Jackson area. Last year Jackson State played six games against high major opponents and lost all 6. They lost by 10 to Mississippi State after jumping out to a 16-8 run, and by 20 to Alabama.

So at the least this should be a feisty opponent.

South Carolina State Bulldogs

Head Coach | Erik Martin | 2nd Season 5-26

NCAA Basketball: West Virginia at Texas Tech Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Erik Martin, pictured above with Bob Huggins, is a longtime former assistant coach for Huggy Bear, following him from Kansas State to West Virginia as a coach. Martin also spent two seasons under Huggins as a college player at Cincinnati in the early 1990s. Obviously his timing of taking the South Carolina State job could’ve been better since he might’ve been in line for the interim job at West Virginia with Huggins’ recent stumbles.

Nevertheless, he took a difficult job. SC State plays in the MEAC and went just 1-17 two years ago and haven’t been inside the top 300 in KenPom since 2016. It’s a tall task remaking a struggling MEAC program.

Series History | Mizzou leads 1-0

Mizzou beat South Carolina State in their only matchup between the two schools by 51 points in December of 2012, Frank Haith’s second season at the helm. The Tigers made just 6 of 27 three point attempts but scored 102 points led by Earnest Ross’ 16 points. Corey Haith, Danny Feldmann, and Dominique Bull all played 5 minutes if you wanted an idea of how the night went for SC State.

What about the team now?

Well, SC State hasn’t posted an updated roster so this is mostly just guess work here. Gone are DaJuan Bates, Rakeim Gary, Cam Jones, Justin Wilson, Rahsaan Edwards, and Lesown Hallums... all of whom entered the transfer portal. Every one but Bates and Hallums were listed as seniors last year. And because life in the MEAC is fun, there are no listed transfers IN to SC State on Verbal Commits.

With 10 listed seniors on the roster last year and four of them out the door via the transfer portal, it’s possible the other six are coming back? It’s also possible their eligibility expired.

If we’re being completely honest here, it's all unlikely to matter. SC State is certain to be one of, if not the worst, team on the schedule. If this game is close that’s not good.

Loyola (MD) Greyhounds

Head Coach | Tavaras Hardy | 6th Season 59-85

NCAA Basketball: Loyola-Maryland at Maryland Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Tavaras Hardy has been working the sidelines at Loyola since the 2018-19 season when he accepted the job after working for three seasons under Josh Pastner at Georgia Tech. Prior to that he was an assistant under John Thompson III at Georgetown and under Bill Carmody at his alma mater Northestern.

It’s gone okay for Hardy. The Greyhounds compete in the Patriot League where Colgate is the annual favorite and winner of the league tournament for four of the last five seasons. The only other Patriot team to make the tournament in that span was Boston University in 2020. The middle of the league seems to eat its own since 8 of the 10 teams finished between 11-7 and 7-11 in conference play.

The Greyhounds haven’t made the NCAA Tournament since 2012, and just twice in school history. The other being 1993 under Skip Prosser. So expectations are appropriate and as long as Hardy doesn’t turn into a disaster, he’s likely got a long lead.

Series History | None

Well that’s a short section, eh? These two programs have never played.

What about the team now?

While the Greyhounds weren’t very good last year, they did win five of their last seven to finish on a positive note. They had three players average at least 11 ppg last season but just one comes back in sophomore PG Deon Perry. 6’10 forward Alonso Faure is also back after a strong junior season, as is another 6’10 forward in Golden Dike. With a returning point guard and two solid interior players, the Greyhounds could make some noise in the Patriot League.

Is it enough to beat Florida and Missouri? Those are two teams on their schedule this year. That’s unlikely.

Central Arkansas Bears

Head Coach | Anthony Boone | 4th Season 59-85

NCAA Basketball: Central Arkansas at Arkansas Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

Anthony Boone is an Arkansas native who played collegiate ball at Ole Miss and immediately got into coaching as a grad assistant in Oxford before moving on to Murray State, Jackson State, Grand Canyon, and into the WNBA with the Phoenix Mercury before coming back and taking an assistant job at Central Arkansas under previous head coach Russ Pennell.

But it’s been a tough go for Boone. Central Arkansas has been one of the worst programs in the A-Sun Conference most years. Fighting schools like Liberty, Lipscomb, Florida Gulf Coast and others means a good season is just being over .500 in league play. Which has happened just one time since they joined Division I, and that includes more seasons in the Southland than the A-Sun. The Southland is a worse conference than the A-Sun. I guess the good news for Boone is that expectations are likely very reasonable with the leadership at Central Arkansas.

Series History | Mizzou leads 2-0

If it feels like these two teams have played recently it’s because they have. In 2018 the Bears marched into Mizzou Arena in Cuonzo Martin’s second season and lost a game that’s final score was closer than the game was. Mizzou outscored UCA 18-5 to start the game and coasted from there.

A little different game than when the 13th ranked Tigers boat raced UCA in 2010, beating their opponent 116-63.

What about the team now?

Some of you may remember the name Camren Hunter. The leading scorer for the Bears last season, Hunter entered the transfer portal and released a top schools list. Missouri was on it. That list changed, and changed again. Then he committed to Butler. He then decommitted from Butler and ended up exiting to the transfer portal to return to UCA.

So UCA brings back their leading score is what I’m saying there. And Hunter is a good player. After Hunter, only Eddy Kayouloud was much of a threat to score last year and his eligibility expired. It’ll be Hunter’s show.

UCA was 333rd in KenPom last year and look like they’ll be in a similar boat this one. Hunter provides a spark but he’s just one man. This should be an easy win.

Mizzou should win all four of these games handily.