One piece of the puzzle has been resolved when it comes to Missouri's roster breakdown: Wes Clark was dismissed, or quit, from the basketball team last Tuesday. It was a surprising move from the outside, because Clark had proven over the past few years to be one of the better players on the roster. And since running into several problems as a freshman, he had seemingly been responsible in taking care of his off-the-court affairs.
You all know I've been a major proponent of his since he's been on campus at Mizzou. I think he's a good player, albeit one miscast as a go-to type the last few years. I think he would have been exceptional on a team with more talent, where he could defer more shots to other guys, and try to create more.
I spend a fair amount of my time talking to people in and around the program about a lot of things that surround this team, and I'd never heard anything negative about Wes as a player or as a teammate. Wes was one of the harder workers in practice and was seen as a positive influence on the court.
I've been able to confirm some of the reports from Dave Matter and on what Clark's issues had been, and they had all been academic. I'd been told by people around the program that he was a very good, competitive kid and good teammate, but he was somebody you had to kind of keep tabs on outside of basketball.
Over the last two seasons, Wes had really improved in his decision making off the court, with the exception of one area: his application towards his academics. Which led us to this point.
Apparently Clark had signed an agreement with the Athletic Department to maintain some things academically. This likely extended into some of the issues that Missouri has been trying to clear up with its Academic Progress Rate. As we've discussed on many occasions, the APR situation is a mess, and getting it cleaned up is a major priority for the athletic department.
Everything at this stage leads me to believe that Kim Anderson and company are getting a third year. If you've followed me on Twitter and read what I've been writing for the past month or so, this shouldn't come as a big surprise. Hopefully netting a few wins recently has cleansed your palate enough to get on board with that possibility.
Realistically, if Mizzou can win another game or two to wrap up the season, the Tigers would surely have some momentum going into the offseason ... where ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE. Mizzou is still looking at the possibility of adding two more players, and I haven't heard at this point if Clark being gone changes who they are looking to add. I can't imagine much will change from what we've talked about previously.
I'm leaving Clark on the scholarship count for 2015-16, since he's technically taken up a scholarship, and Missouri won't be offering anyone else to come onto the roster as this stage. It sounds as though Clark is still enrolled at Missouri and will probably have some work to do to be eligible for a transfer to another school for next season. The graphic:
Yep, that's one scholarship senior this season, one next season, and another season without a graduating senior who had been in the program for four years. Next season would have been Wes Clark's, Johnathan Williams III's, Torren Jones', and Shane Rector's senior seasons had they made it through. There are still four players on the roster who could make it to their third year in the program, which would be some sort of record at this point. We'll see who makes it, and who comes back could largely depend on Missouri's APR situation.
As has been discussed, the APR situation at Missouri is bad (an APR refresher if you want one). Dave Matter posted back in May of 2015 that Mizzou had an APR score of 851 for the 2013-14 season:
It wasn’t all good news for Mizzou. The men’s basketball team produced the school’s lowest multi-year team score of 941, which ranked 13th among the 14 teams in the SEC. The Tigers’ multi-year score was dragged down significantly by its most recent single-year score for 2013-14: 851, which ranked between the 10-20th percentile for all Division I men’s basketball teams, according to the NCAA’s data.
This is the single biggest hurdle for Mizzou right now. The 851 score is going to hang around until the end of the 2017 school year. With the rolling four-year average, that dropped Missouri down to a score of 941. So there's some very light treading going on over the next year and a half.
For a quick explanation, each student athlete on scholarship is eligible to earn up to 4 points per school year, 2 per semester. One point for being eligible, one point for retention. You then add all the points up, divide by the points possible, and multiply that by a thousand to get your single year APR score.
Where it gets fun is you can avoid losing a retention point if a player leaves with a 2.6 GPA and enrolls at another four-year institution (you get knocked back a bit if a player heads to junior college). You can also get a waiver for a student-athlete that signs a pro-contract. So no, Jordan Clarkson and Jabari Brown leaving early shouldn't have hurt Mizzou's APR that year, but Shane Rector going JUCO, Zach Price being dismissed, and then Torren Jones getting kicked off before the start of school all hurt the score.
Mizzou's current APR isn't good
With that said, I'm going to take a stab at the last two years of the roster and see if we can figure out how the APR looks with some history added. Remember, the multi-year score cannot fall below 930 before you're hit with some sanctions:
2011-12: single year APR - 978; Multi-year - 979
2012-13: single year APR - 960; Multi-year - 969
2013-14: single year APR - 851; Multi-year - 941
2014-15: Of the 13 scholarships available, eleven players finished the season, with only Cam Biedscheid not making it to semester two. This means there were a total of 46 points available. Of the 11 that finished the year, eight finished their two semesters eligible and either expired their eligibility or did not transfer. Of the other three, Deuce Bello shouldn't lose an APR point for graduation and a transfer to a four-year institution.
By all accounts, Johnathan Williams III was a good student, so it's possible they retained their retention point with J3's transfer also. Last is Montaque Gill-Caesar. There was some academic wording around his transfer last summer, and it makes me wonder if Mizzou was doing everything it could to make sure he got his GPA to 2.6. That would mean they shouldn't get docked points on those three players. The problem is that Cam Biedscheid was dismissed without earning a point during his one semester. So with all those things in place, Mizzou's APR should have been around 956. All in all, not terrible. But because of that 851...
Multi-year - 936
That's dangerously close to that 930 threshold. It's possible I'm off by a point because of Deuce Bello. If they don't get a retention point for Bello, that drops the multi-year score to 931, with a single-year score at 935.
2015-16: It gets a little trickier this year because of some of the fluctuation, and we're still unclear on who might be out the rest of the way. For the sake of this exercise, let's pretend that nothing changes. Mizzou adds nobody and loses nobody from the current roster. By my count that would mean four freshmen, four sophomores and one junior return having played the entire year, while one player exhausts his eligibility.
Martavian Payne was on scholarship for one semester, meaning he had a potential of only earning two points, and Jordan Barnett also only had the potential to earn two points in the spring. This puts the total at 48 potential points. Assuming a retention point is lost for both Payne and Clark (this is assuming that Clark's grades are good enough for eligibility, which seems fair since he was playing), that means Mizzou's single year score would be 958. Again, not terrible. But this is why things are being considered so closely...
Multi-year - 931
So what does this all mean? It means that if these calculations/projections are correct, Mizzou can't afford to just run any one off. They can invite players to transfer, but at this stage those players have to be sitting on a 2.6 GPA, and the older you are, the harder it is to move your GPA with a single class or two.
Penalties, if it comes to that
The good news is that one ding against your APR isn't all that bad. It basically amounts to a public scolding. However, when it comes to the last few years of Missouri basketball, and all that's happened, the Tigers really can't afford more bad press. If you have two years that dip below the 930 threshold, that's where it can get ugly.
If you go two years below 930, you can see a reduction in scholarships and/or practice time. And for a young team like Missouri, that could hurt a lot. Three years means a loss of post-season play. Year four? You get NCAA Division I restrictions.
It's clear to see the light treading the coaching staff has to do with this roster. It's also easy to see why there have been so many suspensions and dismissals tied to academics. Missouri has to get tough to avoid any penalties.
The truth is, the Tigers have to be careful when it comes to losing players. A single defection can be withstood if, and only if, that player has a 2.6 GPA. All of this doesn't mean that the Tigers aren't looking for ways to upgrade their roster either -- they are still looking to add two players, and the top two targets remain the same. There are still backup plans in case things don't work out.
They still want to add Deshawn Corprew and Cheickna Dembele. They're prepared for departures and are recruiting other players for the 2016 class in case something happens. But the struggle is that every decision at this stage is tied to APR.
|Mizzou Roster Breakdown 2016-17|
|P O I N T G U A R D|
|Jimmy Barton||Terrence Phillips||Priority|
|C O M B O G U A R D|
|W I N G|
|Namon Wright||Cullen VanLeer||Willie Jackson||Priority|
|C O M B O F O R W A R D|
|P O S T|
|Russell Woods -1||Jakeenan Gant||Kevin Puryear||Reed Nikko||Priority|
|Adam Wolf||Mitchell Smith|
Looking at this roster breakdown, you can see how light things are at the Point Guard and Combo Guard spot. I think you could get by with Phillips and TI and putting more ball handling responsibility with Wright and Walton. I also moved Kevin Puryear fully into the post because I don't see how he can ever really help out on the wing.
Where both Allen and Barnett are more capable defenders there. Corprew is said to be a capable ball handler, although he's definitely accustomed to playing off the ball. So it's possible that Missouri starts looking around at some ball handlers at this stage as well.
I don't know. There's still some season left, but next year is going to be interesting if they're going into the season with two ball-handlers. But at least we may have a better understanding of why the staff has made some of the decisions they've made.