The end always comes too quickly.
One minute you’re scrapping and fighting and searching for ways to keep the run going, then the clock just runs down, you get subbed out, and the game is over. Despite two of the best offensive performances for a Mizzou player in the SEC tournament, Jordan Geist’s will wasn’t enough to suspend the Tigers season for another night. Mizzou Basketball’s season, the 2018-2019 version, ended tonight when the Tigers were overwhelmed by Auburn in the second half and they finished the season 15-17.
It’s not what we’d hoped would happen as the season neared in the fall. The Tigers were building a team around the playmaking ability of a skilled 6’11 playmaker who tore his ACL before playing a minute this season. It was the second year in a row where a much hyped top rated player with the last name of Porter had his season cut off before it got started. Mizzou head coach Cuonzo Martin adapted on the fly again, boosted by the help of Illinois transfer Mark Smith and we talked about the possibility of this team getting back onto the NCAA bubble.
The losses began to mount in league play. 0-3, then 1-6, then 2-8, then 3-12. Somewhere in there Smith aggravated a foot injury he’d been dealing with, tried to mount a comeback but wasn’t right. Then Mizzou shut him down, they were already behind the eight-ball and a long shot for even the NIT at that stage. Yet, they fought on.
Credit the Head Coach, and his floor leader
Geist’s story has been told over and over this season and for good reason. He was a late addition to Kim Anderson’s last recruiting class, and drew the ire of Mizzou fans for much of his sophomore and junior seasons. Some (including me and Matt — heheh) did what we could to turn opinions on Geist through the second half of his junior year. But whatever opinions weren’t turned then, have been turned now. Geist averaged 14.5 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.1 assists while improving his OffensiveRating to 112.8 and increased his usage to 23.1%. Geist's numbers impress, but he set the tone for the level of effort he expected his teammates to play with.
Geist helped elevate the play of a group of freshmen who are going to be the foundation for where Cuonzo Martin wants to take this program. And when this team is cutting down some nets, Martin is going to look back up this season as the one where they set the tone.
While the season didn’t quite go as Kevin Puryear planned, he’ll long be remembered as the guy who came into a bad program and helped re-establish what Mizzou basketball can and should be. There will be plenty of time to dissect and breakdown the contributions of Mizzou’s two scholarship seniors as they’ve wrapped up their career, but the impression they made on a young and talented roster is something which should push this team next year and the year after that.
The youth grows up
We’ve seen the progress of Torrence Watson.
Torrence Watson 1st half of SEC play:— Sam Snelling (@SamTSnelling) March 10, 2019
21 min, 28.6% FG, 25% 3FG, 5 ppg, 1.3 rpg, 1.3 GmSc, 1 game >90 Ortg
2nd half of SEC play:
27.4 min, 41.3% FG, 38.1% 3FG, 10.9 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 5.5 GmSc, 6 games > 90 Ortg (5 above 112)
Xavier Pinson and Javon Pickett were key players all season as well. Jeremiah Tilmon bumped his averages up across the board and even looked at times like he’s started to figure out the foul thing. Mark Smith was the top 3-point shooter in the league before his season ended prematurely.
Coaches often talk about getting old, and staying old is important. Next year the rotation is going to include a whole lotta Sophomores and Juniors. Plus at least a couple of Freshmen.
The offseason awaits — with new faces coming in
I don’t know what to expect as far as roster turnover outside of Geist and Puryear. I feel pretty certain Jontay Porter will stay in the draft this year, his stock has improved and coming off a knee injury there’s incentive to start collecting paychecks.
Will there be transfers out of the program? I don’t know. Ideally you’d like to bring everyone back but that never seems to happen anymore.
Here’s the scholarship situation heading into the offseason:
Martin put Ronnie Suggs on scholarship following his strong efforts in carving out a role on the team. There’s no guarantee for Suggs or for Parker Braun that either will be on scholarship next season, though the possibility exists. The existing two man class of Mario McKinney and Tray Jackson will be on campus in June, the only question which remains this season is who will be there with them?
If you’re a Mizzou fan, there’s very good reason to feel optimistic
Next season is a reset. For the first time in a while the Tigers should have a large amount of continuity and depth. They’ll have experience and talent and with the flexibility in the middle of the league anything should be on the table for what they’re capable of achieving.
College basketball is always a long offseason, so there will be plenty of time to break down what the Tigers are doing and how they’re handling recruiting as well as any potential staff changes. We’ll be there every step of the way, for now we’re pressing the up button int he elevator excited to get off the ground floor of the Cuonzo Martin rebuild.