Missouri Basketball will try to climb out of their self-imposed hole.
Missouri Basketball is in for another season in the basement, but it does not mean that they are not worth watching. This program has some good student-athletes, but they play in a system that is not conducive to their success. There’s also not enough quality student-athletes to get them out of the cellar. Kevin Puryear is worth every dime to watch play this wonderful sport and Terrence Phillips may eventually be one of the best distributors in the conference. It is easy to liken this squad and their circumstances to UGA during the Dennis Felton era, but it is actually so much worse. This team will try to make a tough situation more palatable to the Missouri alumni, students and of course… The Antlers.
Scholarship Depth Situation for Missouri
Kim Anderson inherited a rough situation at Missouri and certainly was not the school’s first choice. Combine the environment left behind in the wake of the Frank Haith era and the lack of support given by the former Athletic Director Mike Alden, the program was going to experience scorched earth. Georgia went through a scorched earth era itself and took seven seasons to finally reach an NCAA Tournament berth without a Conference Tournament miracle.
The University of Missouri – Columbia used to promote “One Mizzou”, but clearly this is a divided campus that is a hotbed of anger and fear. How bad is it at Mizzou? Two dormitories were closed on campus, which is an unthinkable thing to happen at a flagship public university.
Rape cover-ups, NCAA violations, scorched-earth hiring, racial animus and no signs of hope in Columbia. Mizzou committed suicide as a program and it really should not be reflected upon Kim Anderson. Kim Anderson was placed into a no-win situation, he’s a “True Son” and he’s sacrificing his long term career in the attempt to hold things together. Missouri alumni want Jon Sundvold to be the next Athletic Director at Mizzou and he is not going to be able to turn it all around on his own, he needs help to get it done. The University of Missouri-Columbia students, alumni, faculty and administration all contributed to the suicide of the institution. How on earth Mizzou returns to their past reputation and glory is completely unknown.
The pain at the University of Missouri – Columbia is not something to revel, but rather it should serve as a warning to other institutions that no one is safe. It can happen anywhere and for the “True Sons and Daughters”, they have to accept the unfortunate consequences and decide to fix it or shrug their shoulders and give up.
Kim Anderson sped up the pace last season and it resulted in improved offensive efficiency. Mizzou’s defense was weaker, but that is somewhat to be expected with the new rules regarding Freedom of Movement. Anderson’s motion offense has a few weapons, but just not enough of them.
Missouri’s Roster, Lost Contributions and Featured Members of the Roster
There is a respectable nucleus returning from last season, but newcomers and returning student-athletes have to make up for half of the production leaving the program. Some members of this team have to step up and make contributions previously not made. There are five freshmen on this Missouri team and Frankie Hughes is best positioned of these freshmen to help make up for the losses.
Namon Wright and Wes Clark were important three point shooters on last season’s team, Clark was an above average three point shooter while Wright was a below average shooter. K.J. Walton is the best returning three point shooter on this team and it is possible that Frankie Hughes is the freshman who can help with the perimeter shooting and take some pressure off Kevin Puryear. Puryear is going to attract double teams down low and aggressive denials on the high post.
Featured Members of the Missouri Roster
Puryear is a southpaw Power Forward who can hit Free Throws really well, which is like finding a unicorn. He is extremely quick and powerful on the low block, he does tend to try to take his fair share of shots outside of the restricted arc and it does not usually turn out so well. Puryear had a 72.2% Field Goal percentage in the restricted arc, Kim Anderson needs to find a way to get him more attempts in this zone whether it be low post feeds or high post drives.
Puryear is the one member of the Missouri team that every coach in the SEC wishes they had on their roster. Just imagine Puryear at Georgia along with Yante Maten, Derek Ogbeide and Mike Edwards. It’s scary to imagine. He is a physical presence who could improve on the boards and as a freshman played so comfortably despite having the whole team on his shoulders.
Missouri was 7-5 when Puryear scored 13 or more last season. 3-16 when he did not. Puryear is absolutely critical to the team’s success.
Terrence Phillips is the lead distributor for this Missouri team and he should improve this season. Perhaps the first thing he could work on is not fouling as much. It is possible that many of the fouls are late game intentional fouls to extend out the basketball game, but if he can cut down his fouls it would be very helpful. Phillips, in his freshman campaign, had four or more fouls in 17 games. He fouled out in six games.
When Phillips is distributing the ball effectively, Missouri tends to win. 5-3 when Phillips has more than five assists. He cannot just feed Puryear all game, he needs help around him so that he can have someone who can efficiently score when he feeds the ball to him.
Phillips is not a strong scorer, but he was put into a position to be a scorer of some sort last season because there were very few options. Phillips likes to dribble-drive, but he is not a good finisher at the rim and he does not have much of a mid-range game either. Phillips is below-average from three point range. He could improve this season, but he would be better served if there was always an option for him on the dribble-drive. If Phillips penetrates inside the perimeter and everyone knows he is looking to score, it makes him easier to defend. However, if he penetrates and there is a perimeter shooter who is ready in a catch-and-shoot, it forces opponents to play him honest and it gives him a better chance at scoring.
There needs to be a way for Missouri to put defenders into no-mans land. Phillips needs to be the Stockton to Puryear’s Malone.
K.J. Walton has a lot of room to improve this upcoming season and he has the talent to do it. Walton could turn out to be a very good perimeter threat for Missouri this season. He’s solid in dribble penetration and an increased role should put him into a situation to score 11-14 points per game.
Defensively, he leaves much to be desired. Then again, freshmen are usually behind-the-curve on the defensive end. Walton has a lot of potential to be the breakout student-athlete for the Missouri Tigers much the way Puryear was last season.
Expected Starting Lineup for the Missouri Tigers
PG: Terrence Phillips
SG: K.J. Walton
3G: Frankie Hughes
PF: Kevin Puryear
C: Russell Woods
Jordan Barnett, a highly regarded transfer out of the Texas Basketball program, may be able to challenge for a starting role in this lineup later on the season. By conference play, the lineup could end up like this…
PG: Terrence Phillips
SG: K.J. Walton
3G: Frankie Hughes
SF: Jordan Barnett
PF: Kevin Puryear
What to Expect From This Season
The non-conference schedule is going to be filled with some very hard lessons for Missouri. Xavier awaits Missouri at Walt Disney World and they would face the winner or loser of the Clemson/Davidson game. More likely the loser of that game and that should be a rather unhappy time at The Happiest Place on Earth. Missouri’s final opponent will likely end up being Tulane, which should be a winnable game and serve as the highlight of the trip outside of the big water slide at the Coronado Springs Resort.
Western Kentucky will be a tough home game for Missouri and Arizona comes a week afterward. Both games should result in losses, but eleven days after is the Braggin’ Rights Game. Missouri could pull this one off in St. Louis, Illinois is ripe to be upset. Missouri will have Jordan Barnett ready to go and this may make a big difference in the game. This could be the highlight of the Missouri season, it is after all a game that matters a lot.
The SEC schedule starts with LSU at Mizzou Arena, which is actually a winnable game. However, the trip to Athens afterward is going to be brutal. There is a really tough stretch of games from January 14 through February 15 and this is a Missouri program that has lost double digit games in a row before and could do it again. South Carolina could be their best chance at a win, but South Carolina’s experienced nucleus in the backcourt should be able to carry them through a road game like that one on January 28.
If Missouri is going to score a road win, it is going to be in Knoxville. Tennessee is bad and so is Missouri. By this point, both programs could be in death march mode and it could be a matter of which coach feels more liberated to try something different.
Missouri is going to have a tough season again and Kim Anderson could end up being fired. Who really wants this job though? It requires someone extremely adventurous. Missouri is now the Mississippi Delta of major College Basketball programs. At least the Missouri faithful can watch Kevin Puryear, he’s worth the cost of admission to watch play this beautiful sport. NBA scouts will probably have an eye on him as well.