The Missouri Tigers were a No. 2 seed in the 2012 NCAA Tournament. Then they lost to the No. 15 seed, Norfolk State. Then their coach, Frank Haith, ran into trouble with the NCAA. Then they hired a terrible replacement for Haith. Then they fell to the bottom of the SEC and were a complete basketball afterthought. Then they realized they had to do something different. Then they simultaneously hired a new coach and won the trust of one of the elite recruits in the country. They now have a chance to not only be a decent team, but make the NCAA Tournament. This could be the rebirth of Missouri basketball.
The changes to this team were profound. Kim Anderson ran his course as the team’s head coach, placed into an impossible situation but not skilled enough to make anything of it. Missouri turned to a new head coach, and Cuonzo Martin – who rarely stays at a program for very long – bolted from Califfornia to take the open job at Missouri. Meanwhile, though, another domino fell in the coaching world. Washington fired Lorenzo Romar, an elite recruiter but not someone who has been able to consistently coach that talent into the NCAA Tournament. Romar had recruited Michael Porter, Jr., a star talent with eye-popping ability. Romar’s exit – combined with an inability to land a head coaching job elsewhere – made Porter rethink his decision. He decommitted from Washington and decided to follow Cuonzo Martin to Columbia. Missouri now has a top-shelf player to build around, instantly and significantly upgrading its level of ability.
Will Succeed If…
A paint and low-post presence emerges for the team. Porter is a perimeter-based player. He needs an inside force to combine with, giving Missouri balance and diversity in halfcourt situations. It is easy enough to say that Porter needs a second scorer, and surely that will help Missouri, but that’s not quite the whole story, and it’s not precisely what Missouri needs. What Missouri needs is not JUST a second scorer, but a paint scorer – that is the more exact requirement for Martin in his first year as Mizzou’s coach. Martin will be challenged throughout the season to find lineup and rotation combinations which will maximize Porter’s skills and minimize the burden on him to have to do everything for the Tigers. A paint presence is the most direct route to getting Missouri into the NCAA Tournament.
Won’t Succeed If…
Other players stand around and watch Porter, expecting him to do everything. This is the big challenge for the holdovers on a bad Missouri roster from previous seasons under the previous coaching staff. Those players have to do what they can and make sure they can play hard defense, which will enable Porter to focus more on his offense. This is the balance of responsibility and production which the Tigers must seek, but if the other players get caught stargazing at Porter, the whole operation could fall apart very quickly.
Michael Porter Jr.
Schedule & Outlook
So how good is Missouri? We’ll see right away as they’ll host Iowa State on Friday night. The Cyclones aren’t ranked in the Top 25 but that will still be a tough test. The Tigers will also have to go to Utah, and play both Long Beach State and Illinois on neutral sites. Other than that, the non-conference schedule seems pretty easy. How they handle themselves in these games will give us a better idea of whether this team is a one-trick pony or whether there’s more to them.
Porter will be a lottery pick. He will be great for Missouri. The likelihood is that this will be a bubble team, and it’s up to the supporting cast to help Porter make the NCAA Tournament. It will be close.
The 2018 March Madness futures are out. There has been plenty of news to keep up with in the offseason but keep an eye on the betting lines as they move around at Diamond Sportsbook! Get the latest college basketball betting lines right here.
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