I spent a lot of time in Columbia, Missouri. Most of that time was spent drinking and watching Mizzou sports, chiefly football and basketball. Let’s be honest other college sports don’t matter. I managed to get a degree and get out, but I still love the Tigers, even if they are frustrating to root for. Last year the hoops squad went 8-24 under Kim Anderson. One of the games I managed to catch on ESPN was a 93-54 smackdown by the Florida Gators. This was an all-time low for Mizzou Basketball. It was coming on the heels of an abysmal season by the football team. All in all Mizzou Sports were in the honey bucket, with little sign of life.
I’m living out here in Seattle, where the University of Washington was also coming off of a disappointing season. Lorenzo Romar failed to get the Huskies into the NCAA Tournament despite having recruited the #1 player in the country Markell Fultz. Not far down the road at Nathan Hale High School, Michael Porter Jr. and his brother Jontay were fresh of winning the 3A state basketball title. The brothers had transferred to Nathan Hale from Columbia Mo. Their father Michael Porter Sr. had accepted a position on Romar’s staff. Nathan Hale, coached by former NBA all-star and UW graduate Brandon Roy had gone 30-0. Michael Porter Jr. was widely considered the top prospect of the 2017. He committed to play for Romar, opting to stay in Seattle for one season, before his probable declaration for the draft. Then the first Domino fell. Romar was fired and a chain reaction in Mizzou’s favor was about to get set off.
Kim Anderson was out at Mizzou, nobody stays after 8-24. Mizzou needed a great hire to turn this team around, they turned to former Cal coach Cuonzo Martin. Martin resigned from Cal to take the same position at Mizzou, this I found interesting. I didn’t think the University of Missouri job was more attractive than University of California. Cuonzo Martin is from East St. Louis so it’s kinda a return home and his job preceding Cal was at University of Tennessee. I guess a return to the Midwest and the SEC makes sense but I still found it curious.
It was less curious once I saw it all unfold. March 15th was a big day. Romar gets fired, Martin resigns and get hired by Mizzou all on the same day. This means Michael Porter Sr. is out of a job and Michael Porter Jr. is no longer set to play with his dad as an assistant. Porter Jr. asks to be released from his letter of intent which he is granted. The same day his release is official, his father takes a job on Martin’s staff. Porter Jr. is coming to Columbia. An 8-24 team just got the #1 recruit. This doesn’t happen often.
The dominoes would continue to fall. Blake Harris #99 on the ESPN top 100 also decommits from from Washington. He chooses to follow his potential teammate to Columbia in early April. Ok so we got another really good prospect. A-Train is starting to get excited. Meanwhile another firing has the potential to benefit Mizzou. The University of Illinois’ firing of Jim Groece led to Jerimiah Tilmon reopening his recruiting. It seemed a natural fit for the kid out of East St. Louis to go play for coach Martin. On March 15 Tilmon chose Mizzou, bringing his 6’10 frame to Columbia to form a formidable front line with Porter Jr.
At this point the irrational fan inside me is going a little crazy. Mizzou has never pulled in a class quite like this, with 3 top 100 players and the #1 overall. I’m giddy plus now I am hearing that MPJ’s little brother Jontay Porter is going to try to reclassify and join his brother in Columbia next year. That Domino would eventually fall, Jontay will be playing alongside Michael in Columbia next year. The irrational fan meter is at an all time high, throw in 3 star prospect C.J. Roberts and I’m having visions of Fab 5’s and Final 4’s.
It time to pump the breaks we were 8-24 last year remember? Don’t get ahead of yourself A-Train. Last year Washington had Fultz, they still missed the tourney. It’s not unheard of to see a team with a top 10 class miss the tournament. Last year Tom Izzo struggled going 19-14 and got only a #9 seed in the Tournament despite having the #4 ranked class. Mizzou as of right now has the #4 ranked Class in 2017 trailing only traditional powerhouses Duke, Kentucky and Arizona.
So what does Vegas think about Mizzou. I mean I have irrational confidence in this team but what about the odds makers? Surely their expectations are tempered. Nope. Las Vegas is possibly MORE irrational about the University of Missouri than even Truman the Tiger himself. The team that went 8-24 last season now has the 6th best odds to win the National Championship. That is insane.
Vegas must know how many degenerate gamblers there are in Columbia. These odds are way too high. The North Carolina Tar Heels won the fucking title last year and they have the same odds as Mizzou? The point I want to make is that we truly have no idea how this team will perform. Expectations will be through the roof and I’m worried that a team this young might struggle with such lofty expectations. I guess when you get the nation’s top prospect there is no flying under the radar. Did I mention that they also added graduate transfer Kassius Robertson from Canisius? A feisty veteran guard who brings toughness and experience.
What I’m wondering now is, what kind of basketball team will Mizzou be? In theory they could start Tilmon 6’10 252lbs at C. Jontay Porter 6’11 240lbs at PF. Michael Porter Jr. 6’10 215 at SF. That would be an extremely young and talented front line, but also incredibly long. I have no clue how Harris and Roberts will perform but if they can avoid turnovers, learn from a veteran like Kassius Robertson and get the ball into the hands of those frontline players, then I think this team has a lot of potential. So, can they make a Final 4 after going 8-24? I think a lot will depend on MPJ. He will have to be dominant, better than Fultz was last year. He will need to impose his will on the opponents and make the other guys on his team a lot better. Young teams not named Kentucky don’t usually fare well in the tourney. If Porter Jr. can have a Carmelo Anthony like impact on his team, the Final 4 is in play. Young teams usually get better as the season goes along so I expect early struggles, but if they can make it into the NCAA Tournament, nobody will want to play them.