Sam Snelling of Rock M Nation, the SB Nation Missouri Tigers blog, has done a Q&A with us for the game tonight. As usual, you can find the other half of the Q&A over at Rock M Nation. Go to the lower part of the preview here for the other half of the Q&A.
Now, without further ado, let’s get to the the questions and answers:
1. Kim Anderson is your new coach, and I know he’s been knocked around in Missouri circles over the years. How is he working out so far? What is your prognosis for the future?
Depending on which Missouri fan you talk to, the Anderson hire was either a home run or a huge disappointment. I didn’t love the hire at first, but I’ve come around in a sort of: "Let’s see how this goes" place. I know he can coach, he won a Division II championship while at Central Missouri. Winning championships at ANY level is hard, so you have to give him credit. He was able to both retain Tim Fuller, and hire Rob Fulford to make up for any national recruiting profile problems he might have had. He did a great job with the first recruiting class, the Freshmen class had been a very pleasant surprise. And to top it all off, this team has shown steady improvement during the season. Any skepticism that was had (by rational people that is) before the hire or immediately after the hire should be calmed significantly by these things.
That said, the future is important. His 2015 recruiting class isn’t exciting too many fans at this point. Two 3-star Missouri kids (while missing out on several 4-star Missouri kids) and a fringe top 150 3 star point guard are on board at this point. There’s still some guys out there that they can help immediately, but Missouri needs to get players that can help them compete against Kentucky and Florida to satisfy the fan base. There are some amazing talents in state in the next few years and Anderson needs to keep a few of those guys home. I doubt we’ll land Tatum, but Tyler Cook (‘16) and Michael Porter, Jr (‘17) would make a lot of people feel that Anderson was the right hire.
2. Missouri is a very young team and having a lot of ups and downs. What are the biggest strengths of this year’s Missouri team. Weaknesses?
With all these ups and downs the strengths and weaknesses seem to change, to be honest. Johnathan Williams has been the most consistent guy, up until Auburn he was averaging around 17 points and 9 boards for the last 5-6 games. Missouri needs him to be that, and it’s going to be tough on Tuesday with UK’s front line. Mizzou is also a surprisingly good 3-point shooting team, at about 36% on the year. And the improvement has been a strength as this just isn’t the same team that was so awful early in the year. The problem though is that with their youth, they’re very inconsistent. Missouri doesn’t have 5-star freshmen or sophomores, who when they make mistakes they’re good enough to overcome them. They’ll be really tough in a year, but still trying to figure out how to make it all work this year.
3. Baylor transfer Deuce Bello has been down with academic issues. Is this likely to get worked out anytime soon, or is he unlikely to return this season? How much of an impact has his loss had on Missouri? Same question about Montaque Gill-Caesar (who we recruited some, by the way)?
There has been no word on Bello, which isn’t unusual. The AD has been very mum on disciplinary actions. I wouldn’t expect him to play, and we have no idea why or when he’s coming back. That said, we’re okay without Bello. He’s a nice athlete, but was only getting around 10 minutes a game before the suspension. He is still practicing with the team, and if he comes back I imagine he’ll stay around that 8-12 minutes per game.
MGC, or Teki, has been troubled by a bad back since he was fouled hard by Leron Black against Illinois, and he hadn’t played well since. He is the much bigger loss at this point as he was getting about 30 minutes a game and was the second leading scorer before getting knocked out. The lack of depth really hurt Missouri against Auburn, as they were forced to overextend their Point Guard rotation. Part of the problem with this team is that they have had to be over-reliant on a guy like Teki, who as a freshman is a nice piece and could become an All-Conference player, but he isn’t ready for that load. It’s just sort of exemplary of Missouri’s troubles. Guys that will be really good, who maybe just aren’t quite ready to be the player they need to be right now.
4. Kentucky’s size is a major problem for most teams. How do you think Missouri will fare against it? What, if anything, can the Tigers do to counter the sheer size and length of Kentucky’s front court.
I don’t know. I’m not real excited about Mizzou’s chances in this game.
Missouri did pretty well against LSU who has great front court size, but LSU was clearly the more talented team and they just played so lazy for most of the game. Mizzou capitalized on that and won the game. But LSU’s great frontcourt size is 6‘9, UK is 7‘0. Making shots from the perimeter is important, and Missouri can do that. But they’ve played tough in a lot of games because JW3 has been so good, and I just think he’s going to struggle in this game. They also got contributions from Keanau Post, but he’s not especially skilled, he’s just big and sometimes plays hard. If he plays hard and does so for about 15-20 minutes, that will help.
5. How does this game go? Predict the outcome.
I really really really wish this young Tigers team would have pulled off a win against Auburn the other night because that means they would be 2-1 going into a home game against a not-very-good Tennessee team. I can’t imagine any way in which Missouri wins this game. I know there are Ole Miss fans and A&M fans who may have said the same thing, but both of those teams have experience that Missouri doens’t have. I think this is going to be one of those games that is Mizzou’s shots aren’t falling early, it could get ugly. I think UK’s offense is bad enough that Mizzou can avoid being the next Kansas or UCLA type of victim. But I’d guess it ends up being like 68-46. If it’s less than 15 points, I think Missouri has to feel good about that outcome.
That’s it. It should be a good game tonight. Go, ‘Cats!