Missouri unveiled the bulk of its basketball schedule on Friday afternoon. We know 23 of Mizzou’s scheduled games and know that there will be at least two more in a to-be-determined multi-team event.
But what don’t we know about this season? There’s a lot. The Tigers bring back the most experienced team in the SEC but those same players have finished under .500 for the last two seasons. The optimists believe the core is in place and the experience will lead to a breakthrough 2020-21 and a return to the NCAA Tournament. The skeptics wonder why this year will be any different than the last couple without an infusion of talent and what the direction of the program is.
The answers to those questions and more will be provided on the court, starting 16 days from now when Mizzou hosts Oral Roberts. We run through ten questions that could go a long way toward determining how Mizzou’s season goes and finish with the one everybody is asking.
Just how valuable is experience?
College hoops has become a younger man’s game. The NBA Draft is full of underclassmen because if you spend four years in college it only means you weren’t good enough to leave before then.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t be a good college player. Outside of the traditional powerhouses, the path to success is often paved by teams with veteran players who steadily improved throughout their three or four years in college. The blue-chippers are going to a handful of programs and moving on after 12 to 24 months. The rest of the country needs to use a slow build to accumulate enough talent and experience to put it all together for a big run.
Missouri brings back 88.2% of its minutes from a year ago (nearly 5500 of a possible 6250). The Tigers return their top eight players in terms of minutes per game (Reed Nikko played more total minutes than Jeremiah Tilmon, but Tilmon averaged more per game he played). Cuonzo Martin will have not only the most returning experience in the SEC, but one of the most experienced rosters in the country.
The next step is to turn that experience into success on the court. Veteran players who have played together could be even more important this season than they normally are with summer workouts and practices having been cut short or cut out all together due to the issues caused by COVID-19. Missouri fans are certainly hoping that’s true.
Can anybody make a shot?
Missouri did a lot of things better last year than it had done before. The one thing it didn’t do as well was put the ball in the basket (which, yes, is kind of a big thing).
Mizzou shot just 29.7% from three-point range last season. The Tigers had just one player make more than a third of his attempted threes; that was Mark Smith, who shot 37.1%, but even that was down eight percent from his mark the season before.
They were better, but not nearly enough, inside the arc. They shot 48.7% on two-point attempts, which ranked 204th in the country; the three-point percentage was 326th in college basketball.