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Know Your Non-conference Opponent: Missouri

Missouri went from top-tier to also-ran under Frank Haith; will a new coach and a host of new players be enough to turn the program around immediately?

From coaching the Mules to coaching the Tigers sounds like an upgrade to me.
From coaching the Mules to coaching the Tigers sounds like an upgrade to me.
Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Strange things sometimes happen over the summer in college basketball, as Xavier fans are well aware. One of the stranger recent happenings was the departure of Frank Haith - just two years removed from winning the AP National Coach of the Year - from Missouri to Tulsa. Haith's Missouri teams had gotten steadily worse since his arrival, but he wasn't under immediate threat of firing. Instead, he left of his own volition for a job with lower prestige but more security. Anyway, Xavier will be taking on Missouri this season, and here's what the newly Haithless team will look like.

Coach/style:
The new coach is Kim Anderson, late of D2 Central Missouri. Anderson is a disciple of legendary Missouri coach Norm Stewart - even serving as his assistant near the end of Stewart's career - and has numerous ties to the state and the program. More to the point, he was also highly successful as a head coach at Central Missouri, leading them to a 274-94 (.745) mark since taking over for the '02-'03 season. He won the conference five times, made the D2 Final Four three times, and won the national championship last season.

Departures:
It would be an understatement to say that Missouri lost some big pieces over the offseason. Their head coach, for instance, was one. Another was guard Jabari Brown, who led the team with 19.9/4.4/1.9 on .467/.410/.797 shooting. Not only did he put up big numbers, but he played 91.5% of the team's minutes, led them in three-point baskets, ORtg, and EFG%, and drew and avoided fouls at an elite rate. If you think those are good numbers, the Lakers agree with you, which is why he plays his basketball there now.

Following him to LA was 6'5" guard Jordan Clarkson, who put up 17.5/3.8/3.4 on .447/.281/.831 shooting. Though he wasn't as good a shooter as Brown, he spent more time with the ball in his hands, leading the team in assist rate and usage rate. He played 86.8% of the team's minutes and was only a tick behind Brown in drawing and avoiding fouls. Six-foot-five wing Earnest Ross was the team's third leading scorer, and he shot .411/.311/.776 on his way to a game line of 14.0/6.0/1.4. He hit 57 threes, good for second on the team, but now plays his ball for the Perth Wildcats.

Corey Haith left the team for undisclosed reasons.

Returnees:
Not much, obviously. Of the 73 points that the team averaged last season, 55 of them walked out the door. They do have some guys who were nice pieces last season though, including rising sophomore Johnathan Williams III. He is a 6'9" forward who led the team and ranked 33rd in the nation with a 13.8% OReb% last year on his way to a 5.8/6.5/0.7 game line on .454/.364/.565 shooting. He also had a block% of 7.1%, which was 96th in the nation. If he can iron out those free throw problems and stay hungry on the boards, he could be a menace going forward.

Ryan Rosburg is a 6'10", 252-pound rising junior who averaged 4.8/4.1/0.3 in 22 minutes per game last year. His shooting line of .716/.000/.569 seems to hint that his lofty FG% is more a function of getting shots close to the tin than having a superlative stroke. Like Williams III, he can turn away shots at an above-average rate. The only other player coming back who got any meaningful playing time is Wes Clark, a 6'0" rising sophomore guard who averaged 4.1/2.2/2.1 in 20 minutes per game and posted an impressive 20% assist rate. His shooting line of .359/.368/.633 could use some work.

Incoming players:
Deuce Bello becomes eligible, having sat out his year for transferring from Baylor. He is a 6'4" guard who averaged 3 points per game in two years there, but he brings elite athleticism and the potential to be a game-changing defender. Joining him is Keith Shamburger, a graduate transfer from Hawai'i. Shamburger is just 5'11", but he averaged 9.3/3.0/5.4 last year at Hawai'i and is the veteran floor leader that the Tigers desperately need.

At the top of the incoming freshmen is JaKeenan Gant, a 6'8", 210-pound ESPN100 power forward. He is an elite athlete with the bounce to go get it on the glass at both ends. His offensive game is still raw, but he can hit the occasional elbow jumper and get to the rim in transition. D'Angelo Allen is a 6'7", wing who also flashes elite athleticism. He can hit threes if left open, but his primary skills at this point all occur above the rim. Adding bulk may be a priority for Allen, though the Missouri roster already lists him at 220, 30 pounds heavier than he was in high school.

Montaque Gill-Ceasar is a 6'5", 215-pound ESPN100 guard who is already a menacing on-ball defender and solid rebounder. He can hit contested shots out to beyond the three-point arc, and his contributions will increase as he continues to build on his ball-handling skills. Namon Wright is a 6'5" wing with excellent length. He is a scorer with range out behind the arc and the ability to get to the rim with his dominant hand. Strengthening his dribble and maintaining a presence in the game when he's not getting the ball are his biggest growth points right now.

Six-foot-one guard Tremain Isabell rounds out the class. He handles the ball well and can run a team in transition or the half court. He has the skills and burst to penetrate, but his shot is still a work in progress. Rumor has it he is a solid defender, but you don't find a lot of YouTube highlight videos focused on how well a player contains a ballhandler.

Outlook:
The summer was a tumultuous one for Missouri, but it left them in a position much better than it could have. Kim Anderson is a high-quality coach with ties to the program who is getting his first chance to make his name at the highest level. A lot of talent walked out the door at the end of last season, but there are a lot of good players on the roster, especially with that recruiting class. Getting Shamburger eligible was huge for Missouri, who will now face the same question Xavier does of trying to find a way to take a lot of new parts and fit them into a meaningful and competitive whole.