Missouri was expected to be okay last year, with a solid roster and a first-year coach fresh off a D2 national championship. They played like an okay team for about two months, carrying a 7-7 record into the first weekend of conference play. A 13-game losing streak promptly slammed the brakes on whatever momentum the team had, and they staggered across the line at 9-23, having dropped more than 100 places in the KenPom rankings in the process. Needless to say, enthusiasm is tempered coming into this season.
That D2 national champion coach is Kim Anderson, who will be beginning his second season of division one competition this year. It's hard to say exactly what Anderson's style is just by looking at the numbers from last year, unless his goal was to be flat awful in all phases of the game (in which case he nailed it). His team played slowly, was bad on the glass at both ends, turned the ball over too much and didn't force enough turnovers from their opponents. They were about average in three-point frequency at both ends of the court; for that team, that counts as a bright spot.
Keep assistant coach Brad Loos in your prayers, as his five-year-old daughter Rhyan was recently diagnosed with bone cancer. You probably don't have to be a parent to understand what a nightmare that is.
It's pretty cool to have your top two players by usage rate be underclassmen who were first and third on the team in scoring. It's significantly less cool to have them both transfer out, which is what happened to Kim Anderson.
Forward Johnathan Williams III took his 11.9/7.1/0.8 on .412/.344/.617 and packed off to Gonzaga. He wasn't an exceptionally efficient offensive player, but his 9.7% OReb% and 19.1% DReb% will certainly be missed inside. Guard Montaque Gill-Caesar spent just one year at Mizzou, putting up 9.1/3.0/0.5 on .364/.309/.742 shooting. He was clearly a volume scorer, but it's not clear that volume won't be missed. He transferred to San Diego State.
Team assist leader Keith Shamburger graduated, taking his 8.8/3.3/3.9 and his awesome surname on to the next phase of life. Finally, reserve big man Keanu Post only got about a dozen minutes a game, but he was an efficient rebounder at both ends. Like Shamburger, he has exhausted his eligibility.
Rising junior guard Wes Clark is back! He shot .348/.314/.745 on his way to 10.1/3.5/3.1 per game. He wasn't very efficient last year, but he's going to have the ball in his hands a lot this season. Rising sophomore G Namon Wright has good size at 6'5", and he went for 6.8/2.3/0.6 on .414/.388/.556 shooting. Wright is mostly a standing shooter, hitting 40-103 from deep last year.
Rising sophomore F Jakeenan Gant didn't get huge minutes, but he was one of the team's more efficient offensive players on his way to 4.9/2.2/0.3. Rising sophomore Tramaine Isabell is a 6' guard who rounds out the players who scored at least 4 PPG last year. He wasn't a particularly good shooter from anywhere but the line last year, but that didn't stop him trying.
Loads of them. PG Terrence Phillips stands only 5'11" but is a shifty driver with a reliable jumper. He graduated Oak Hill Academy as their career leader in assists, which is no mean feat. His size will obviously be his biggest obstacle at the next level. Joining him in the back court is 6'3" one-time Xavier target KJ Walton. Walton averaged 19 and 5 with 2 steals per game and led his team to back-to-back sectional titles. Walton can score from both guard positions, but his defensive potential will get him on the floor first.
Shooting guard Cullen VanLeer is a 6'4" guard who can really shoot. He has range to 22' and is deadly when he gets his feet set. He plays tough with a high basketball IQ, but his defense and other scoring skills are still works in progress. Kevin Puryear, a 6'7" stretch forward, is the final high school player coming in. He can score inside or facing up; he averaged 20.1 and 7.8 as a senior in high school.
Joining those four are two JuCo guys, Russell Woods and Martavian Payne. Woods and Payne were teammates and John A. Logan College. Woods is a 6'8" forward who went for 14.1/7.2/0.9 on .620/.000/.610 shooting, while Payne is a combo guard good for 15.7/4.4/2.8 on .432/.369/.730 shooting. Everything I've read indicates that both players should be in the mix for minutes right away.
Is this a team just getting settled in with a new coach or a program on a steady slide back to obscurity? The second year of a coach's tenure doesn't make or break him, but it's obviously better to begin showing some sort of progress. Missouri comes into the season with a lot of possessions unaccounted for; if they come together as a dangerous team, it's likely only going to be after Xavier has put them in the rearview.