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Know Your Non-conference Opponent: Missouri

Coach Steele will push the men on to Missouri in December to take on the Tigers in a rematch of a second-round matchup that never happened.

NCAA Basketball Tournament - First Round - Nashville
This guy is almost as good as his brother, a fact that I’m sure he loves hearing all the time.
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

On December 16, 1811, at some borderline godless hour in the morning, the New Madrid fault in and around New Madrid, Missouri was rocked by an earthquake somewhere in the neighborhood of 7.9 on the Richter scale. Just six hours later, an after shock of barely lesser magnitude rocked the same region, though by that time at least people were up and checking Twitter for updates and whatnot.

To commemorate the event, Xavier will be playing Missouri at their place just two days after the 207th anniversary of the giant earthquake. It’s a Tuesday at 7pm and there are probably still tickets available. If you can’t get in or don’t want to risk death by seismic activity, it will be broadcast on ESPNU.

Missouri is led by Counzo Martin, who is in many ways the perfect man for the job. Like Missouri, he has name recognition, seems like he should be a big deal when you see his name pop up, and hasn’t actually accomplished as much as you think he has. Despite three-year stints at Tennessee and Cal before his current appointment, he has just three NCAA tournament bids and a 2-3 tournament record in seven seasons at the high-major level.

Key departures

Kassius Robertson, G (16.3/3.0/2.3, .422/432/.795)
Jordan Barnett, F (13.7/5.9/1.1, .449/.414/.890)

Most of the press on Missouri was on the Porter brothers, but one only played three games and the other one is coming back. Robertson and Barnett, however, were the key dudes on last year’s Missouri team. They shot 44% and 42% from deep and combined to hit 187 threes on the year. Barnett was the team’s most efficient offensive player and a solid rebounder, and Robertson poured home buckets from all over. As one would assume from two guys who take 30 PPG out the door with them, these are big losses for the Tigers.

Key returnees

Jontay Porter, So., 6’11” F (9.9/6.8/2.2, .437/.364/.750)
Kevin Puryear, Sr., 6’7” F (8.6/4.3/0.8, .441/.255/.824)
Jeremiah Tilmon, So., 6’10” F (8.2/4.2/0.5, .564/.000/.526)
Jordan Geist, Sr., 6’2” SG (7.3/3.8/2.9, .437/.367/.700)

Porter is a monstrous, positionless big man. He crushes the glass and is a borderline elite rim protector, but he also jarred 40 threes at a 36.7% clip and had an assist rate of over 20%. He’s just super good at basketball, basically.

Puryear is a good glue guy: solid defender, decent offensive rebounder, decent scorer as long as you don’t ask him to shoot threes. Tilmon is all action in the paint, especially on the offensive glass. He’s basically dreadful at scoring from outside of the paint and has a real turnover problem.

Jordan Geist is an interesting case. He has grown into a pretty solid shooter from deep, but he was like the fourth option on the team in that regard last year. This year he might get a lot more looks as a senior, and I think he is poised for a breakout. You heard it here first, unless you already heard it somewhere else. He’s also a solid ball distributor.

Incoming players

KJ Santos, So., 6’8” F
Torrence Watson, Fr., 6’4” SG

Santos was a top 50 recruit out of high school before injuries derailed the end of his prep career and he landed at UIC. He left UIC for a JuCo after averaging 7 and 4 as a freshman, didn’t play a minute in the JuCo ranks as far as I can find, and then transferred to Missouri. By the time he steps onto the court for Missou, he’ll be a 20-year-old sophomore who hasn’t played in game action for two seasons. He might be a monster in the paint who can step out and shoot it, or he might be an incredibly rusty shadow of a former top recruit who can’t stay healthy.

Watson is a bucket-getter who was a four-star guy in every meaningful scouting service. He was the Missouri Gatorade Player of the Year and holds his school’s record for scoring in a season and in a career. He can score at all three levels and has added 20 pounds (presumably of muscle) since last summer. He should be an immediate impact player for the Tigers.

Two months after the 1811 earthquake on the New Madrid fault, another one hit, completely leveling the town in February of 1812. The US Geological Survey and FEMA agree that there’s a nearly 50% chance of an earthquake of 6.0 or higher on the Richter scale on that fault in the next 50 years and about a 10% chance of one rivaling the 1811-1812 event.

Missouri lost two big scorers from last year, but they have a lot of talent coming back and a couple of interesting pieces jumping in. If Martin can pull this squad together, they might be able to make the run a lot of people were predicting from them last year. On the other hand, if he could do that on a reliable basis, he probably wouldn’t be on his third high-major program already.