Mizzou basketball faces numerous changes in the upcoming season

Kim Anderson

By Morgan Magid, 23 Sports

Monday, Oct. 13-

For most fans, the term “rebuilding year” is associated with a series of low expectations, something the University of Missouri men’s basketball team is not accustomed to. Previous head coach Frank Haith left the program in April for the University of Tulsa, causing Mizzou to hire alumnus Kim Anderson to take over a team with very little experience on its roster.

Coming off 12 seasons at the University of Central Missouri, Anderson went 274-94, won four division titles, made seven D2 tournament appearances and won the national championship twice in 2009 and 2014.

Having the 2014 division two Coach of the Year leading this young team should be a positive change in the program. Anderson’s coaching method should elicit a more balanced style of play from the Tigers. Previously under Haith, Mizzou’s defensive primarily used a 2-3 zone. However, Anderson is likely to employ a more man-to-man focused defense, taking advantage of the team’s young athleticism.

The offense will be experiencing shifts as well. Last winter, three players averaged about 50 points per game combined, equalling 69 percent of the team’s toal offensive output. Where Mizzou will be missing the scoring power and creativity of the three, Jabari Brown, Jordan Clarkson and Earnest Ross, better distribution across the board will establish enhanced team chemistry and help set a precedent for unselfish basketball.

Disciplinary issues and dropouts have placed a negative atmosphere around the team going into preseason. Not only did Mizzou’s premiere transfer from Notre Dame, Cameron Biedscheid, leave the program in early October, but sophomore forward Torren Jones was kicked off the team in August for violating unknown team rules.

Suspensions have also rattled the team. Freshmen Jakeenan Gant and D’Angelo Allen were previously suspended for three weeks for arrests under the suspicion of third-degree assault. Gant’s absence was a particular problem, as he is perhaps the most promising young player on the team. The four star recruit out of Georgia will give Mizzou more size on the perimeter and should improve its transition play.

With so much drama already in the team’s camp, strong leadership will be necessary. Of the team’s four upperclassmen, half have never actually played a minute for Mizzou. Where the leaders on the team will show up is still unknown.

Unlike football, the SEC is not known for its depth. Florida and Kentucky will likely separate from the pack, given that these perennial programs rarely falter with such deep recruiting classes and sharp coaches. Alabama and a hungry Georgia team will also be contenders for top spots in the conference, leaving Mizzou with plenty of room to improve on a mediocre 9-9 performance in conference play.

Along with its SEC games, Missouri’s non-conference schedule has its ups and downs. The team’s first real test will come on Nov. 24 against an Arizona team that finished in the Elite Eight last season and retained most of its previous roster. Scattered games against Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Xavier will hopefully bolster the Tigers’ credibility come tournament season.

Last winter was the first time Missouri did not receive a bid to the NCAA tournament in six seasons. A tournament birth this season should be possible even with the inexperienced roster. With an entire new system to learn and almost an entirely new team, Tiger fans are going to have be patient with this team.