Roberto Soltero, 23 Sports

It’s been a season filled with many headlines for Missouri Men’s Basketball Team. The team entered the season with a new coach in Cuonzo Martin and with three new freshmen. The Tigers landed the top prospect in the nation in Michael Porter Jr. and his younger brother, Jontay. They also landed big man, Jeremiah Tilmon. With these additions, the Tigers look poised to return to the NCAA Tournament and make a deep run. That’s when it all came started to spiral down a bit.

The Tigers haven’t made it to the big dance since since 2013, and haven’t had a winning season in 4 years. On Nov. 10 the Tigers prepared for their first game of the season against Iowa State in front of a packed Mizzou Arena. Two minutes into the game the worst thing that could happen, happened. Michael Porter Jr. exited the game with an apparent back injury and did not play the rest of the game. On Nov. 21, the team called a press conference to reveal that Porter will have spinal surgery and would be out for the rest of the season. All of the preseason hype seemed to disappear.

The injury to Porter was not the only blow the Tigers faced this season. In January the team lost two of its ball handlers. Freshmen guard Blake Harris decided to transfer and junior Terrence Phillips was suspended from the team after a violation of team policy. The Tigers lost three of their next four games to end the month of January. Tournament hopes began to look even more bleak.

The Tigers ended the month of January with a huge win over Alabama, and used that momentum to string together a four game winning streak. The streak was highlighted with the programs first win over Kentucky. The Tigers lost three straight games in the middle of February but ended the game with two straight wins including one against rival Arkansas.

All season long the team has received tremendous contributions from all over the lineup. Senior transfer guard, Kassius Robertson, has been amazing for the Tigers after the loss of Harris and Phillips. Robertson won two straight SEC Player of the Week awards and was named All SEC first-team. The Tigers have received tremendous help from freshmen bigs, Jontay Porter and Jeremiah Tilmon. Senior Forward Jordan Barnett was also amazing in the month of February, having the hot hand from deep.

The Tigers ended the season with a 20-11 record and head to the SEC Tournament as the No. 5 seed. Missouri received great news one week before the season was over and it was that Michael Porter Jr. was cleared to play again. According to multiple reports, he plans to play in the SEC Tournament. This is also huge because the Tigers lost yet another player in their game against Arkansas. Junior Cullen Van Leer tore his ACL and is out for the season.

Now the Tigers head to St. Louis to face the winner of Georgia and Vanderbilt on Thursday.  Assuming Porter Jr. returns, Martin probably won’t rely on him fast in the first game of the tournament.

Mizzou will have to play some very tough teams in this tournament including the likes of Kentucky, Auburn, Texas A&M, Tennessee and Florida. However, they will have the home court advantage due to the tournament being held in St. Louis.

If the Tigers want to play deep into tournaments, they need to get better at controlling the ball better. The Tigers commit 14 turnovers per game. The team has struggled inbounding the ball many times in the season and this has almost cost them games. The Tigers has also struggled at various points at knocking down their free throws.

One of the things that’s helped Missouri a lot in the season is the ability to make the three-point shot. This team has an ability to do much damage if they get on fire early in games. Almost everyone on the team has the ability to shoot from long range. Even though the Tigers might get back Michael Porter Jr., they need Kassius Robertson and Jordan Barnett to keep scoring the ball for the last month of the season.

With the loss of Van Leer it wouldn’t be surprising if Cuonzo Martin starts Jordan Geist for their next game. The team has been good when both Robertson and Geist are on the floor. Geist does much of the ball handling while Robertson has the ability to get open and create his own shot. Martin needs his bigs to battle out for more rebounds.

Jeremiah Tilmon and Jontay Porter each had great ends to the season, including great performances against Arkansas. Porter scored 19 points and grabbed eight rebounds while Tilmon scored 17 and grabbed nine boards.

The Tigers will face the winner of Georgia and Vanderbilt on Thursday at 2:30.