Every Missouri basketball fan with an opinion is nearly certain that this year’s men’s team will do the same as last year. Not so fast.
The struggle in trying to get Missouri basketball fans to recognize the differences from this year to last year is absolutely maddening. You can’t do it for the guy who’s already decided that the team is awful, a decision most negative fans made after the Kansas State game.
“Oh, they have the same record through this many games,” or, “oh, they are still losing in their losses by the same margin.” Every fan boy with a calculator thinks they have drummed up some infallible explanation to this year’s team.
To me, it sounds like the negative fans are running out of excu–I mean reasons why this team is so bad.
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We can start off with the first game of the season, if you’re looking to pit last year against this one. I was at Kim Anderson’s first game against the UMKC Kangeroos, and it was awful. There was no cohesion among players, the product looked sloppy, and players were upset after the game.
This season, Missouri started off by playing a moderate Wofford Terriers team and handling them at home. Right off the bat there’s a difference. I don’t want to spend a lot of time playing the blame game, but for the purposes of our argument and comparing this year’s team to last year’s team, there are a couple players now no longer with the team who were not very good. Their absence is noticeable and the players that have taken their place are helping the team tremendously.
Chemistry is a lot better this season. There is still a timid approach for the most part in shot selection, especially among the younger players. But those younger players will gain confidence and begin pulling the trigger at more appropriate times; they are already showing this quality. Ball movement can be crisp at times, but turnovers are still hurting the team.
But the biggest indicator that Missouri isn’t the same team as they were last season is their new cast of core players, K.J. Walton, Kevin Puryear and Terrence Phillips. When any one of those given players have the ball, there’s a much greater chance that something good will happen. Can Missouri rely on the wild inconsistency of Wes Clark bringing the ball up the court? No, that’s what we did last season and we’re already way too familiar with the results of last season.
I’m certainly not saying that Clark is a bad player, he’s extremely valuable on the court, but we cannot rely on him to generate offense and excitement on his own. You can try to say that Jonathan Williams, III, helped compliment Clark last year, but to that point I would play all the clips of Clark pointlessly flailing up-court and losing possession. Again, it was last year, and there’s plenty of better players around Clark now to help compliment him.
So as we enter conference play for 2016, we’ll see if these things will add up to more wins for the Tiger basketball squad. Otherwise, I can already feel my inbox swelling with “I-told-you-so’s” and such.