Missouri Basketball: Tigers showing resilience without big-name players

COLUMBIA, MO - DECEMBER 05: Michael Porter Jr.
COLUMBIA, MO - DECEMBER 05: Michael Porter Jr. /

Michael Porter, Jr. has been sidelined since the beginning of the season, Blake Harris transferred to NC State, and the Missouri Tigers are still winning.

What happens when a team loses its star player two minutes into the season? The unthinkable happened to Missouri when freshman phenom Michael Porter, Jr. left the game with an apparent back injury.

Since MPJ’s departure, he underwent successful back surgery, but has been sidelined for an undetermined length of time. In that span, the Tigers also lost guard Blake Harris. Despite foul-happy refs and a young team, Mizzou finds ways to win.

Harris left Missouri for his reasons. While it may not make sense to you or me, it did to him, so why keep someone who would rather be somewhere else? The personnel losses may hurt us, but the team is still winning on the court.

Missouri Tigers Basketball
Missouri Tigers Basketball /

Missouri Tigers Basketball

In the last few games, the Tigers have shown their mettle, battling against the odds and doubters. Meanwhile, Michael Porter, Jr. watches from the bench.

Some would take this opportunity to bash MPJ for not assuring us of his return this year, or next, or whether he’ll declare for the NBA Draft than return for a second year at Mizzou. Others might, tongue-in-cheek, congratulate Harris for leaving, due to an assumed perception of his frustration of MPJ’s absence.

Maybe, if Missouri was having as poor a season as it’s had over the last three years, I would feel differently. I too might have a case of “sour grapes.” But I can’t find it anywhere from within, to be upset with a team that works hard, has grown and shows resilience in its own version of adversity.

From the word go this season, fans have been waiting for the other shoe to drop. First it was Michael Porter, Jr.’s back. We’ve been looking over our collective shoulder, while giving the team vacant looks, because we are somewhere between “shell-shock” and awe.

Take away the fact Michael Porter, Jr. withdrew his letter of intent from Washington and decided to play at Mizzou, did any of us think that the Tigers would be a four-loss team at this point of the season?

But here they are, 12-4, without MPJ and Harris. Of course, there’s a second part to that tale: Without Michael Porter, Jr., would Missouri have landed the additional talents of Jontay Porter, Jeremiah Tilmon or Kassius Robertson? Probably not, and maybe.

But the Tigers have who they have – they are who they are, and even without two key members, they continue to fight and find ways to win, because they’re still quite talented. Now imagine, if you will, how this team will transform if MPJ is medically cleared to return when the NCAA tournament arrives.

Next: Lock in the fold for Mizzou

Imagine, also, how much Missouri basketball will transform in 2018-19, if Michael Porter, Jr. decides to play for the Tigers a second year, and Mizzou keeps the core of its recruiting class. Right now, however, the Tigers are getting the job done with the men who are able. Let’s live in the moment; anyone can while it away with “what could have been,” or what has yet to come.