Mizzou basketball is younger but deeper this year. Coach Cuonzo Martin believes they can make a run to the NCAA Tournament again.
It’s Year 3 of the Cuonzo Martin era for Mizzou basketball, and the Tigers are young and taking shape under their head coach.
Mizzou will be deeper and able to shoot this season. The past two years, Martin has dealt with injuries and movement of all sorts. Now, it appears the team has a chance to gel together, with only one senior in Reed Nikko on the roster.
This year, it looks like the Tigers are built for a two-year go at improving and winning basketball games. With a young roster built around sophomores and freshmen, Martin has a chance to show off what his program will be built around for years to come.
The go-to guys appear to be junior Jeremiah Tilmon and sophomore Javon Pickett, and Mizzou also brings back now-junior Mark Smith, who missed 13 games last year with a foot injury. Tilmon was selected as a second-team preseason All-SEC member by the coaches Monday.
Sophomore guard Xavier Pinson likely begins the year as the point guard. Pinson spent a year growing in 2018, sitting behind senior Jordan Geist. Now, Pinson has a junior who will push for time.
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The Tigers have plenty of shooters, unlike last year, and the top outside threat could be transfer Dru Smith, who had to sit out last season after leaving Evansville. Freshmen Kobe Brown, Tray Jackson and Mario McKinney Jr. give Martin a handful of solid recruits to build this year’s base around as well.
The Tigers bring back sophomore Torrence Watson and junior Mitchell Smith, who continue to gain experience in the SEC and look to improve along with the Tigers. Watson and Smith can knock the 3 down, and add another pair who can stretch defenses this season.
Parker Braun, Brooks Ford, Axel Okongo and Evan Yerkes round out the roster of 15 players for this year’s Tigers.
This team will play hard. You likely won’t see a basketball team while Martin courtside that doesn’t. But wins need to come with it. Mizzou fans want to see a competitive basketball team, and this team took its lumps last year. But hopefully it was for a good reason.
With a schedule set up for success, Mizzou has a chance to gain some momentum and pick up quality wins. The Tigers play quality out-of-conference opponents in Xavier, Wofford, Butler, Temple, Illinois and West Virginia. The Tigers also play either Oklahoma or Stanford. That’s a lot of good teams. Then Mizzou tips off its conference slate with a trio of tough games in Kentucky, Tennessee and Florida.
The media picked Mizzou to finish 14th in the SEC, but this conference likely will be tough to pick up wins throughout for any team. The SEC could get around six or seven teams into the NCAA Tournament this year, and outside of Kentucky and Florida, it’s tough to say who else will get in right now.
Martin set the team up with resume-building games, and hopefully the Tigers can take advantage of that.
Mizzou basketball should be improved in Year 3 to say the least. After making the tournament two years ago, the Tigers fell back and had a losing record last year. They aren’t far away from breaking through and being in the top half of the conference. But it also could be another year of growth.