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2020 SEC Basketball Previews: Missouri Tigers

2020 SEC Basketball Previews: Missouri Tigers

Cuonzo Martin is entering his fourth season with Missouri, his longest stint at any program so far. Last year slightly exceeded expectations with a fairly balanced team that for the most part entirely returns. Missouri has a good opportunity to build on what they had in 2019 and make a run at the top half of the SEC.

2019 Record: 15-16 (7-11), T-10th in SEC

Key Returners: (G) Dru Smith, (G) Xavier Pinson, (G) Mark Smith, (F) Jeremiah Tilmon, (G) Javon Pickett, (F) Kobe Brown, (F) Mitchell Smith

Key Additions: None

Key Losses: None

2019 Season

2019 was expected to be somewhat of a rebuilding year. The Tigers weren’t necessarily a bad team but they weren’t good either. Missouri posted an 8-5 record out of conference with a schedule that featured the likes of Oklahoma, West Virginia, Xavier and Butler. While none of those were bad losses, a home loss to Charleston Southern was an eye sore going into conference play.

The 7-11 mark in the SEC showed a little improvement from their 5-13 record in 2018. Their mid February win against No.11 Auburn helped give them some late season momentum. They finished conference play with a 6-6 record which is a good sign for the upcoming season.

Offense was a struggle at times for Missouri. They relied heavily on second chance points and scoring from the free throw line. The entire team saw a big dip in their three point shooting last year as well, something they’ll want to turn around for 2020.

2020 Season

Projected Starting Lineup: Xavier Pinson (G, Jr), Dru Smith (G, Sr), Mark Smith (G, Sr), Kobe Brown (F, So), Jeremiah Tilmon (F, Sr)

Starters
2020 SEC Basketball Previews: Missouri Tigers
Xavier Pinson’s (1) 28 points helped Missouri dominate Auburn at home last year. (Photo by newstribune.com.)

Missouri returns basically their entire team from last season. They return the team’s top seven scorers as well as seven of the right top rebounders. Throw in a full-length healthy season for Jeremiah Tilmon and there’s reason to believe this team could exceed expectations.

Missouri’s backcourt has the potential to be among the strongest in the conference. Xavier Pinson blossomed before our eyes last season as he became the Tigers most lethal offensive weapon by season’s end. Pinson scored 24 in the win against Arkansas, then 28 a week later to knock off Auburn, and finally scored a season high 32 in a win against Ole Miss.

Dru Smith will be the best all around player for the Tigers. He led the team in scoring and assists last year while also pulling down 4.2rpg. Additionally he is one of the best returning defenders in the conference after leading the SEC in steals last year.

Mark Smith is the sharp shooter, leading the team with a 37.1% three-point percentage. This was down from his 45% mark his sophomore year so don’t be surprised if he shoots in the 40% range again. He has good size and length which translates well to his defense where he was second on the team last year in steals per game.

Kobe Brown and Jeremiah Tilmon likely round off the frontcourt. Tilmon saw a shortened season last year due to injury and is hoping for a breakout year this season. Brown saw a lot of action last year largely because of the Tilmon injuries. He had the usual freshman jitters and will need to turn in a more efficient sophomore season.

Reserves

Javon Pickett will likely be the first off the bench. He averaged the second most minutes on the team and plays solid defense and cleans up the glass well. His issues have come offensively as he shot just 38.9% last year.

2020 SEC Basketball Previews: Missouri Tigers
Mitchell Smith (5) shot 85.4% from the free throw line, helping the Tigers to 11th best in the nation. (Photo by rockmnation.com.)

Frontcourt relief will come from Mitchell Smith who’s playing time nearly doubled last season. Smith was the team’s top rebounder and brings a respectable three-point shot to his game. He did get in foul trouble a lot for logging just under 22 minutes per game.

Torrence Watson and Drew Buggs are two more reserves likely to fill the backcourt. Watson was 2018’s top recruit in the Tiger’s class coming in at No.112 nationally. His numbers dipped across the board last year compared to a good freshman year.

Buggs is a Hawaii transfer who will be a versatile guard for Cuonzo Martin. He’s led the Big West in assists for two years in a row and was also voted to Honorable Mention All-Big West in both those years. He is the Rainbow Warriors all time leader in assists and started all three seasons.

Missouri has a widely balanced team with a lot of experience. They have the ability to flirt with the upper half of the SEC this year but Tilman will have to really emerge as a presence down low. A Missouri offense that has struggled under Cuonzo has to find a true scorer this year. Whether that’s Pinson continuing a hot end of the season, Mark Smith firing off from three range again or Dru Smith, somebody has to make a jump this year.

Prediction: 11th

 

 

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