Chat Mizzou sports with Dave Matter at 11 a.m. Thursday

Chat Mizzou sports with Dave Matter at 11 a.m. Thursday

Bring your Tigers football, basketball and recruiting questions, and talk to Mizzou beat writer Dave Matter in a live chat at 11 a.m. Thursday.

    Greetings, Mizzou fans. Thanks for stopping by for today's chat. I'll be here for the next few hours. Let's get it started.
    Before we get to your questions, Mizzou just officially announced Jethro Franklin as the team's new defensive line coach. This was reported last week and Eli Drinkwitz confirmed it was happening on Monday. Lots of college and NFL experience.
    Good morning Dave,
    The Tigers are just a mediocre team when Mark Smith does not contribute. Granted, last year he had some injury issues, but thus far this year his game has regressed.
    Is bench time and letting Torrance Watson step into the starting role an answer? Watson's contribution level is nearly non-existent and his development has not occurred.
    Maybe start Javon at the 3?
    Talk to me.
    John L
    I wouldn't agree with that premise. Mark was a non-factor offensively in the win over Tennessee and the win over Texas A&M. Missouri has proven it can win without Mark being a major scorer - as long as Dru Smith or Pinson are having a strong night. Mark is still a solid perimeter defender. He's a threat from 3 but, as you point out, just hasn't consistently found his stroke. As Martin said after the Auburn game, he's inexplicably releasing his shot from well beyond the 3-point line. I also think he's passed up some open looks, which makes you wonder about his confidence level. 
    Watson just isn't going to be much of a factor this year. Martin likes him a lot, but he's clearly not in the core rotation for a reason.
    Pickett has always been better off the bench. I'm not sure it's time to mess with the starting lineup. All that impacts is the opening minutes. Pickett still plays heavy minutes whether he's first on the floor or enters after at the first timeout. 
    Do you have any information on the spring game and what the attendance will be for baseball games
    Mizzou has only said that spring practices will "conclude" on March 26. I don't know if that means they'll actually have a spring game or not. The school has not made any formal announcement on crowd capacities for baseball games. I imagine they will allow limited crowds, which shouldn't be a problem at a stadium that's rarely crowded.
    The game against Auburn was very hard to watch with all the fouls called against Mizzou players. I know Coach Martin plays strictly man to man but do you think going to a zone defense could've reduced the fouls and also contained Sharife Cooper?
    A zone might have made a difference, but Martin just isn't a zone coach. He wanted to play some zone defense his first year because of all the unique length that team had with the Porters and Tilmon, but once MPJ was sidelined, he scraped those plans - and hasn't really talked about playing any zone since then. Would it have been a good idea? Perhaps, but it's just not in his coaching DNA.
  • Hey Dave. Don't want to beat a dead horse, but he's now a senior, his injuries are apparently behind him, and he seems to have good verticle driving to the hoop with his big body. So what the hell is the story with Mark Smith? I really root for the young man, but he's been clanking plenty of 3's, then commits a silly foul or loses the ball out of bounds. If he makes even 40 percent of his 3's, that will open up the inside for Tillmon even more. Gotta be in his head ... and yes, I saw Cuonzo's take on what ails Mark.
    He's clearly struggling, and you can usually tell if he's going to have a good scoring night a few minutes into the game. I would imagine it's a confidence issue with Mark. When he's passing up open shots, that's a good indicator that he's lost some faith in his jumper - or he just doesn't feel comfortable. I think he should drive to the basket more often. Shot fake and drive. He's too good of a shooter to average only 3.4 FTs a game - though that's nearly twice as many as he averaged last year.
    Realistically, we could and should start 6-0 in football. But we're Mizzou so what do you think will go wrong?
    The consensus response to yesterday's schedule news from Mizzou fans was that the first six games will be "easy." More manageable? Yes, definitely. Easy? Let's not forget, outside of the Vanderbilt game, Mizzou didn't have an easy win in 2020. There will be nothing easy about a Week 2 visit to Kentucky. I had Boston College right behind Mizzou in my early preseason Top 25. I like their QB and their coach, Jeff Hafley. That's a quietly solid test for Mizzou in nonconference action. By week five, Tennessee is going to have its offense cooking under Josh Heupel. I'm  not sold on that being a brilliant hire by any means, but the Tigers were barely competitive against the Vols team that just went 3-7 ... so I wouldn't say beating a Vols team with a clue on offense an easy matchup. 
    Clearly it's a backloaded scheduled, but we still don't know much about how Mizzou is going to improve its defense. Does it have enough playmakers to be more explosive on offense. Drinkwitz is going to miss a really good running back who's in Mobile, Alabama this week at the Senior Bowl. Lots of unanswered questions still with the 2021 Tigers. 
     
    What's your take on Heupel going to Tennessee?
    I wrote a lot about the hire yesterday. In short, I think it's a solid but not spectacular hire. The Vols will have an identity on offense. They'll score points. They'll put stress on teams that don't have elite talent on defense. Long-term, can Heupel and his staff recruit at a level that will close the gap on the best teams in the SEC? His track record is iffy. Long-term, can he run a program that develops a defense that can complement an offensive philosophy that puts stress on its own defense with its feast-or-famine style? His track record is iffy. 
    I tweeted yesterday about dealing with the media not being Josh's favorte part of the job - and that apparently got some traction in Vol Nation. (My phone blew up from Tennessee radio stations wanting to talk about the topic.) Essentially, Heupel isn't someone who really cares about the PR part of the job. He doesn't let his guard down personally and doesn't divulge too much about his offense. I like the guy - to the point I wish he would have shared more in his two years at Mizzou. But he just isn't interested in self-promotion. That's completely fine. If he wins a bunch of games in Knoxville, the fans will love him. Will the pressure cooker of that job make the job harder for him? Maybe not. Some coaches are hyper sensitive to every negative word said, written and tweeted about them in every forum. Others are blissfully unaware of the criticism. If Heupel shuts out the noise (i.e. Vol Twitter), he'll be just fine. 
    Here's what I wrote yesterday ... 

    Look who's back in the SEC East: Josh Heupel takes over at Tennessee

    STLtoday.com: Former Mizzou coordinator overhauled the offense in Columbia, but can he lead the Volunteers back to relevancy?
    Looks like Drink will have to get creative with the running game next season. I can't see Badie holding up if he's asked to carry the ball like Rountree did. It may be more running back by committee with Badie featured as a pass catcher out of the backfield where he's proven to be effective. Thoughts?
    In three college seasons, Badie has 10 games where he's carried the ball more than 10 times - and never more than 16 carries. So, yes, asking him to take on Rountree's high-volume workload would be asking Badie to do something he's never done at this level. He can certainly handle a bigger workload than he took on last year, but as long as Drinkwitz wants to have that downhill rushing attack that's been a staple of his offenses, then he's going to have to identify more ball-carriers. Maybe that's Elijah Young, who got a taste of playing time as a freshman. Maybe that's Dawson Downing, who only got minimal touches this past year. Maybe that's one of the two incoming freshmen, Taj Butts or BJ Harris. Maybe a transfer  hits the portal this offseason. Whatever happens, it's one of the biggest story lines heading into the season. Rountree was such a focal point of this offense. His production was essential to MU's success.
  • About Mark Smith trying to get to the FT line, unfortunately he's a poor ball handler so it's hard for him to get to the rack. I think he just is what he is, and Mizzou does not have better options.
    I do agree that it's unrealistic at this point to expect a sudden breakthrough for Smith. He's a good college guard. He plays hard defense. He's probably not the athlete that some billed him as. Injuries clearly have impacted his career. He's had problems handling the ball in traffic, because that's  not his natural skill. His touch around the basket hasn't been great. The guy can jump and attack the rim but he does that sparingly.
    Did Ryan Walters have a conflict with HCED or does he have a pervious relationship with Bielima or did he just need a change? Moving from SEC Mizzou to Big10 Illinois seems like a step down. Everything I have read about Wilks seem positive so I hope he is able to get the defense to tighten up like they did against KY and avoid the 50-48 wild games they played at the end of the season.
    I don't know what was exchanged specifically between Drinkwitz and Walters after the season, but as I've said here and elsewhere for weeks, Drinkwitz was not concerned about having to find a replacement for Walters. Did he explicitly tell him to look for another job? I haven't had anyone confirm that. Illinois definitely reached out to Walters first - and the fact that he was so eager to interview with Bielema, tells me he understood that he wasn't on solid ground at Mizzou. In the end, it might have worked out well for both sides. Walters gets a fresh start with a coach who went out of his way to hire him, which is a lot different than retaining him from a prior regime. Drinkwitz got to explore the market and interview his own candidates for the job.
    It's amazing Mizzou has won 10 games with the offensive lapses that seems to affect almost every game. Also, every opponent seems to be more athletic. It may work this season because of the experience, but moving forward the shooting/offense and athleticism has to improve. Agree?
    Missouri has won some games this year without being great offensively. In the wins over Arkansas, Ilinois and Texas A&M, the Tigers were average to below average in terms of offensive efficiency, which means they've been good enough in other areas to survive those offensive lapses. 
    At the same time, their four least efficient offensive games have included all three losses (plus the Bradley game, which was incredibly close to being  a loss.) Turnovers don't impact whether they win or lose as much as two other key factors: shooting and offensive rebounding. Their worst shooting and worst offensive rebounding games have been their losses. 
    Bottom line, if you're going to have an off night shooting - from inside or outside the arc - you better have a great night on defense, a great night on the boards, hit your free throws and avoid a stash of fouls. 
    As you pointed out, this team has struggled against teams with elite athleticism. That was the case against Auburn. Though Mizzou was the better team when Sharife Cooper wasn't on the floor. He was the kind of player who made all those surrounding athletes more productive because of the attention he earned on the floor. 
    What’s up with Parker Brown? He’s a 6’8” guy which it seems like he should be able to give some of the starters a rest if he’s not ready to start yet. He’s only averaging 7 minutes a game and didn’t play again vs. Auburn. Is he hurt or is he in Cuinzo’s doghouse?
    No injury that I know of. Martin tends to trim his rotation later in the season, and for whatever reason Braun is not in the mix right now. Martin has been either hot or cold on Braun the last two years. There's rarely any in-between with him. I'll ask him tomorrow when he meets with the media.
  • I see Badie as a Terry Mefcate type of player. Yes I was a Football Cardinal fan!
  • Old school reference. I can dig it
    Saturday’s game vs TCU looks like it might be a pretty even match. Both teams have beaten Liberty and TXAM. TCU lost 3 in a row vs Baylor, Oklahoma and Kansas, but that was not unexpected since those are elite teams in the Big12. TCU isn’t ranked but Mizzou has the home court which I hope will be the deciding factor between 2 teams who look to be evenly matched.
    I don't know if I'd call it an even matchup. TCU is coming off three straight blowouts and plays Kansas tonight. Last three margins of defeat: 29 points, 18 points, 36 points. 
    Using KenPom numbers, Mizzou has the advantage against TCU both on offense and defense. TCU is a really bad FT shooting team, so this is a matchup where Missouri can play its typically physical defense and not get punished if the fouls pile up. 
    Dave, back in the 2020 recruiting class it seemed like one of the jewels of the class was Javian Hester. I don’t think he played at all in 2020, or at least I didn’t notice him play. Do you have any insight why, as I found it odd guys like Chance Luper who were “lower” ranked guys out of high school had opportunities to play this past season.
    Hester did not play. He was in quarantine at one point during the season, and that time away could have set him back as far as earning playing time. Not sure if he actually had COVID or was just in contact tracing, but there was a point early in the year when Drinkwitz said he expected Hester to start get some playing time. It just never happened. Mizzou's depth at receiver doesn't change a whole lot this year other than the loss of Hazelton and a couple additions. So, he's going to have to work to earn a role. It's a really important spring for some of those young players who are looking to make an impression on the staff.
    I would really like to see Missouri play some games in St. Louis at the Dome and Enterprise Center, any scheduled in the next few years?
    Well, there's the Braggin' Rights Game. That will return to St. Louis in 2021, assuming teams are back to a semblance of normal scheduling. Missouri doesn't have any football games scheduled for St. Louis. There's the upcoming series with Illinois from 2026-29 and 2032-35, but those are all scheduled for campus games. The schools could work out some neutral-site change of venues, but as of now they'll be played in Columbia and Champaign. If we learned anything in 2020, these schools can adjust schedules on the fly.
    Dave, I have 2 questions. 1) Due to COVID, I noticed that Connor Bazelak can technically qualify as a freshman despite this being his third year. Suppose he has an absolute breakout year and gets some NFL looks, could he still leave for the draft despite being a freshman as I believe the qualification for leaving for the NFL is being out of high school for 3 years. 2) Similarly, the MBB has a bunch of seniors. Do they still have the opportunity to return next season (although it’s probably unlikely) if they so choose, or is the “freebie” year only for football?
  • 1. The NFL draft rule is you have to be three years out of high school to be eligible for the draft. So, yes, Bazelak would be eligible to enter the 2022 NFL draft even though he'll be just a redshirt freshman this coming season.
    2. Yes, every player on the current basketball roster would  be eligible to return for the 2021-22 season. I don't expect many/any of the seniors to come back for another year. Martin said this summer he wouldn't expect them to return either. Three of the five seniors are in their fifth year of college and have all been through some major injuries: Dru & Mitchell Smith and Drew Buggs. At some point, guys want to move on with their lives. That said, I imagine Martin would gladly welcome any of them back for next year. All five are respected guys within the program and would be assets for next year's team, some more than others but welcomed back nonetheless.
    I noticed that Sean Durugordon enrolled early and is listed on the roster. In prior years I believe players had to sit until the next season to get playing time, but rules have changed quite a lot since then. I think it’s safe to say he won’t get any playing time, but is he allowed to play or is he just on the roster at the moment to gain some experience?
    Durugordon could play if Martin wanted him on the court this season, because the year doesn't count against anyone's eligibility clock. Martin does not plan to play him this year. He's using the semester to get accustomed to classes, workouts, etc.
    Update on new D-line coach Jethro Franklin. MU confims that he's agreed to a two-year contract that pays him $400K for 2021 and $425K in 2022. 
    Some updated bookkeeping here: This year, Mizzou will play Wilks and Franklin $1.4 million, once you include Wilks' retention bonus next February, assuming he's still on the staff after his first year. If Wilks maxes out on his 2022 retention bonuses, then their combined salaries will be $1.825 million. 
    Mizzou would have paid Ryan Walters and Brick Haley $1.525 million for 2021. So, you're saving some money this year in salary, paying a bit more in 2022. There's also the matter of buyouts for Haley and Walters. MU owes Haley one year's salary, while Walters owes MU a portion of his salary, which MU could also waive. 
    Do you think it is harder for coaches to transition from college football to NFL, or NFL to college football?
    Great question. We can find examples of both that have been home run moves and absolute disasters. 
    The NFL is all about coaching ball. It's all Xs and Os, player evaluation and scheming - unless you're a coach that also has GM duties. Then there's a whole lot of roster management involved.
    College coaching, obviously, is all about recruiting and player development on the field. Yes, there's a good deal of Xs and Os, but your time on the field and in the meeting room is limited by NCAA rules. 
    Coaches who can successfully streamline their playbook and effectively teach schemes without making it too complex can make the transition from NFL to college. 
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