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

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

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

    Good morning, Mizzou chatters. Thanks for being flexible this week. With the Cardinals on the move from Florida to Cincinnati and opening day set for Thursday we swapped chat days with Ben Frederickson. It's spring break here in Columbia for Mizzou, so not a lot of activity in the MU sports world other than the daily churn of the transfer portal. 
    If you missed the latest news, I imagine this will come up for discussion today.

    Former Mizzou guard Mark Smith heads to Kansas State

    Edwardsville native will play his final college season in the Big 12.
    Good morning Dave,
    With the departure of XPin, Parker Braun, and M. Smith, and the additional of one penetrating midrange shooting guard, what are the remaining number of openings we have and what are the priorities? Additionally, what is the deadline for the seniors to give notice if they are returning or not? As always, talk to me.
    I'm not aware of a deadline for the super seniors to make a decision. As has been the case for several weeks, Mizzou's five seniors are not expected back in any capacity. Now, if Dru Smith or Tilmon wanted to play another season at Mizzou, I would think the staff would gladly take them back. But that's not happening as of today. I would not be surprised if at least one more player on MU's roster enters the portal. Here's how next season's roster stands right now:
    Freshmen (five): Anton Brookshire, Trevon Brazile, Yaya Keita, Kaleb Brown, Sean Durugordon.
    Sophomores (one): Jordan Wilmore
    Juniors (two): Kobe Brown, Amari Davis
    Seniors (three): Javon Pickett, Torrence Watson, Ed Chang
    Now, keep in mind, the 2020-21 season did not count for eligibility, so players listed above as juniors are essentially sophomores eligibility-wise for 2021-22 and the seniors are juniors. 
    That's 11 players. That leaves room for two more additions. From what I'm hearing, Mizzou plans two more transfers whether or not another player enters the portal. Martin is OK sitting at 12 scholarships for next year again, one short of the maximum. 
    What are the scouting reports for the freshmen class?
    I'll write about those five guys more in the coming weeks. Here's a recap of the class with comments from Martin on each player:

    De Smet's Keita headlines Mizzou's five-man class

    STLtoday.com: With three in-state players, Mizzou's 2021 class ranks No. 39 nationally.
    I belong to stock risers so I follow the best players in portal and who is recruiting them. I have counted 10 different players ark has contacted since each program gets 13 scholarships how can they offer that many guys is my first question. If we should get the player from UMKC our guard positions look very good my question do you know any bigs we are after desmet recruit I am sure will need time to be able to compete in SEC and we have no other big the 7 3 player on scholarship is not a solution thanks dave
    New Mexico's Bayron Matos is an intriguing big man. 6-9. Didn't score a lot but shot 53% from the floor. Good offensive rebounder. 
    UMass' Tre Mitchell seems like a long shot, but very intriguing: 6-9, 240 pounds ... All-Atlantic 10 ... 19 points, 7 rebounds per game ... 
    Any word on where Pinson is transferring? is the SEC within conference year sit out rule still in play
    The SEC is expected to follow the ACC and remove the sit-out rule for intraconference transfers. Pinson has gone on record saying he has offers from Auburn, Georgia and Nebraska. I have reached out to him multiple times and haven't gotten a response, so I'm not sure where he's leaning at this point.
  • Does Cuonzo have any realistic chance to land one or both of Brandon McKissic and/or Tamar Bates?
    McKissic, absolutely. I've traded messages with McKissic but haven't talked to him at length yet. He had an interview recently where he sounded pretty high on Kansas. Keep in mind, if his goal is to play in the NCAA Tournament, KU  is facing sanctions at some point. There's no guarantee the Jayhawks will be eligible for the postseason in 2022. If playing closer to family and friends is a huge factor, then SLU and Mizzou are top candidates. He has a strong relationship with Chris Hollender and Mizzou and seems genuinely impressed with Martin. 
    As for Bates, he considered Mizzou before signing with Texas, so unless something has changed, I'd expect MU to get a look. MU might be more appealing now that Pinson has left the backcourt. Mizzou needs a point guard, badly. 
    The point guard I'd go after is Wendell Green Jr., who considered MU some out of high school then went to Eastern Kentucky. As a freshman, he averaged 16 points, 5 assists and shot better than 36% from 3. EKU had the No. 2 tempo in the country per KenPom, so he's used to playing at a fast pace. High usage rate, gets to the foul line a lot, high steal rate. 
    Dave, I am curious about Mark Smith's transfer. This will be his third college program. Was there tension between him and Cuonzo or Cuonzo's staff? Thanks.
    Here's what I've been told the last few days: No ill will at all between Mizzou and Smith. He enjoyed his time here. He was one of Martin's favorite players. He had the green light to shoot for three years. But Mizzou's staff is essentially ready to hit the reset button on the roster and prepared to rebuild the backcourt with newcomers. Smith wants to play another year but isn't an ideal fit for MU going forward. His offensive production had regressed each season. It's hard to make a strong case that fifth-year Mark Smith is a better investment than giving more playing time to the newcomers. 
    From Mark's perspective, he has a longstanding relationship with Bruce Weber and Chris Lowery. He wants to get into coaching right after his playing career but isn't ready to call it a career yet. K-State has been one of the worst high-major teams the last two years (20-41 the last two years), but had the 12th-least experienced team in the country this year, per KenPom, and third-least experienced in the high majors. (Only Auburn and Duke were less experienced). So it makes some sense to add a veteran presence, a model citizen, solid defender, capable shooter.
    Dave: The Mark Smith transfer caught me off guard. He's going to a program that's pretty down in a tough, tough conference. Is this a situation similar to Pinson where there is a disconnect between player and coach--that would surprise me--is it that he sees Mizzou as a rebuild and wants a better team (again, that would be surprising giving K-State's recent season), or is it that Cuonzo felt it was time for Mark to move on and get on with his life and Smith still wanted one more year? Or is it something else?
    I just touched on the Smith situation and I think your take is very sound. This is a very different situation than what happened with Pinson, who hasn't said a nice word publicly about Martin since entering the portal. Smith hasn't done any interviews the last few days but he texted me on Sunday and specifically said he appreciated his time with Martin.
    Good morning mr. shark. Imo's, Shakespeare's, Gumbys, Pizza Tree. What is your power ranking
    Pizza Tree, Shakes (coin toss some days), Gumby's, Imo's. 
    I grew up on Imo's. I can tolerate it but not my favorite. 
  • I'd advise anyone wondering if Mizzou has some kind of unique issues because of the recent transfers. The portal is inching closer to 1,200 players. Colorado, which is coming off a very good season and won a game in the NCAAs, has five players in the portal. Florida, also with an NCAA tourney win, has four players in the portal. Everyone is on the move. Five SEC teams have more players in the portal than Mizzou. By my last count, a whopping 30 high-major programs (SEC, Big 12, Big Ten, ACC, Pac-12, Big East) have at least three players in the portal. Expect a few more from the Elite Eight teams once their seasons end.
    There's been a lot unfair criticism of Cuonzo, but something has been eating at me. Cuonzo said he didn't want seniors coming back purely for basketball reasons, which I thought was a very respectable position. But, if he signs a player like Brandon McKissic, who has played 4 full seasons of basketball, is it fair to wonder if his reasoning for asking those players to move on was legitimate? Is he really going to make McKissic explain his future plans for an MBA before he offers him or something like that? This isn't adding up for me.
    I think you're misinterpreting Martin's comments on seniors coming back. 

    “I’m hopeful these guys can either play in the NBA or become CEOs of their own companies or work for somebody else. That’s the goal. Now, if those guys say, ‘Coach, I want to (return),’ then we’ll talk through it. Not that I would tell any of them no. But we would talk through why. That would be my biggest question: Why? It’s the same question I’d ask of my own sons if they were at that point. Why? What’s the benefit? They have to tell me. They can’t just say, ‘I'm coming back.’ You have to tell me why. Because it’s been four-plus years. It’s time to live life. Now if you come back and you tell me the reasons and say you want to get your Master’s, then that’s different. But just to come back to be part of a college campus, a nice campus, no, we're not doing that.”

    Yes, he wants them to have a plan for their academics if they decide to come back. But they have to have a basketball purpose, too. If Dru Smith came back and said, "I want to help mentor these young players, guide this team to another NCAA Tournament as your senior leader and continue to work on my overall game," then Martin would not tell him to no. More than anything he wants a specific plan in mind for those players. "Don’t just come back because you want to shoot some hoops," he said.

    Also, I don't think Martin's response would be the same for all five players. Dru Smith and Tilmon could offer next year's team more than the other three guys. 

    What does Zo get by keeping Chang and Wilmore? Why dip further into Transfer Portal?
    There's some upside to Wilmore if he can get in shape. You can't just find 7-3 in the portal. 
    Chang is a different story. I'd be surprised if he's part of the future. Stay tuned.
    What happens if a player gets stuck in the transfer portal? Not in terms of sports, but time-space continuum-wise? Do they remain the same age until exit? Seems like the basis for a fascinating sci-fi thriller.
    Good Morning Dave - What will it take for Mizzou football to become consistently in the race to win the SEC east? I know it's a big, general question. Yes - I know winning, getting top recruits and having the right coach factors into this answer. But I'm not talking about just what it takes for any program. I'm asking about specifically Mizzou. Hats off to GP for getting us to the top two out of the first three years we joined the SEC. Thank You
    I don't think it's all that complicated. You've got to get the majority of the best players in your immediate recruiting territory: in-state and just across the Missouri-Illinois, Missouri-Kansas borders. Then you've got to hit on some out-of-state recruits to supplement your core. You need players from Texas, Florida, Tennessee, etc., who outperform their three-star ratings ... or land the rare out-of-state four-star, which means you have to fight off some programs that are traditionally stronger or have a better brand. Then a big part of roster building is you can't miss on the wrong kid. You can't have multiple knuckleheads who not only can't help you on the field but hurt you off the field. Those kind of players tend to show up in waves because of a blindspot in recruiting: Maybe the staff takes more chances on players with character issues and then suddenly you have locker room issues. 
    Scheduling is important, too. You have to draw a line somewhere between scheduling nothing but cupcakes that hurts ticket sales and taking on more than you can chew and hurting your overall record. 
    I think getting the right players and avoiding the wrong players is more important than building the shiniest facilities or staff continuity or hiring high-profile assistant coaches. 
  • Mark Smith to K-state, that's a peculiar one. Trading a mid-tier high major in the middle of the corn belt for a mid-tier high major in the middle of the corn belt - neither of which is expected to be particularly competitive next season. I'd have figured he'd go put up 30 pts/game in Florida or San Diego or try and be a role player on a competitor. What's the story? Is he starting grad school?
    We've already touched on this a bunch. I was somewhat surprised by the decision. I figured he'd either drop down to a mid-major where he could get more shots per game and score a bunch of points ... or join a more established high-major team that's an annual contender where he could accept a reserve role at a school where he'd compete for a championship.
    This happened fast enough that I suspect Kansas State was always going to be the destination considering his relationship with Weber and Lowery. Remember, Illinois was Smith's dream program when he first signed, and from the time Mark was 4 years old to a young teenager, Weber was the head coach at Illinois, including that 37-2 season when Weber came one game from winning the national championship. 
    Didnt you say Mark Smith wanted to get into coaching? A little surprised that Smith would stay generally in that Purdue coaching tree going to K State.
    Just because he wants to get into coaching doesn't mean it will start at Kansas State. But it's not a bad coaching tree to join. 
    Any truth to the rumor that Cam Fletcher is headed to CoMo
    As I wrote about three weeks ago, Mizzou has no interest in Fletcher. I haven't heard anything that would change that thinking.
    Has anyone started to question the quality of Cuonzo’s assistants which are all different from his time at Cal and Tennessee? Don’t you think that’s an issue that needs to be looked at closer?
    I've been asked if he's going to change up his staff just about every chat for the last three years. So, yes, it's brought up, a lot. At this point, there's no sign that he'll change his staff.
    When I look at Braun’s failure to bulk up and the general lack of athleticism with the rest of the SEC, shouldn’t we be examining their strength and conditioning program? Now I know Cuonzo has kept the same person for multiple stints, but is it working? Is that the source of the problem?
  • Braun is one player. What about the rest? Tilmon was in great shape and one of the biggest, strongest players in the SEC. 
    Pickett and Mark Smith were two solidly built wings. Pickett has transformed his body since coming to Mizzou in terms of strength and bulk.
    Kobe Brown was a perimeter player in high school. By February he had become a durable, legit SEC power forward. 
    When Reed Nikko was a freshman I watched a team workout in the weight room and he couldn't complete a series of push-ups and planks. By his senior year he held his own in the paint against Tilmon and other SEC bigs.
    Some guys just struggle to put on muscle no matter how much the strength staff and nutritionist works with them. I'd say there are more success stories in this program when it comes to Nicodemus Christopher than guys who struggled to change their bodies.
    I noticed that freshmen only accounted for 15% of the Elite 8 starting lineups, has the pendulum swung back where experience will again rule the day, I think the OAD model is now DOA with the G-League as a viable option. UK and Duke better rethink things in a hurry
    Agreed. I think this is going to be more of a trend than an anomaly. Veterans and transfers are the norm across the best teams in college hoops. Baylor has veteran transfers. Houston has veteran transfers. Arkansas has a bunch. USC has two veteran transfer starters. UCLA's best player is a transfer from Kentucky. 
    More than ever before, college basketball roster building is a year-by-year process. It's great if you can sign a couple five-star players, but the best teams have a mix of talented youth, grizzled veterans and an impact transfer or two.
    There seems to be a lot of criticism of Cuonzo Martin for recruiting misses (liddell, love, ramey etc etc). I'm more critical of his recruiting hits - Santos, Guess, Okongo, Wilmore, Chang and I'm not terribly thrilled about Kaleb Brown (I'm guessing was insurance against Kobe leaving which I suppose is moderately worth it). Every season we seem to take on a low upside player - and the fact that Wilmore was offered in September 2019 when he was certainly going to be available in the spring if we still wanted him is even more confounding.

    If we had invested those scholarships in Reed Nikko types, a guy who turned into a reliable backup in year 3 and 4, we might have some solid role players going into the rebuild. Instead it's a shambles and I'm sure we haven't seen the end of the outgoing transfers.
    It's a fair criticism. Now, here's the catch. Most of those guys you mentioned were players whom Martin took a late flyer. The team had an extra scholarship and gambled with an unheralded addition, hoping to catch lightning in a bottle. More often than not, it hasn't worked out.
    The difference between that approach and this current five-man recruiting class is these are players Mizzou targeted much earlier in the process and wanted all along. Maybe they'll end up being recruiting misses, too, but there's more conviction in this class than what we've seen with some of the names you mentioned. 
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