Greetings from Columbia East, where I have a late flight out of town after covering last night's hoops game. Say a prayer that Winter Storm Grayson Allen or whatever we're calling him doesn't throw off my flights home this afternoon. Meanwhile, I'm here for the next 90 minutes or so to chat all things Mizzou.
There's another signing date for Missouri to sign a quarterback, and realistically they weren't going to sign one in December without a coordinator or QB coach. I would think once the staff hire is made they'll focus on adding a QB by February.
Jordan Chavis should get more looks in the backcourt. Amber Smith might see more scoring chances. No one will replace Sophie's all-around game, her toughness and top-end scoring ability, but Pingeton will have to get more out of Porter and Jordan Frericks. Mizzou isn't just blowing smoke with the "day to day" outlook for Sophie. They're evaluating her on a daily basis to see if she'll be available. No word if she'll play tonight.
Missouri handled the pressure pretty well last night. Martin made adjustments on on where players are catching the ball to bring it up the court and who has the ball in what situations. I'm not saying all problems are fixed, but the issues they had against SFA and Illinois weren't there last night against another good defensive team.
Odom's staff, as far as the 10 position coaches, will be set before Jan. 15, maybe before Jan. 10. That doesn't mean someone could leave after that. There's going to be a lot of staff shuffling all around college football with the addition of the 10th assistant coach. MU could reshuffle the grad assistants & analysts, too. As for Porter, I'm done making guesses on his return. I'll ask all the relevant questions of Martin and Porter when he's available and report as many details as I can. But at this point, predictions are useless.
Dan Werner was in Columbia visiting recently. He was Hugh Freeze's OC at Ole Miss through 2016. He's an analyst at Alabama now, which means he's a little busy through Monday. I touched base with Todd Monken last week and he confirmed he talked with Odom about the job but said he will stay with the Buccaneers in 2017. Gabe DeArmond has mentioned Kevin Wilson (Ohio State OC) as a possibility. His time at Indiana didn't end well, but he's another former Oklahoma assistant who has ties to several MU staffers.
It shouldn't be shocking. Mizzou relapsed, made the kind of careless mistakes they made throughout September. I think MU thought the game would be easier. I also thought some MU players made a mistake the day before the game at the team luncheon when they did the Horns down gesture in front of the Texas players. You just don't do that. I'm not sure Baker Mayfield would have done that in that setting. Mizzou poked the bear. Most wondered if the Horns had any motivation for that game. Tom Herman might have wondered as much, but few MU players did Herman a huge favor that day.
I've said this a few times, and it reflects what I've heard from people in the administration: It's a complicated situation. Many layers here. When dad is on the staff, when younger brother is on the roster ... it's complex, to say the least. Martin isn't a coach who likes drama during the season. (I'm not sure any coach does.) As he said after last night's game, his focus is on his team. He doesn't dwell on Michael's status - because until he's cleared to play and wants to play he's a non-factor for this team this season. I think Mizzou has the right head coach in place to handle this situation. I know he's been frustrated by some things that have unfolded. When Michael came out before games and created a frenzy by shooting a few balls during warmups, Martin wanted to make it clear that he's not practicing with the team. And after Michael did the ESPN interview in the middle of the Braggin' Rights Game, Martin gave the green light for Michael to talk to local reporters on Tuesday to clear the air on some on the situation. This probably doesn't resonate with 95 percent of the people reading this, but as a beat writer I appreciate how the head coach has handled this from my perspective.
For one, he's a lot stronger than people realize. It doesn't take much contact from him to put an opponent on his butt. More than anything, he's just really raw on the defensive end and is still learning how to harness his aggression. The same goes for setting screens on the offensive end. He doesn't need to destroy the defender every time he makes contact. Are all the fouls legit? No, definitely not. But you lose the benefit of the doubt when opponents are sent sprawling to the floor every time they make contact. Also, coaches aren't dumb. They see what's happening in games. You can bet Chris Silva went into last night's game wanting to draw immediate contact from Tilmon. Silva draws more fouls per game than any player in the country. Savvy move from the big man last night - and mission accomplished.
That's what he did last night. Not a completely new development, but it seemed by design in that situation. At times it was Geist, Harris and Robertson. Other times it was Phillips, Geist and Robertson.
Well, I'm not saying you need to book flights to San Antonio for the Final Four, but this team will be competitive with most, if not all teams in the SEC. There are going to be nights where the bigs get in foul trouble and the 3s aren't falling. You're going to see some stretches like Mizzou showed against Illinois. The point guard/turnover issues aren't going to go away completely. But as long as this team defends consistently and rebounds well, Martin should have them in every game. The league is really deep. Alabama just beat A&M - the team I picked to win the SEC in my adjusted predictions - and then Vandy beat Bama. LSU nearly toppled Kentucky last night. Every week is going to be an adventure in this conference.
If they're .500 in league play they'll be a bubble team at worst. A 9-9 league record would put them at 19-12 heading into the SEC tourney in St. Louis. Getting a road win last night was huge. Going into the season - with or without MPJ - I had last night's game as a loss. Get a few more road wins and don't slip up more than twice at home and this team should be in the big bracket. Put it this way: No one in the SEC is going to look forward to playing Martin's team as long as they're hitting shots like last night and playing defense like they did for most of last night.
Can't argue with that. I thought he'd have this team ready. He thought he'd have this team ready. Field position was a disaster, and that's hard to blame on anyone for Missouri. It's not like the punt return team could have done anything differently to keep Texas from dropping punts inside the 5. And it's not like Texas' other 10 guys on the punt team did anything special. That was the equivalent of a pitcher throwing a no-hitter with nothing but strikeouts. Was play-calling brilliant? It never is when you only score two TDs, but it's not like Finley called for four turnovers. He didn't have many great options backed up inside the 10-yard line - especially when Texas is blitzing while dropping two safeties into coverage. Missouri's offense lost that game at the point of attack. If the Tigers could have fun the ball against those three-man fronts, it would have been a different story.
It wasn't the greatest night for the officials, but at the end of the day, the fouls were close (26 for MU, 22 for USC) and the free throw attempts were nearly even (24 for MU, 26 for USC). Mizzou's not going to draw as many fouls when they're mostly taking jump shots. USC attacked inside more, hence more fouls called in the paint. I was there. Trust me, South Carolina fans thought the fouls on their players were terrible, too.
I'm not that surprised. Some names are out there. Barry's not sharing any info with me, and he keeps a pretty tight circle around him.
The officials are professionals. Are they perfect? Of course not. The game story I had to file at the buzzer last night was hardly perfect either. But it's not like they go into the game wanting to call fouls on Tilmon. Like I wrote earlier, he is stronger than he looks. He has to learn how to play aggressive and physically without knocking people to the floor. And smart players and smart coaches are going to exploit that aggressiveness.
No odds from me, but I'd be surprised if he enters the draft. Could be move into the first round with strong workouts and interviews? Absolutely. But he'd have to declare first, and you can't go back to college once you make that declaration by Jan. 15. It's a huge risk to bank on outperforming your projection.