Now is a good time to review the early season for the Missouri Tigers basketball. They’ve completed three games, winning every one, and now prepare for their upcoming November tournament.
Coach Frank Haith is serving a five game suspension right now for recruiting violations while at Miami, but interim coach, Tim Fuller, has filled the hole nicely. The Tigers are 3-0. Those three matchups include Southeast Louisiana, Southern Illinois University (Carbondale), and Hawaii. The average margin of victory: 20 points.
Mizzou’s two leading scorers, Juniors Jabari Brown and Jordan Clarkson, are both averaging 19 points per game, Brown doing it during the course of 36 minutes, Clarkson during 29, who sat out a lot of the game against Hawaii. It’s one thing to have a 19 point guy on your team, but having two is something the Tigers hope remains as the schedule gets tougher.
Senior forward Tony Criswell just recently got involved as he completed a two game suspension. In his first game, against Hawaii, he had 11 points and already leads the team with 9 rebounds. If the Tigers want to contend for anything this season, they will need Criswell and other post players to make an impact. Frontcourt guys require opposing defenses to spread out, giving more space for the guards more room to take shots and make plays. <Link to more Mizzou stats>
The Tigers played well so far in the early season, but they were had ; these were lesser opponents and any other result would have caused some form of hysteria in Columbia. The upcoming games will uncover
Missouri’s potential. The Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational features teams such as the UCLA Bruins, the Nevada Wolf Pack, and Northwestern Wildcats, among others. These are teams that can compete with, or even out-class Mizzou.
The first round of games does not take place in Las Vegas. The Gardner-Webb Runnin’ Bulldogs and the IUPUI Jaguars (Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis) will travel to Missouri for the first round of the tournament. Gardner-Webb has the one win between these two visiting teams, so expect the Tigers to win both games rather easily.
After that first round, teams venture all the way out to Las Vegas. The games start on Thanksgiving day, and continue through the weekend. Frank Haith will finally join Mizzou just as they play Northwestern and Nevada. These are capable opponents, each hoping to find themselves on the tournament bubble at the end of the season. I give Mizzou the edge, but wouldn’t be terribly surprised to see an upset. The best team and favorite of this tournament is UCLA, who the Tigers avoid in the early rounds.
A win in the Las Vegas Invitational would be a huge boost for the Tigers. The preseason predictions for Mizzou projected a mid-SEC finish with a chance at the Big Dance, but any kind of success here would turn a lot of heads. It’s a nice opportunity for the program.