Someone take the shovels away. The Missouri Tigers basketball program is being dug a nice little hole that won’t be easy to get out of next season. If the struggles that presented themselves during the 2013-2014 campaign weren’t enough, the team is likely losing all of its star power in the immediate aftermath of the end to the season.
A couple of days ago it was announced that junior guard Jordan Clarkson would be forgoing his senior season at Mizzou to chase the NBA dream. He takes with him 17.5 points per game, 3.8 rebounds, a .45 field goal percentage, and 3.4 assists. This opens up a lot of questions about the future.
The way things are going, it will be a tough uphill battle in 2014 for Mizzou. The Tigers are going to have to make miracles happen—I’m talking part the red sea miracles—to convince anyone that next year is anything but a rebuilding a season.
If guard Jabari Brown joins Clarkson in departing for the NBA, Missouri would be losing—by far— its top three scorers (the other being the graduating Ernest Ross), and the torch would be passed on to a handful of young, inexperienced misfits. Those players would be under the direction of a head coach who appears to have no ability to lead a team of youngsters or create any kind of team chemistry.
That all adds up to a mess of an outlook for next season.
For a team that failed to make the big tournament, won only one game in the N.I.T. and didn’t appear interested in trying to win over the last quarter of the season, it’s hard not to argue that 2013 was the rebuilding year.
So what does that make 2014?
Not to sound like a broken record, but it makes it a train wreck. Here’s what the Tigers will have to look forward to next season: second year guard Wes Clark, who will take the reigns as floor runner, and second year Jonathon Williams III who is expected to be the next top scorer for the team—although nowhere nearly as talented, at least so far, as Brown or Clarkson.
Then there will be whomever coach Frank Haith and the staff can recruit, either out of high school or through transfers. That might be slim pickings considering the downward spiral the team is in. After that? A roster with a whole bunch of zeros in the stats sheets last year.
The Tigers play in a conference that as a whole, while not as strong as the ACC or Big Ten, is rapidly improving while they are not. The league boasts two of the best teams in the country who are playing in a Final Four this week and aren’t going away anytime soon.
The fact of the matter is, Missouri AD Mike Alden and the rest of the Athletic department must start considering different options and changes in direction. Clearly this brand of Missouri Tigers basketball is not working. It’s understandable that football is a big focus point in Columbia, especially with the recent success that program experienced.
But this isn’t Alabama. Missouri’s basketball team doesn’t go 13-19. Not without huge repercussions. That is a record that could very well be the Tigers’ fate next season, which leads me to ask: why not be proactive and start making those wide-scale changes now? Why put the program behind another season?
Key aspects of this program need to be addressed. Coaching, recruiting, game strategies, team chemistry are all on the laundry list of problems that must be taken under consideration.
At this point, little has shown Tiger Nation that Frank Haith is the right person to right this ship’s sails. No longer can we grasp to the notion that because Haith took the Tigers to success with a No. 2 seed in the tournament in 2011 is justification for keeping him on board. The basketball program must turn things around fast or he shouldn’t be allowed to captain the vessel any longer.
That being said, there’s the big question of whether or not a change should be made before next season. There are those who strongly believe that there should be. I would be inclined to agree. But, knowing Alden, it isn’t likely.
One thing that is for certain, there are a lot of holes to be filled, especially if Brown does in deed exit—which all indications are that he will. These holes leave a lot of questions about the future of the Mizzou basketball program. It is possible that once changes are made, Tiger fans will be left to wonder why they weren’t made earlier.
As in, right now.
We’ll know soon enough. For now, it looks like rough waters ahead.