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Overachievers? Underachievers? Matter lists the highs and lows he's seen at Mizzou

Overachievers? Underachievers? Matter lists the highs and lows he's seen at Mizzou

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During our weekly chat with Post-Dispatch readers, we examine Mizzou's QB depth and its quest for a 3-point shooter. Here are some of the top questions.

Q: I'm a little worried about the 3-point shooting on the roster for next year. It seems like only one of the transfers thus far has good 3-point numbers. Knowing what you do about the incoming frosh and the transfers and the few that return, what does the shooting look like to you?

Ball St Washington Basketball

Boogie Coleman defends for Ball State in 2019. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)

A: I think it's a valid concern. Boogie Coleman shot about 43% this year at Ball State. That's really good. Even if that percentage slips some against high-major competition, he's a proven shooter. Amari Davis came to college without a 3-point shot in his arsenal but made major strides this past season. If everything I've heard about him is true in terms of his work ethic, he'll have a serviceable shot by the time the season rolls around. DaJuan Gordon is not an outside shooter. That won't be his role.

As for the freshmen, Anton Brookshire shot 40% this season for state champion Kickapoo. Again, that might not translate to a 40% season at this level but he can clearly shoot the ball. Sean Durugordon was a good outside shooter as well.

Missouri is only losing one consistently proficient 3-point shooter from last year's team, Dru Smith. Mark Smith and Xavier Pinson certainly had the ability to make 3s but they were both very inconsistent. In three years at Mizzou, Smith shot 37.5%, which is a solid overall average but it went down each season and bottomed out at 31.5% this year. Pinson was a career 33% shooter from 3.

Q: Not that Mizzou is now "Quarterback U", but it's very encouraging to have three quarterbacks on the team that were highly recruited and have real potential to be successful at the college level. I am looking forward to Bazelak second season as a starter and two back-ups competing for playing time. With that said, how does Drinkwitz keep the momentum going with recruits seeing Mizzou as a destination for premier quarterbacks? I don't want to get too far ahead of myself with it only being Drinkwitz's second season, but this is exciting to watch.

A: Mizzou has two QBs who had a handful of Power 5 offers but not three. Maybe Brady Cook would have generated more Power 5 interest had he not committed to Mizzou so early in high school, but I wouldn't put him in the same category as Bazelak or Macon - and certainly not current commitment Sam Horn - in terms of recruiting hype.

As long as the guys at that position develop into productive players and win games you can build a strong line of succession at quarterback. That's what Gary Pinkel did and did it as well as any coach in Mizzou history — and as well as just about any coach in the country over a 15-year span. It won't hurt if Drinkwitz's QBs go on to have NFL success, but that's not mandatory to have recruiting success at this level. Build a fun, exciting offense that's prolific and produces great players and recruits will want to play here.

Q: A question about both mens's basketball and football. Who are the biggest overachievers since you've been on the beat? The guys who just came out of nowhere and competed at a level that you never thought they'd reach when they arrived on campus. And conversely, who are the biggest disappointments...Thanks

38th annual Braggin' Rights

Missouri's Jordan Geist celebrates the third of his three-pointers against Illinois during first half action of the 38th annual Braggin' Rights game at Enterprise Center in St. Louis on Saturday, Dec. 22, 2018. Photo by Robert Cohen, rcohen@post-dispatch.com

A: Overachievers: In football, I'd probably go with Tommy Saunders, who didn't have ideal size or speed at receiver but did everything else and finished his career top 10 in all-time receptions. I'll give Ish Witter a nod, too. When he first got to Mizzou I never would have imagined he'd become a 1,000-yard rusher, but he continued to surprise year after year.

In basketball, Jordan Geist. He might be Martin's favorite player in four years at Mizzou. Tough as hell, relentless defender and built himself into a competent shooter and very productive scorer.

Underachievers: Well, Dorial Green-Beckham comes to mind first, but he had a lot of personal issues that seemed to keep him from ever living up to his athletic potential.

In basketball, I thought Jakeenan Gant had the tools to make him a productive SEC player, but it took him a while to figure out who he was on the floor. To his credit he had a couple really good years at Louisiana-Lafayette after leaving Mizzou.

Q: Dave, I sense that a strong, say, 8 or 9-win season this fall would put the football program on a fast track for division top 3 standing. Drinkwitz seems like an example of a young, aggressive head coach whose program won’t require more than one solid full season to get established. Your impression?

A: Maybe this comes as breaking news, but Missouri has already finished third in the SEC East under Drinkwitz. It happened last season.

Now the question is can Mizzou build on some of that success last year and fare better against a normal 12-game/8-SEC game schedule? I think so. For one, I don't see any serious challengers behind Mizzou. Vandy, Tennessee and South Carolina are all working under first-year head coaches. Kentucky took a step backward last season - but shouldn't be counted out as long as Mark Stoops is still in charge.

Mizzou has some key pieces on offense and an established quarterback to build around. I'm bullish on the new defensive staff and some of the scheme changes Steve Wilks has made.

Here's where I'd advise Mizzou fans to be careful: Four of Mizzou's wins last year were by 10 points or less ... while the losses were by margins of 19, 19, 23, 24 and 35. The Tigers were a lot closer to 2-8 than 8-2. In the games they lost, Mizzou wasn’t very competitive in the second half. Four of the five wins were competitive late into the fourth quarter. For the season MU was outscored by eight touchdowns ... even though it finished 5-5. Did the Tigers turn the corner as a program last year? Perhaps - but they’re still a long way off from moving into the SEC's upper class.

If I had to submit my division predictions now, I’d go with Georgia, Florida, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, South Carolina and Vanderbilt.

Q: Is the immediate eligibility status that is soon to be approved by the NCAA a one-time thing, or is it likely to be a permanent change? If so, the portal mania we are seeing will become a permanent part of the recruitment process.

A: It will be a permanent change, but keep in mind, the COVID eligibility policy was a one-year deal. A year from now, players like Mark Smith and Brandon McKissic and all the graduate transfers out there won't be able to enter the portal and find a new team after they’ve already played four college seasons.

I know fans are frustrated by the transfer portal, but personally, I love it. I think it's great entertainment and fascinating to watch unfold. These players sign one-year scholarship deals. They're not locked into a four- or five-year deal. I think it adds a level of intrigue into the offseason that for years was controlled by the millionaire coaches and their agents. Now we're tracking the players and their every step.

Q: Dave, I've always been a fan of Coach Pingeton. Following Sophie Cunningham's departure, I expected them to continue to improve and become a NCAA Tournament regular. But this year I find myself concerned for the first time. The team consistently failed to perform in the 4th quarter, which indicates to me a coaching problem. You have any feel for Coach P turning things around next year.

SEC Missouri Kentucky Basketball

Missouri women's basketball coach Robin Pingeton. (AP Photo)

A: What part of her coaching did you not like? It's always easy to diagnose player problems. This guy turned it over too much. This player can't shoot free throws. This one is a terrible on-ball defender. But when I hear folks criticize coaches, which, don't get me wrong, sometimes is fair and warranted, my next question is always: What about his/her coaching did you not like? Did you just not like the results or is there a specific strategy or philosophy you didn’t like?

Was Pingeton a better coach when she had the best player in team history than she is now? Or is she still the same caliber of coach but just doesn't have a generational player?

Ultimately that's the question Jim Sterk has to ask when he evaluates the situation next year or the year after or whenever. She's definitely recruited some talent. She's brought in some productive offensive players. Mizzou was one of the nation's best shooting teams all season. But they don't defend particularly well, they turn it over a lot and seem to struggle against teams with size. This is a pivotal year coming up for Pingeton. I'm not saying she's on the hot seat, but another losing season will make it harder to recruit for the future and only digs the hole deeper.

No free passes around here, but two things to keep in mind:

1. COVID severely threw off this team. It had several new parts and they weren't able to mesh during the offseason ... then had a long COVID disruption during the season with several positives on the team. They never really recovered from that.

2. They seemed to play their best against the best teams in the league. They just don't know how to finish. Knowing how to win games and manage the decisive moments late in the game is a learned skill. This team needs work in that area.

Q: What are your thoughts on the J’den Cox situation?

A: Really strange and unfortunate situation. I know there are some conspiracy theorists out there saying the situation was rigged so Cox couldn't compete at his weight class, but it sounds more like an accident.

Here's what Cox told NBC Sports after he was ruled out of the Olympic Trials for reportedly weighing in 13 minutes after the deadline: “I was informed with the wrong times of when weigh-ins were supposed to be, and that’s just flat-out the truth. Really, I think it’s just miscommunication. In the grand scheme of things, I feel that I was not — how do I say — presented, I guess, the same opportunity would be the word to say. I’m not really sure how to phrase it, but I think it’s just miscommunication. I want the right to represent my country.”

I hope the situation gets resolved in time for the Olympics. If not he can still compete at the World Championships this fall.

Q: I'm a little worried about the 3-point shooting on the roster for next year. It seems like only one of the transfers thus far has good 3-point numbers. Knowing what you do about the incoming frosh and the transfers and the few that return, what does the shooting look like to you?A: I think it's a valid concern. Boogie Coleman shot about 43% this year at Ball State. That's really good. Even if that percentage slips some against high-major competition, he's a proven shooter. Amari Davis came to college without a 3-point shot in his arsenal but made major strides this past season. If everything I've heard about him is true in terms of his work ethic, he'll have a serviceable shot by the time the season rolls around. DaJuan Gordon is not an outside shooter. That won't be his role. As for the freshmen, Anton Brookshire shot 40% this season for state champion Kickapoo. Again, that might not translate to a 40% season at this level but he can clearly shoot the ball. Sean Durugordon was a good outside shooter as well. Missouri is only losing one consistently proficient 3-point shooter from last year's team, Dru Smith. Mark Smith and Xavier Pinson certainly had the ability to make 3s but they were both very inconsistent. In three years at Mizzou, Smith shot 37.5%, which is a solid overall average but it went down each season and bottomed out at 31.5% this year. Pinson was a career 33% shooter from 3.Q: Not that Mizzou is now "Quarterback U", but it's very encouraging to have three quarterbacks on the team that were highly recruited and have real potential to be successful at the college level. I am looking forward to Bazelak second season as a starter and two back-ups competing for playing time. With that said, how does Drinkwitz keep the momentum going with recruits seeing Mizzou as a destination for premier quarterbacks? I don't want to get too far ahead of myself with it only being Drinkwitz's second season, but this is exciting to watch.A: Mizzou has two QBs who had a handful of Power 5 offers but not three. Maybe Brady Cook would have generated more Power 5 interest had he not committed to Mizzou so early in high school, but I wouldn't put him in the same category as Bazelak or Macon - and certainly not current commitment Sam Horn - in terms of recruiting hype. As long as the guys at that position develop into productive players and win games you can build a strong line of succession at quarterback. That's what Gary Pinkel did and did it as well as any coach in Mizzou history — and as well as just about any coach in the country over a 15-year span. It won't hurt if Drinkwitz's QBs go on to have NFL success, but that's not mandatory to have recruiting success at this level. Build a fun, exciting offense that's prolific and produces great players and recruits will want to play here. Q: A question about both mens's basketball and football. Who are the biggest overachievers since you've been on the beat? The guys who just came out of nowhere and competed at a level that you never thought they'd reach when they arrived on campus. And conversely, who are the biggest disappointments...Thanks A: Overachievers: In football, I'd probably go with Tommy Saunders, who didn't have ideal size or speed at receiver but did everything else and finished his career top 10 in all-time receptions. I'll give Ish Witter a nod, too. When he first got to Mizzou I never would have imagined he'd become a 1,000-yard rusher, but he continued to surprise year after year. In basketball, Jordan Geist. He might be Martin's favorite player in four years at Mizzou. Tough as hell, relentless defender and built himself into a competent shooter and very productive scorer. Underachievers: Well, Dorial Green-Beckham comes to mind first, but he had a lot of personal issues that seemed to keep him from ever living up to his athletic potential. In basketball, I thought Jakeenan Gant had the tools to make him a productive SEC player, but it took him a while to figure out who he was on the floor. To his credit he had a couple really good years at Louisiana-Lafayette after leaving Mizzou.Q: Dave, I sense that a strong, say, 8 or 9-win season this fall would put the football program on a fast track for division top 3 standing. Drinkwitz seems like an example of a young, aggressive head coach whose program won’t require more than one solid full season to get established. Your impression?A: Maybe this comes as breaking news, but Missouri has already finished third in the SEC East under Drinkwitz. It happened last season.Now the question is can Mizzou build on some of that success last year and fare better against a normal 12-game/8-SEC game schedule? I think so. For one, I don't see any serious challengers behind Mizzou. Vandy, Tennessee and South Carolina are all working under first-year head coaches. Kentucky took a step backward last season - but shouldn't be counted out as long as Mark Stoops is still in charge.Mizzou has some key pieces on offense and an established quarterback to build around. I'm bullish on the new defensive staff and some of the scheme changes Steve Wilks has made.Here's where I'd advise Mizzou fans to be careful: Four of Mizzou's wins last year were by 10 points or less ... while the losses were by margins of 19, 19, 23, 24 and 35. The Tigers were a lot closer to 2-8 than 8-2. In the games they lost, Mizzou wasn’t very competitive in the second half. Four of the five wins were competitive late into the fourth quarter. For the season MU was outscored by eight touchdowns ... even though it finished 5-5. Did the Tigers turn the corner as a program last year? Perhaps - but they’re still a long way off from moving into the SEC's upper class. If I had to submit my division predictions now, I’d go with Georgia, Florida, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, South Carolina and Vanderbilt.Q: Is the immediate eligibility status that is soon to be approved by the NCAA a one-time thing, or is it likely to be a permanent change? If so, the portal mania we are seeing will become a permanent part of the recruitment process.A: It will be a permanent change, but keep in mind, the COVID eligibility policy was a one-year deal. A year from now, players like Mark Smith and Brandon McKissic and all the graduate transfers out there won't be able to enter the portal and find a new team after they’ve already played four college seasons.I know fans are frustrated by the transfer portal, but personally, I love it. I think it's great entertainment and fascinating to watch unfold. These players sign one-year scholarship deals. They're not locked into a four- or five-year deal. I think it adds a level of intrigue into the offseason that for years was controlled by the millionaire coaches and their agents. Now we're tracking the players and their every step. Q: Dave, I've always been a fan of Coach Pingeton. Following Sophie Cunningham's departure, I expected them to continue to improve and become a NCAA Tournament regular. But this year I find myself concerned for the first time. The team consistently failed to perform in the 4th quarter, which indicates to me a coaching problem. You have any feel for Coach P turning things around next year.A: What part of her coaching did you not like? It's always easy to diagnose player problems. This guy turned it over too much. This player can't shoot free throws. This one is a terrible on-ball defender. But when I hear folks criticize coaches, which, don't get me wrong, sometimes is fair and warranted, my next question is always: What about his/her coaching did you not like? Did you just not like the results or is there a specific strategy or philosophy you didn’t like?Was Pingeton a better coach when she had the best player in team history than she is now? Or is she still the same caliber of coach but just doesn't have a generational player? Ultimately that's the question Jim Sterk has to ask when he evaluates the situation next year or the year after or whenever. She's definitely recruited some talent. She's brought in some productive offensive players. Mizzou was one of the nation's best shooting teams all season. But they don't defend particularly well, they turn it over a lot and seem to struggle against teams with size. This is a pivotal year coming up for Pingeton. I'm not saying she's on the hot seat, but another losing season will make it harder to recruit for the future and only digs the hole deeper. No free passes around here, but two things to keep in mind:1. COVID severely threw off this team. It had several new parts and they weren't able to mesh during the offseason ... then had a long COVID disruption during the season with several positives on the team. They never really recovered from that.2. They seemed to play their best against the best teams in the league. They just don't know how to finish. Knowing how to win games and manage the decisive moments late in the game is a learned skill. This team needs work in that area. Q: What are your thoughts on the J’den Cox situation? A: Really strange and unfortunate situation. I know there are some conspiracy theorists out there saying the situation was rigged so Cox couldn't compete at his weight class, but it sounds more like an accident. Here's what Cox told NBC Sports after he was ruled out of the Olympic Trials for reportedly weighing in 13 minutes after the deadline: “I was informed with the wrong times of when weigh-ins were supposed to be, and that’s just flat-out the truth. Really, I think it’s just miscommunication. In the grand scheme of things, I feel that I was not — how do I say — presented, I guess, the same opportunity would be the word to say. I’m not really sure how to phrase it, but I think it’s just miscommunication. I want the right to represent my country.”I hope the situation gets resolved in time for the Olympics. If not he can still compete at the World Championships this fall. 

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