The Missouri Tigers basketball program isn’t in an ideal spot. Student unrest has been widespread throughout the university for some time — the bigger picture issues that need to be addressed first have very little to do with any of the school’s sports programs.
At the same time, the people tasked with running those money-making endeavors — who, it is worth noting, coach for their livelihoods — still need to try to right the ship no matter the situation happening around them.
Fair or not, that is where Missouri basketball coach Kim Anderson currently finds himself.
Fresh off his second woeful season in as many years, a man brought into a world post-Mike Anderson and after the fallout that is forever left in the wake by former Frank Haith-led programs, Anderson has led the Tigers to a total of 19 wins over two seasons, with only six of those coming in the SEC.
That’s not all his fault, but it has already made him a somewhat unpopular man in SOME — not all — sections of the loyal Missouri fan base. It makes sense even though the men he succeeded came with their own sets of issues. At the same time, the simplistic view of it can help one ponder if Haith’s, uh, NCAA discrepancies were worth the trouble since he was bringing the Tigers to the NCAA Tournament often.
I mean, they obviously aren’t/weren’t/never will be, but it is hard to not enjoy the ride when the ride is going smoothly.
Obviously, that is ignoring what sort of situations Haith-led programs nearly always find themselves in. It is also partially ignoring that a bit of a benefit of the doubt should have been afforded to Anderson because of that, as he had to follow that same man who often leaves his old programs in a state of wreckage.
Long-winded preface to the wayside: Anderson still needs to win basketball games… and, man, he needs to start doing so soon.
Unfortunately for him, few are projecting Missouri to be a flame emoji team this season. Plus, its 2016 recruiting class — which one would hope would lend credence to the idea of a better tomorrow — is ranked as the 64th best in the country, and features only three-star talents.
The immediate future remains bleak. Sure, there are glimpses of glitter on the floor somewhere in Columbia, but the cruel reality of the situation is that things are likely going to remain the same for the Tigers until someone special helps the university fix it.
Oh, hello there, C.J. Roberts. Hope you don’t mind some incredibly unrealistic expectations gently hurled on your shoulders with the force of a Hulk Hogan leg drop.
Roberts, a four-star point guard in the 207 recruiting class, announced on Monday (via Twitter) that he has verbally committed to Missouri.
To remove some hyperbole quickly: Roberts isn’t projected to be a world-beater. He will need time to develop and is anywhere between 5-foot-10 and an even 6-foot, but has the potential to be the floor general of the future for — if he can hold on — an Anderson-led Missouri resurgence.
Basically, while trying to put this politely without it coming off as a backhanded compliment, Roberts is good, but not that good. In other terms, he’s not good enough to ever leave college early for the NBA, but he has the kind of talent that allows the (very) optimistic to envision him one day becoming this program’s own version of Monte Morris.
That is the hope, at least. The reality is currently unknown, and we are still one year away from him even hitting campus, plus the dry-run type of season that will likely await his freshman campaign.
That doesn’t change what Anderson and Missouri need him to be, however.
Even if he is merely representing the idea of things turning around — which, in turn and only in theory, can mean other four-star recruits joining the fold — he will have done his job as a student-athlete at the school well before donning a jersey. And, clearly, he can help make more tangible waves by becoming a very good collegiate basketball player.
That’s all down the road stuff.
The 2016-17 Tigers are returning a bunch of young players from a bad team last year. They are adding a slew of three-star prospects to that fold. The combination of which, politely, is unlikely to equate to any sort of growing and/or measurable success.
While Roberts is that singular sign of Anderson’s hope for a better Missouri down this brutal road, not only does he desperately need to grasp at (winning) straws to make it long enough to see what the recruit will become, but he will also need that recruit to become slightly more than what is expected of him.
After all, one four-star recruit for a struggling program is grand, but when the rest of the conference you play in is scooping up players with more stars attached to their name than a Neil deGrasse Tyson Science Channel special, that one person needs to be transcendent.
No pressure or anything…