South Carolina basketball beat writer David Cloninger looks at every other team in the SEC as the season approaches
Never miss a local story.
Coach (record at school, years; overall record, years): Kim Anderson (First year; 274-95, 13th year)
2013-14 record (SEC finish): 23-12 (9-9)
2013-14 postseason: Second round, NIT
He’s outta here: Coach Frank Haith; Jabari Brown (NBA, 19.9 ppg, 4.4 rpg); Jordan Clarkson (NBA, 17.5 ppg, 3.8 rpg); Earnest Ross (senior, 14.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg); Tony Criswell (senior, 3.9 ppg, 3.4 rpg); Stefan Jankovic (transferred to Hawaii, 3.3 ppg, 2.7 rpg); Torren Jones (transferred to Midland (Texas) College, 2.1 ppg, 2.3 rpg); Corey Haith (transferred to Tulsa, 0.5 ppg, 0.0 rpg); Shane Rector (transferred to Miami-Dade (Fla.) College, 0.5 ppg, 0.3 rpg); Danny Feldmann (quit, 0.5 ppg, 0.4 rpg)
He’s here (freshman unless otherwise noted): Anderson; 6-4 G Deuce Bello (transfer from Baylor, sat out last year); 6-0 G Tramaine Isabell; 6-7 F D’Angelo Allen; 5-9 G Jimmy Barton (transfer from Houston Baptist); 6-5 G Namon Wright; 6-6 G Montaque Gill-Caesar; 5-11 G Keith Shamburger (transfer from Hawaii); 6-8 F Jakeenan Gant; 6-10 F Hayden Barnard
(Note: 6-7 G Cameron Biedscheid transferred from Notre Dame but was announced in October as not part of Missouri’s program so he could attend to personal matters)
Top returners: 6-9 F Johnathan Williams (5.8 ppg, 6.5 rpg); 6-10 F Ryan Rosburg (4.8 ppg, 4.1 rpg); 6-0 G Wes Clark (4.1 ppg, 2.2 rpg)
Calling it his dream job, Anderson sat at the table at SEC Media Days and stressed how happy he was to be back where he belonged, as head coach of his team, his school, the one where he’d played, where he’d served two assistant stints and a place he’d watched from tenures at Baylor and Central Missouri.
Who knows if Anderson will take Missouri to great heights? That’s a question to be answered in several future years. For the present, I believe everybody was in agreement – Missouri needed a fresh start.
Frank Haith won a lot of games at Missouri, but fans were never behind him. They complained when he was hired after an underwhelming tenure at Miami, booed louder after he was soon implicated in the NCAA case at Miami (causing him to miss five games last year), quieted when he posted a 30-win season in his first year with the Tigers, then peeled paint when that team inexplicably lost to 15-seed Norfolk State in the first round of the NCAA tournament. It quickly digressed.
It seemed best for all concerned that Haith leave, and after it seemed he was going to get one more year to turn it around, Tigers fans received a gift when he surprisingly left for the open Tulsa job. Tulsa is a fine program, but it’s one you leave to go somewhere bigger, not the opposite.
That brought in Anderson, fresh off winning a Division II national championship and who will be a rookie D-I coach at age 59. But Anderson knows how to win, knows Mizzou (he played under Norm Stewart) and Mizzou couldn’t have picked a better candidate who would pledge everything he had toward recovering the program’s glory.
“I always thought then, ‘Boy, it’d be really neat to coach at Missouri when coach Stewart retires,’” Anderson said. “But when coach retired in 1999, and I didn’t get the job then, I really didn’t think I would ever get this opportunity. I never held a grudge or anything, I just said, ‘You know what, it just wasn’t meant to be.’”
It was this time, but Anderson is facing a difficult year.
The Tigers’ top three scorers are gone. Only four players return from last year. All are getting used to a new coach and system, and he’s getting used to a new team and place where winning 20 games isn’t good enough.
If there is a positive, it’s the unknown factor. The rest of the league has no idea who Anderson’s kids are and how they’ll play together. Of course they’ll get an idea from the non-conference schedule, but how good of an idea will it be – Missouri plays Arizona, Kansas State or Purdue, Oklahoma, Xavier, Illinois and Oklahoma State. An established team would struggle against that lineup.
Anderson is enthusiastic and is coming from a place where he struggled his first year, then had 11 straight winning seasons, with seven seasons of at least 22 wins. Yes, it was Division II, but he knows how to sustain success.
“I had opportunities to go other places, but not like this,” Anderson said. “I’m kind of coaching for all those Division II guys down there that have labored for years and years and years and never got this opportunity.”
Coach (record at school, years; overall record, years): Robin Pingeton (60-65, fifth year; 395-222, 20th year)
2013-14 record (SEC finish): 17-14 (6-10)
2013-14 postseason: WNIT
She’s outta here: Bri Kulas (senior, 18.3 ppg, 6.7 rpg); Tania Jackson (senior, 2.4 ppg, 1.7 rpg); Darian Saunders (quit, 0.1 ppg, 0.6 rpg)
She’s here (freshman unless otherwise noted): 6-3 F Bri Porter; 5-4 G Carrie Shephard; 5-10 G Juanita Robinson (transfer from Johnson County (Kan.) Community College)
Top returners: 5-9 G Morgan Eye (12.9 ppg, 3.1 rpg); 6-1 G/F Jordan Frericks (7.6 ppg, 6.9 rpg); 6-1 G Morgan Stack (6.6 ppg, 2.1 rpg)
Pingeton was all set to feel good about her next team. It hasn’t been a kind start to her Missouri career, suffering two losing seasons, then joining the SEC, and posting consecutive 17-win (and 6-10 SEC) seasons.
This team lost its top scorer in Kulas but was returning the next seven highest scorers. It’s a tall team, with eight players 6-0 or above. They have the best 3-point shooter in the SEC in the appropriately named Eye and the freshmen that were thrown to the wolves last year are now sophomores. This was the year they would take a step forward and challenge for the NCAA tournament.
They still may, but right now, they’re just hoping to start the year and leave a turbulent offseason behind.
Davionna Holmes, the 6-3 forward who sat out last year after transferring from Louisville’s volleyball program, is off the team while attending to personal matters. Pingeton had labeled her as having a chance to be a really, really special player. Eye injured her MCL over the summer and is just getting back on the court.
The really bad news was just announced. Point guard Lianna Doty is out for the season with a torn Lisfranc tendon and dislocated bones in her left foot. Doty started every game last season and was fourth in the SEC with 5.65 assists per game. With her out, Missouri is turning to Shephard, who did win Miss Show-Me Basketball but is a freshman in the SEC.
Missouri has only made nine NCAA tournament appearances in its history, the last in 2006. Its greatest stretch was a five-year run in the early 1980s. It doesn’t appear that this team will be the one to break the streak, but Pingeton has gone to two straight WNITs. The program appeared headed in the right direction before Eye and Doty were hurt.
I don’t think Pingeton’s on the hot seat. Mizzou’s brass apparently likes her and honestly, the school is at the point where as long as the team doesn’t finish last, who cares?
Follow on Twitter at @DCTheState