South Carolina basketball beat writer David Cloninger looks at every other team in the SEC as the season approaches.
2012-13 record (SEC finish): 23-11, 11-7 (T-5th) *NCAA first round
Coach (record at school, years; overall record, years): Frank Haith (53-16, third year; 182-117, 10th year)
Top returners: G Jabari Brown (13.7 ppg, 3.4 rpg); G Earnest Ross (10.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg); F Tony Criswell (5.2 ppg, 4.8 rpg)
Biggest losses: Laurence Bowers (14.1 ppg, 6.1 rpg); Phil Pressey (11.9 ppg, 3.3 rpg); Alex Oriakhi (11.2 ppg, 8.4 rpg)
How does this get judged?
Frank Haith has kept Missouri where it’s used to being in his first two years on the job, winning 53 games and making the NCAA tournament twice. That’s what’s expected, that’s what’s been done.
He’s also not won an NCAA tournament game, each time suffering a first-round loss, and this season finally saw him hit with sanctions for violations that occurred when he was coaching at Miami. Haith is suspended for the first five games of the regular season for his part in the scandal.
Basketball-wise, Mizzou lost a lot of talent but has a heavy junior class to lean on as it attempts to keep afloat in the rough-and-tumble SEC. The Tigers are probably a middle-of-the-pack team, perhaps able to make the NCAAs. But if they don’t, what happens?
I’m not saying Haith is on the hot seat. What I am saying is that with a bad year – and at a school where massive success is expected, a “bad year” can mean something as high as not making the NCAAs – the administration may look at the suspension, the other tournament appearances and say, “Is this worth it?”
I think Haith will be back for a fourth year, but there is that little nagging cloud of doubt. What’s crucial for the clouds to recede is the Tigers taking care of a soft non-conference schedule and perhaps springing an upset or two over Florida, Kentucky, LSU or Tennessee.
2012-13 record (SEC finish): 17-15, 6-10 (T-8th) *WNIT
Coach (record at school, years; overall record, years): Robin Pingeton (43-51, fourth year; 379-208, 19th year)
Top returners: F Bri Kulas (13.8 ppg, 6.5 rpg); G Morgan Eye (12.2 ppg, 3.9 rpg); G Lianna Doty (6.2 ppg, 2.8 rpg)
Biggest losses: Sydney Crafton (9.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg); Liz Smith (7.5 ppg, 5.3 rpg); Lene Priede (4.6 ppg, 2.1 rpg)
Quite a first year in the league for Missouri, although it didn’t make the NCAA tournament. What the Tigers did was make their arena a harsh visit for the rest of the league.
Yes, the home league record was only 4-4, but two of those wins were against Tennessee and South Carolina. The Lady Vols were crushed by Mizzou, 80-63, and the Gamecocks lost in a game that ultimately cost them a bye from the first two rounds of the SEC tournament.
Welcoming back the nation’s leader in made 3-pointers per game – and quite an appropriate name – in Morgan Eye, Mizzou is looking for severe improvement. Coach Robin Pingeton has made just one WNIT in three years, but had a history of postseason appearances at Illinois State, and Missouri may be a solid dark-horse candidate to nab a top-four berth in the SEC this season.
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