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All things EHS all the time

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MIZZOU HOOPS: SOPHOMORE SLUMP?

Is this years struggle for Mizzou Hoops a one off, or cause for concern down the line
Colorado+State+Transfer+John+Tonje
Colorado State Athletics
Colorado State Transfer John Tonje

About ten months ago, I had the fortune of writing a piece on Dennis Gates and his upstart Missouri hoops team cruising towards March Madness, which is exactly what they did and more.

Last season, the Tigers won their first tournament game since 2010, all with a group of mostly mid-major transfers and Kobe Brown leading the way. Going into this year, it could have been expected that there may have been some regression, with Mizzou losing four seniors, Kobe Brown being drafted in the first round by the Los Angeles Clippers, and D’moi Hodge being signed to a two-way deal by the Lakers.

This offseason, the Tigers also missed on some marquee transfer additions including Matthew Cleveland, who is now averaging 14.8 points per game at Miami, and Virginia transfer Kadin Shedrick, who now puts up 13.3 points and 4.5 rebounds per game at Texas. Unlike this pair, Mizzou failed to get a true star out of the portal and this is the main factor of why in non-conference play, the Tigers finished 8-5, with really only one respectable win against Pittsburgh.

To make matters worse, they lost in embarrassing fashion to Illinois and were upset by Jackson State, a traditional bottom feeder of Division 1 Basketball.

This season, senior guard Sean East II has assumed this role and is starting to grow into it, but at times it seems like he has no supporting cast. Iowa State transfer Caleb Grill seemed to be coming around to a heightened role after going for 13 points on the road against Pitt, but he is now out five to seven weeks with a wrist injury.

Iowa State Transfer Caleb Grill (Luke Lu)

Not to mention that highly acclaimed transfer John Tonje from Colorado State has been out almost the entirety of the year with what seems to be a phantom injury, with Gates not giving the press much info about his status. On paper, Nick Honor has improved statistically, but in the game, it seems like he has had a regression, due to the increased role he has taken in the offense.

Once again, this goes back to the fact that there is a lack of top dogs on this team, who are willing to take over a game and put the ball in the net. Plain and simple, Gates took a gamble this year taking in five transfers, with arguably the former Indiana wing being the only one who was proven worthy.

In fairness, not all of this can be negative, look how that ended up with me trashing Eliah Drinkwitz after the Middle Tennessee game, and they ended up finishing 11-2 with a Cotton Bowl trophy. A positive for Gates is his phenomenal recruiting ability from the high school ranks. His five-man 2024 class consists of all four stars per 247 Sports, with four of the five being in the top 100.

Mizzou Point Guard Nick Honor (Mizzou Athletics)

Furthermore, Gates recently started his 2025 class off with a bang, in securing the commitment of Columbia native Aaron Rowe, who is ranked a five-star per 247.

It seems that Gates will be fine, especially in the realm of the high school recruiting ranks, but a lack of portal game could potentially hamper his teams from becoming elite in the near future. But when looking at the general picture, it is easy to see this year as a disappointing rebuild year, one that many expected last year to be.

The realistic outlook for next year’s season should be an improvement, but a very young team, and in two years, It is not crazy to say that pending a mass portal exodus, Mizzou would be in a key position to make a postseason run, potentially even making their first Final Four.

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About the Contributor
Sam Garner, Sports Editor

Sam Garner, News Production

Grade: 11 Years on Staff: 2 Hobbies: Golfing, traveling, fishing, hanging out with friends and family What was your favorite childhood TV show? The Suite Life What is your favorite book?  Saban: Making of a Coach Favorite Quote: "Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard." Favorite Hot Take: Thanksgiving food is overrated Fun Fact: My mom teaches at Eureka What motivates you?  Making myself and my family proud
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