Mizzou Hoops: How Good Can Cuonzo Martin’s First-Year Tigers Squad Be?

The first domino fell March 15 — the day Cuonzo Martin both resigned from Cal and took the Mizzou basketball reigns — that Tigers hoops fans again began dreaming of meaningful competition.

The dreams kept growing over the next nine days as Martin gained prized recruit and sure-fire ‘diaper-dandy,’ Michael Porter Jr. after adding Porter Sr. to his coaching staff. Throw in younger brother Jontay Porter and 6’10” freshman Jeremiah Tilmon and at the very least you have a team that will remain in games, which is more than Mizzou fans have been able to bank on for some time.

But how good can this group be with a new head coach and youth making up a majority of the talent?

“It’s obviously going to be really hard to know how good this team is going to be until you see maybe 10 or 12 games because they are so young and so new,” USA Today’s Dan Wolken recently told 101ESPN. The scribe added that success in March has leaned largely toward more experienced squads in recent years.

“I think one of the things that’s happened the last couple years is we swung from the best teams in the country are the ones who have one-and-done talent to, ‘okay, it’s good to have one-and-done talent,’ but you also need to have some veterans because if you look at the teams in the Final Four the last couple years, they’ve really been older teams.”

“They do have some veteran players at Missouri that will help them, but trying to get any preseason gauge for whether they’re a Top 25 team, are they a Final Four team, are they an NCAA Tournament team…You’re really just sort of throwing darts,” Wolken added.

One thing no one’s just throwing darts at is Porter Jr.’s talent level. Wolken described an earlier story he’d written on Mizzou and Porter Jr. in particular.

“He’s just a gifted, big time scorer. And a lot of times these Five-Star ‘one and done’ freshman are just athletes and not finished basketball players and I think Michael Porter’s more of a basketball player.”

In another recent 101ESPN interview, legendary ESPN analyst Dick Vitale relayed a conversation he had with Bill Self regarding the freshman’s pedigree.

“I asked Bill about Missouri. He said, ‘Dick, they’ll be one of the most improved teams in the nation,'” Vitale said. “He said the kid, Porter Jr. is off the charts. He said he creates a mismatch with everyone who’s going to guard because he plays the three at six-foot-10.

“He can shoot, he can handle; (Self) said he’s the complete deal. He said his brother’s very good as well and he thinks the kid, Tilmon, the seven-footer, is going to be a good player,” Dickie V added. “Key for them will be guard play…If they get solid guard play, they could really a problem and be an NCAA Tournament team.”

College hoops expert Ken Pomeroy of adds that the team’s early schedule will indeed give us a look at who this team can truly be.

“You’d expect maybe a new coach, young team would come out and schedule a bunch of cupcakes, but, for the most part, they’re not doing that,” Pomeroy recently told The Kevin Wheeler Show. “They’re playing not necessarily top-ten teams every night, but they are playing good basketball teams that will provide a lot of insight on how good Missouri is.”

The Tigers tip their season off against Iowa State Friday night at 7 p.m. in Columbia. Stay tuned to 101ESPN and for plenty of Mizzou coverage and analysis throughout the season.

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