I was adamant Kim Anderson was the wrong hire for the Missouri basketball program in April 2014.
I wanted to be wrong. But, I knew I wouldn’t be.
To be fair, the book is still out on the True Son, Anderson. None of this is his fault…yet. But one and half years into his regime, things do not look promising.
Last year, Missouri was just awful – losing to UMKC in his very first game (first loss to the Roos in school history), setting the tone for what would be the worst season (9-23) in 4? Years, which featured the longest losing streak in the program’s now 110 year history (13 games), three conference wins while finishing with single-digit wins en route to the worst season (9-23) in 48 years – and there were several reasons why.
There was no way they could be as bad this year…was there?
Missouri, thanks to some turnover, entered the season as the 13th youngest team in Division 1 with only three upperclassmen. Despite that, three games into the season, I wrote how they were much improved much improved.
And, even though the wins and losses don’t prove it, Missouri is better this year. I guess all that really matters is wins and losses, but this team has taken some baby steps. They’re more competitive. But, it’s always one step forward, two steps back.
Two weeks ago, rival Arkansas rolled into Mizzou Arena and smacked the Tigers with their worst home loss in 59 years – 94-61. This came one game after showing some promise, winning by 15 points at home against Auburn. But other than the SEC opener at Georgia (77-59 loss) and the blowout down in Arizona, Missouri has been right there in their other losses, but plagued by AT LEAST one scoring drought.
Just when it can’t seemingly get worse, it does. Following the Arkansas loss, Mizzou self-imposed sanctions on the basketball program stemming back to the Frank Haith era as response to a couple rogue boosters were giving impermissible benefits and the improper recruitment of current sophomore Jakeenan Gant by a Haith assistant (Tim Fuller), when allegedly they paid for the relocation of Gant’s mother. In an attempt to appease the NCAA, all wins (23) from Haith’s final year (2013-14) in the program were vacated AND a postseason ban for this season, including the SEC Tournament, was imposed. The Tigers also have a scholarship reduction for this season (and an additional scholarship loss to be incurred no later than the 2017-18 season).
“We have already taken many proactive steps to address concerns, including appropriate self-imposed sanctions,” Mizzou’s frist-year AD Mack Rhoades said. “We will win at Mizzou and do so with integrity and class. I am satisfied the University fully cooperated with the NCAA and will continue to do so. We must do better and we will. Our working relationship with the current men’s basketball staff is strong and I am confident in their commitment to upholding our standards and values for Mizzou Athletics.”
And, now, it has become even more clear why Kim Anderson, who was passed over for the job three other times, is the head coach at Missouri, was hired: take one for the team. Missouri was going to suck, so bring in a guy that would gladly take the job and wouldn’t break the bank to get, he’s someone who will stay here and not want to use this job as a stepping stone for another, and one who would run a clean program and MAYBE, JUST MAYBE, rebuild the program from ashes left behind by Frank Haith (started by Mike Anderson’s final year and his recruiting class of zero), who said he could have won “20 games with that roster” after last season. Right…and here’s one more thing, Anderson did not know of the investigation until one year into his reign. Seems like the right thing to do to a coach. Dick move by Mike Alden.
“We are obviously very disappointed that the actions of a few individuals have put our program in this situation,” Anderson said. “However, I am appreciative to Mack Rhoades and our staff for their guidance and support throughout this process. I hurt for our kids more than anything and for our only senior Ryan Rosburg in particular, but I am confident we will overcome this and be stronger as a team and as a staff because of it. We are committed to representing this great university and state with honor and integrity and that’s what we are going to do.”
Meanwhile, Frank Haith has been “cleared” of any wrongdoing, as he once again leaves a program as the NCAA was snooping around.
Missouri showed signs of life in their first game after the epic loss and sanctions, battling then-ranked No. 19 South Carolina to a 81-72 defeat, behind Wes Clark’s career-high 26 points. But, it takes efforts like that for Missouri to even be in the game, most of the time. Much like he did in the Illinois loss (21 points), Clark carried the team. Missouri responded with a home loss to Georgia, who had not won a road game all season. In that game, Georgia, who scored 34 points in the 30 minutes other than the opening 10 minutes of the second half, scored 28 in the first 10:17 of the second half, which included a 17-0 run. Unfortunately, it’s a troubling trend for Missouri this season, where a scoring lull kills them in a game. Saturday, it was an 18-2 Aggies run that propelled them to their 10th straight win, 66-53, sending Missouri, who led 38-36 in the second half before the now No. 5 Aggies’ run, to their 20th straight road loss and 24th loss away from home.
Anderson and Missouri are now 1-11 this season against high-major competition. They’re 3-8 in their last 11 games, but two of those wins were blowouts over two of the worst teams in Division 1, winning the two games by more points (84) than Savannah State and Arkansas Pine-Bluff scored (75). In five of the eight losses in the stretch, Mizzou was in the game. Against NC St. on Dec. 19, the Tigers led for the first 19:59 of the game, when Cat Barber hit a 3 to put the Wolfpack up 29-28. NC St, which trailed 19-9, outscored Mizzou 21-10 to open the second half en route to the 73-59 win. In that game, Barber’s 33 points were more than the entire Mizzou starting lineup. Four days later in the Braggin’ Rights rivalry, it was Missouri who went on the scoring run – 15-0 – as Illinois went scoreless for 9 ½ minutes. Too bad they were down 50-30 after the first 25 minutes. It’s the story of this Missouri basketball season. They’re right there, but not really right there at the end.
Tonight, Missouri plays Kentucky, as a 19-point dog on the road in back-to-back games. It’s their third road game in a row against a ranked team. Missouri could very well play well tonight, and it won’t matter, they’ll still lose. Really, at this point, in these games against these teams, its best hoping to be competitive. It’s sad that is where we are now, but that’s the reality of the current state of Missouri basketball and their long, quick fall from national relevance.
Again, none of this is Anderson’s fault…YET. They are better this year, even if it’s only baby steps better. But, if the progress continues at a crawl, at some point, the finger will be pointing at Kim Anderson.
But, for now, he is safe. And, he has been screwed over pretty good during this process.
So it goes for the one step forward, two steps back of Anderson’s “sacrificial lamb” tenure.
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