Missouri suffers through disappointing season, finishes with record of 10–21

The freshmen class provided Missouri’s lone bright spot in what was a dismal season.
Missouri guard Terrence Phillips (1) leaps into the air to find a teammate to pass to during the game against Florida on March 5 in Mizzou Arena. The Florida Gators defense was all over the Tigers, ending the game with a total of 12 forced turnovers.

The 2015–16 season was much like its predecessor for the Missouri men’s basketball team (10–21, 3–15 SEC).

Fans often left Mizzou Arena disappointed, the Tigers struggled against any foe that offered a worthy challenge, and Missouri once again finished in the basement of the Southeastern Conference.

As the season comes to a close, here are three things that characterized another tumultuous season for the Tigers.

Water Under the Bridge With the departure of Ryan Rosburg, Missouri’s future roster is composed solely of players who have played Tigers basketball under coach Kim Anderson.

That means Missouri can finally put Frank Haith’s tenure as coach completely in the past. There are no more scholarships that can be lost, no more postseasons that will be missed because of violations caused by the former coach.

As a result, Anderson will be fielding his own team for the first time as Missouri’s coach. Anderson has already proven that he can turn a program around once he has his own personnel in place. In two years as coach at Central Missouri, Anderson took a team that went 12–16 (6–12 MAIAA) in his first season to a team that finished with a 24–6 record and tied for first in its conference.

So while Anderson will be coaching under immense pressure from Missouri fans and administration following two straight losing seasons, he will be fielding a team of his choice for the first time as head coach. It will be then that Tigers fans can decide whether or not Anderson is the best choice for the future of Missouri men’s basketball.

Youth Movement The one bright spot of Missouri’s 10–21 season was the play of its freshman class.

Behind freshman guard Terrence Phillips and forward Kevin Puryear, Missouri’s freshman class averaged a combined 30 points per game. That is the highest points per game average by a Missouri freshman class in the past decade.

An even better sign for the Tigers is that the freshmen steadily improved throughout the course of the season. Freshman guard K.J. Walton took advantage of Wes Clark’s dismissal from the team, capitalizing on his increase in playing time by averaging seven points per game in Missouri’s final six games.

The fate of Missouri will ultimately be in the hands of Phillips, the team’s proverbial leader throughout the season.

“(Phillips) plays with so much fire and emotion,” Anderson said. “I love him because he plays with so much emotion.”

Throughout the season, Phillips impressed Missouri fans and opposing teams alike with his high octane style of play.

“(Phillips) plays very hard, very fast,” Florida coach Mike White said. “He’s really good at getting deep into the paint.”

Missouri will be hoping that this year’s freshmen continue to improve.

The Experience Issue Missouri brought back only one starter from the 2014–15 season. That player, Clark, was dismissed from the team with six games left this season.

Missouri was inexperienced from the start, and it showed. More often than not, Missouri would come out of the locker room timid and fall into a quick deficit.

In fact, Missouri was behind at halftime in 20 games this season. Coincidentally, Missouri lost all of those games.

Missouri’s inexperience also led to inefficiencies in its half-court offense. The team turned the ball over 12.5 times per game and were -1.4 in turnover margin. That is the third-worst turnover margin in the SEC this season.

On the bright side, Missouri should not have the issue of inexperience come next season. Missouri will be returning four of the players who started in their final six games as well as all of its current bench players.

Edited by Alec Lewis | alewis@themaneater.com

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