Mizzou Madness offers taste of men's and women's basketball seasons

Akira Levy serenaded the crowd and Xavier Pinson showed his leaping ability to give fans a taste of the upcoming season at Mizzou Arena.
Missouri basketball coach Cuonzo Martin greets his team during introductions at Mizzou Madness on Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018.

Sophie Cunningham strutted out onto the floor to ‘Brickhouse’ by the Commodores, Jontay Porter smiled in his self-described “jolly” way and jogged out, and Grace Berg entered Mizzou Arena on a Bird scooter to kick off the men’s and women’s basketball seasons at Mizzou Madness.

The players combined for a Hot Shot competition that was won by a half-court shot from Jontay Porter before Akira Levy serenaded the crowd with “If I Ain’t Got You” by Alicia Keys.

Then before both teams had loose scrimmages before a small crowd. Here are some takeaways from the night.

Xavier Pinson shows off athleticism

Xavier Pinson showed his hops in a dunk contest victory over Parker Braun, Mitchell Smith and Christian Guess.

Pinson and Braun advanced to the final, where Pinson flushed a windmill dunk that earned him the victory.

Pinson also got up for a putback slam to ignite the crowd. After a summer, Pinson was finally able to show his athleticism off. He remembers the last time he checked his vertical jump, it was 42 inches.

“I’ve been waiting for sure,” Pinson said. “It was fun and I’m thankful for the opportunity.”

Pinson said he sees himself and senior Jordan Geist in the backcourt together this season and could get a lot of playing time while Dru Smith and Mark Smith sit out their transfer periods.

The men’s scrimmage ended in a 32-32 tie after Porter soared through the air to finish off a putback dunk to beat the buzzer.

The game quickly turned into a sloppy compilation of layups and dunks, but some bigs showed improved shooting range. Reed Nikko nailed a triple and Jeremiah Tilmon also attempted a three.

Neither of the bigs’ outside shooting should shift the offense too much, but they could draw defenders out to give the Tiger offense a little more spacing, as well as giving Tilmon more room to operate and cut inside.

Grace Berg runs the floor well

In the women’s scrimmage, Robin Pingeton’s team played up and down the floor with the fast pace that the team is expected to have this season.

Amber Smith and Lauren Aldridge led the black team to victory over Cunningham and the gold squad.

One beneficiary of that system could be freshman forward Grace Berg, who was able to beat the Gold team down the court for a couple of easy buckets. Berg, a cross-country runner in high school, would add speed to the frontcourt in transition and will help Missouri pivot to an up-tempo style after the losses of Jordan Frericks and Cierra Porter.

For a team without a lot of size, the six-foot Berg could see a lot of playing time in the new system that prioritized positionless basketball. Berg let a couple of outside shots fly and also scored on a turnaround hook shot in the post and made a reverse layup.

Along with stars Amber Smith and Cunningham, Berg can play on the wing and as a post player and could provide a lethal combination of versatility within a five or four-out offense.

Edited by Bennett Durando | bdurando@themaneater.com

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