The Missouri Tigers basketball team was picked to finish last in the 14-team Southeastern Conference this season, as selected by a panel of SEC and national media members, the league announced Wednesday.
The Tigers have finished last in the SEC in each of the last two seasons, the first two years under head coach Kim Anderson. Missouri went 10-21 overall and 3-15 in SEC play a year ago and was 9-23 overall and 3-15 in league play during the 2014-15 season.
“Missouri has historically been a very good basketball program and obviously the last couple years have been tough,” Anderson told ESPN’s SEC Nation show on Wednesday from SEC Tipoff in Nashville. “When I took the position two years ago, we made the decision not only as a coaching staff but also as an administration that we were going to build this program pretty much with younger guys — start with freshmen and build it up. We’ve had a couple of junior college guys. We’ve only had one fifth-year transfer my first year.
“It’s not easy. I know fans get impatient. I get impatient. But I think it’s the best way to do it. We’re trying to build a program and not just build one team. That’s the route that we’ve chosen to go. The first two years have been hard, there’s no question about it.”
The Tigers will have a different look this season with just two of their regular starters returning from last season — sophomore point guard Terrence Phillips and sophomore forward Kevin Puryear — and part-time starters back in senior forward Russell Woods (six starts), sophomore guard K.J. Walton (seven starts) and sophomore guard Cullen VanLeer (three starts).
The renovated roster includes seven newcomers: junior forward Jordan Barnett (who transferred from Texas at midseason a year ago), freshman guard Frankie Hughes, sophomore guard Jordan Geist and freshmen forwards Willie Jackson, Reed Nikko, Mitchell Smith and Jakoby Kemp.
“Our approach this year is different, our energy is different, our mindset is different going into this year,” Phillips told the SEC Nation program.
“I would say it started at the end of last year,” Phillips added. “It started with our preseason workouts in the spring and then going into the summer having all our guys today. Our approach, from Day 1, it’s been tremendous.”
The new-look Tigers will still be a young squad but look like they have some good young talent to work with.
“It’s a challenge and I love the challenge,” Anderson said of turning around the Tigers. “I think my staff loves it. I’m appreciative of the opportunity. Really. It’s been good. Obviously people want to win and I understand that and I hope that we can make some significant progress this year. I’m not going to sit here and tell you to buy your Final Four tickets, but certainly I think this is a group that wants to get better, they want to work hard and more importantly, most importantly, they want to be coached.”
Preseason Media Poll
3. Texas A&M
8. South Carolina
9. Ole Miss
10. Mississippi State
First Team All-SEC
Moses Kingsley – Arkansas, F, 6-10, 230, Sr., Abuja, Nigeria
J.J. Frazier – Georgia, G, 5-10, 155, Sr., Glennville, Ga.
Edrice “Bam” Adebayo – Kentucky, F, 6-10, 260, Fr., Little Washington, N.C.
De’Aaron Fox – Kentucky, G, 6-3, 187, Fr., Houston, Texas
Tyler Davis – Texas A&M, C, 6-10, 270, So., Plano, Texas
Second Team All-SEC
KeVaughn Allen – Florida, G, 6-2, 183, So., Little Rock, Ark.
Yante Maten – Georgia, F, 6-8, 240, Jr., Pontiac, Mich.
Isaiah Briscoe – Kentucky, G, 6-3, 210, So., Newark, N.J.
Malik Monk – Kentucky, G, 6-3, 200, Fr., Lepanto, Ark.
Antonio Blakeney – LSU, G, 6-4, 190, So., Sarasota, Fla.
Quinndary Weatherspoon – Mississippi State, G, 6-4, 202, So., Canton, Miss.
Luke Kornet – Vanderbilt, F, 7-1, 250, Sr., Lantana, Texas
SEC Player of the Year: Moses Kingsley, Arkansas
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