McKinney's season started off with a great game against Oakland, and from there, the pressure of playing the point started to get to him and put him in a downward spiral. McKinney quickly became the goat of Missouri's turnover troubles, and it made Randy Pulley's arrival a necessity to cure the offense.
That said, the team has made most of its runs with McKinney on the floor. He's a good shooter, and he's one of only three Missouri players courageous enough to go in the middle of the zone (the other two being Rickey Paulding and Linus Kleiza). McKinney has been invaluable at the end of games because of Pulley's free-throw inconsistency and McKinney's excellence in that area.
Backups (Pulley, Spencer Laurie): C+
Pulley has to shoot. Teams are giving him so much room on the outside, it makes the zone inside that much more crowded. If he can't shoot, it also takes away any threat at the end of games. Laurie is simply still learning. He's been hesitant, which is understandable, but right now, he's not helping much on the floor.
Shooting guard: Josh Kroenke
Kroenke's minutes have gone down considerable after Pulley forced McKinney into more time at the two and Thomas Gardner started to get minutes. Kroenke has barely taken a two-pointer, which is fine, but he must make more 3-pointers to get teams to look at him more and keep pressure of guys like Arthur Johnson, Travon Bryant and Kleiza inside. On defense, he tries as hard as anyone, and even though he might not have the greatest speed, he makes up for it with grit.
Backups (Jason Conley, Gardner): C+
Apparently, Conley is giving up points like water out there because Snyder consistently says he's not giving Conley, a former national scoring leader, any kind of minutes on the floor. Snyder says it's because of defense, but Conley's been hesitant on offense, too. He's been at Missouri for more than a year, and it's time he gets comfortable with the offense or he'll be watching most of the games from the bench.
As for Gardner, he's brought a lot of fire to the team. He's defense is good enough, but he has been perhaps too quick to fire up shots. It's a reputation that has followed him from high school, and missed 3-pointers are putting the Tigers back on defense too quickly.
Small forward: Rickey Paulding
Paulding's season started out rather inconsistently, missing double digits in scoring in three of the first five games. He shot a lowly 8-for-29 in the loss to Gonzaga, and hue turned the ball over seven times against Coppin State. Since then, though, Paulding has been spectacular. He still manages to disappear in games, but it's for not quite as much time as years past. At the same time, Paulding has become Missouri's offensive leader. With teams playing a zone against the Tigers, Johnson is no longer the central focus of the offense. It starts with Paulding, who in the past four games has remembered how well he can drive to the basket. It would also be hard to find anyone better in the last two minutes of a game. When it counts, Paulding has rarely let the Tigers down.
Power forward: Travon Bryant
This has been Bryant's best season at Missouri, but it hasn't come without expected lapses. He went on a roll of six straight games scoring in double figures, and he was the best player for Missouri for much of December. But that all ended against Belmont, where Bryant scored only two points. He brings a lot of energy to the team when he's intense, but at times, he seems flat and uninspired. He has been losing more and more minutes to Kleiza, but when Bryant's in the game, he's been doing many great things.
Backup (Kleiza): A-
The biggest positive surprise for Missouri has been Kleiza, who has put himself in the running for conference and national Freshman of the Year contention. Kleiza has asserted himself as a forward that can make a jump shot, go to the hoop, and get offensive rebounds. He is close to averaging a double-double for the season, and it has come in only 23 minutes a game.
Center: Arthur Johnson
Johnson's mediocre season can't be fully blamed on himself, but he hasn't exactly been the same kind of force has been in seasons past. He has turned the ball over more than 30 times this season, which has come because of the way zones have collapsed on him. But he has been slow to find the next pass, which is a shame because Johnson is a great passer. He has also had trouble handling inside passes, watching the ball go off his hands and out of bounds. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the season is that Johnson hasn't gone for more than 20 points in any game. Much of this falls on Missouri's guards for not getting him the ball, but Johnson, like his teammates, must find ways to bust the zone. If they don't, they will see it for the rest of the season.
Coach: Quin Snyder
This is perhaps the wrong time to lay down this kind of grade because Snyder's team is finally playing the kind of basketball everyone expected two months ago. But Snyder gets this grade because it's only now happening, and it's happening perhaps too late. When the same problems came up again and again, game after game, Snyder could not find the remedy, and it ended with the Tigers having their worst start in 25 years. This team has talent, perhaps too much of it, but putting it together falls on the coach, and 7-7 simply isn't good enough for the team he is working with.
And, well, Missouri lost to Belmont.