Mizzou basketball at Advocare Invitational
When/where: Thursday, Friday and Sunday at ESPN Wide World of Sports, Orlando, Fla.
Thursday’s game: Mizzou vs. Long Beach State, 10:30 a.m. on ESPN2
Friday’s game: Mizzou vs. St. John’s or Oregon State, 10 a.m. on ESPNews (if Mizzou wins) or noon on ESPN3
Sunday’s game: Mizzou at 8:30 p.m. in championship (ESPN2), 11 a.m. for third place (ESPNU), 1 p.m. for fifth place (ESPNU) or 6 p.m. for seventh place (ESPN3)
Radio: KMBZ (98.1 FM)
Long Beach State
About Missouri (3-1): It’s been a pretty bad week for Missouri. On Monday the Tiger barely beat Emporia State, a Division II team. On Tuesday it was announced that Michael Porter Jr., the top recruit in the country, would likely miss the rest of the season after back surgery. Missouri will have to lean on his younger brother, Jontay, as well as senior guards Kassius Robertson and Jordan Barnett. Both players have been shooting poorly of late and need a strong bounce-back if Missouri is to salvage its season. Freshman center Jeremiah Tilmon had his first game in a while Monday without foul trouble, but it was against a lesser opponent. Missouri struggled from the free-throw line in that game, with Kevin Puryear the only reliable option from the stripe.
About Long Beach State (2-2): The 49ers are coming off a blowout loss to West Virginia in which the Mountaineers won by nearly 30 points. The Beach was picked fourth in the Big West preseason poll and boasts a pair of all-conference-caliber players in Gabe Levin and Temidayo Yussuf. The team’s only other game against high-major competition was a 89-81 loss to Oregon State. Dan Monson’s team has knocked off a handful of high-major opponents over the years and most recently appeared in the NCAA Tournament in 2012.
About St. John’s (4-0): Many around college basketball balked a few years ago when the Red Storm hired Chris Mullin with no previous coaching experience. It appears the folks in Queens have gotten the last laugh. Under the guidance of Mullin, arguably the program’s most famous product, St. John’s is currently undefeated and is a potential NCAA Tournament team. The Johnnies feature one of the nation’s best backcourts in Shamorie Ponds and Marcus LoVett. Throw in the addition of Michigan State transfer Marvin Clark and Arizona transfer Justin Simon, and St. John’s is as complete a team as it was when Mullin was playing.
About Oregon State (2-1): The Beavers draw a lot of comparisons to Missouri. A few years ago, after firing Craig Robinson (brother-in-law of former president Barack Obama), Oregon State hired Wayne Tinkle. At the time, Tinkle’s son, Tres, was a top-100 recruit who committed to play for his father shortly after his hire. Tinkle then brought in as an assistant Stephen Thompson Sr., whose sons, Stephen Jr. and Ethan, were also top recruits. The rebuild went quicker than expected as Tinkle led Oregon State to the NCAA Tournament in just his second season. Last year’s team was decimated by injuries, however, and won just six games. But everyone returns this season, making the Beavers a tough team to beat.
Other side of the bracket
About Central Florida (3-0): Coach Johnny Dawkins has the Knights at the top of the American Athletic Conference. They boast one of the nation’s tallest players in 7-foot-6 Tacko Fall. Fall is one of the best defenders around and poses a giant mismatch for any opponent. Fall is one of six Knights averaging double-digit scoring on a team picked to finish third in the AAC behind top-10 preseason picks Wichita State and Cincinnati.
About Nebraska (3-1): Nebraska is picked to finish toward the bottom of a loaded Big Ten. The conference could get five to seven teams into the NCAA Tournament. The Cornhuskers have a pair of reliable young scorers in Anton Gill and Isaac Copeland. Through four games, Nebraska has six players averaging more than 10 points.
About West Virginia (3-1): The Mountaineers enter this tournament as the highest-ranked team in the field despite an early blowout loss to Texas A&M. Bob Huggins’ teams can always defend, and this one should get plenty of offense out of Jevon Carter, one of the best guards in the country. Esa Ahmad is sitting out the first half of the season after failing to qualify.
About Marist (0-3): The Red Foxes are off to a rough start after being picked to finish toward the bottom of the MAAC conference. They enter this tournament winless, though two of their three losses were by single-digits. Junior guard Brian Parker is averaging nearly 20 points per game.