While a return by Missouri star freshman Michael Porter Jr. is still up in the air for the Southeastern Conference Tournament, one thing was made clear during Monday's teleconference with league coaches: no one wants to play the Tigers if he's back.
Missouri is the closest SEC school to St. Louis, where the tournament starts Wednesday, by almost 200 miles. Vanderbilt coach Bryce Drew said the Tigers have the most dangerous home-court advantage if they add the likes of a certain 6-foot-10 forward.
"You can't underestimate the Missouri crowd and what Michael Porter Jr. returning could do for the crowds there," he said.
Kentucky coach John Calipari went a step further. He said while most teams usually lose a player at this point in the season, Missouri has the chance to gain one who could lead them deep in both the SEC and NCAA tournaments.
Calipari said aside from Duke's addition of Kyrie Irving in the 2011 NCAA Tournament, he couldn't think of a similar situation to Porter's. Irving's situation was a bit different because he injured a toe ligament, which is less severe than back surgery, and he played in the team's first eight regular-season games before hurting his right big toe.
Porter only played two minutes of Missouri's season-opening win over Iowa State and scored on a putback layup before being sidelined. He has been practicing with the team for more than a week.
“Right now, they’re playing well.," Calipari said. "You add (Michael) Porter to that — all of the sudden, they become very, very dangerous.”
Mizzou coach Cuonzo Martin didn't address Porter's status Monday and it will likely be a game-time decision whether he plays, just like in Missouri's regular-season finale against Arkansas on Saturday.
After Saturday's game, Martin said Porter didn't play because he "just wasn't ready" and added that he's optimistic his star player will return this week.
Martin said if Porter does return, he won't have any minutes limitations because the team is in a win-or-go-home situation.
Also Monday, Martin said he thought junior guard Cullen VanLeer tore his right ACL, which puts him out for the season and leaves Missouri with eight available players, not counting Porter.
Missouri's first game in the SEC Tournament is around 2:25 Thursday afternoon against either Georgia or Vanderbilt. A victory would put Mizzou in Friday's quarterfinals against Kentucky.