University of Missouri

Mizzou Monday: Stop the spring game? Basketball recruiting in STL and more

Ronnell Perkins making the move to linebacker

Perkins, a junior, began Missouri’s spring practice session as the Tigers’ strong safety. But he recently moved to nickel linebacker.
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Perkins, a junior, began Missouri’s spring practice session as the Tigers’ strong safety. But he recently moved to nickel linebacker.

On Mondays, Aaron Reiss, one of The Star’s Mizzou beat writers, will offer a digest of thoughts on the Tigers and MU story lines to follow.

Barry Odom said last week that he hoped Missouri’s spring football game would be boring, like “watching paint dry,” and he got his wish. The meaningless game was a blowout. Mizzou beat Mizzou 30-0 in front of a few thousand people.

(Paint drying might actually have been more exciting. At least with that there’s the uncertainty of whether you will actually like the color you picked once it is covering your walls. When I was a boy, I wanted to paint my bedroom black. My mother settled on light blue.)

The game was basically a practice for the Tigers. But it was even less productive than most practices, because practices are not on TV.

The argument that teams shouldn’t reveal anything for their regular-season opponents in the spring game seems a bit silly. Missouri should be able to beat Tennessee-Martin in its season opener even if the Skyhawks have some film of the Tigers’ new offense, and every opponent after Tennessee-Martin will have film of Mizzou in a regular-season game. But Odom is allowed to make his spring game as boring as he wants, and he’s only following other football programs in producing an event that has no real impact on position battles.

“We’ll just look at it ... on the entire 15 days,” Odom said when asked how players’ performances on Saturday affected the depth chart. “This is just a small part of it.”

It is maybe the smallest part. So why don’t teams stop playing the spring game?

  1. It is an event for fans.

  2. It is #content for TV.

The second reason is why spring games won’t go away, which is too bad, because I have an alternative. What if teams did away with the spring game and replaced it with a two-hour long fan appreciation event, full of autographs, contests and anything other than the No. 3 offense vs. the No. 3 defense playing in full uniform?

That would be an upgrade from watching paint dry to redecorating a living room.

Mizzou’s presence in St. Louis keeps growing

Missouri basketball picked up a commitment this weekend from Mark Smith, a transfer from Illinois. The guard from Edwardsville, Ill., had an up-and-down freshman season for the Illini, but he’s a talented player who will make an impact for the Tigers, and his decision to play for Mizzou shows the inroads Cuonzo Martin continues to make in the St. Louis area, where three of the five players in his 2018 recruiting class are from.

When asked about Missouri basketball’s presence in the St. Louis, Andre McMurray — the director of Jets-Ramey United, Smith's AAU team — said: "It’s been a long time since I’ve seen anything close to this.”

Can Martin’s staff keep its momentum and secure a commitment from Courtney Ramey, who played for the same AAU program? The Webster Groves guard is perhaps the best undeclared player at his position left on the market, and he would have an opportunity to play plenty of minutes right away at MU. The Tigers only have one point guard returning from last season, Jordan Geist, and for now 2018 signee Xavier Pinson figures to be the only other point guard on the roster next season. Smith, who will be eligible for the 2019-2020 season, can play both guard positions and on the wing.

Illinois and South Carolina — teams Ramey listed among his top 10 choices — have recently picked up point guard commitments.

If Ramey picks the Tigers and joins a St. Louis-heavy Missouri recruiting class, that will send a message: Martin will be in the mix for any area prospect Mizzou is interested in.

"Cuonzo has a lot of faith in me, he's expecting big things from me in the future and I just feel like we have a really good relationship," Smith said. "I'm excited to get to Columbia and work with him and the staff."

Will Mizzou add a graduate transfer?

Kassius Robertson came to Missouri from Canisius and turned into the Tigers’ leader during his lone season in Columbia. Can Missouri find another impact graduate transfer for next season?

Following the addition of Smith, Missouri will still have two open scholarships, assuming Jontay Porter stays in the NBA Draft. One of those can go to Ramey, and the other could be used on a veteran who would fill out a young Mizzou team. The Tigers are in the mix for Aaron Calixte, a graduate transfer guard from Maine who averaged 16.9 points per game last season.

Missouri could also use that second open scholarship to take another transfer who would have to sit out a season. The Tigers are hosting Dru Smith for a visit the weekend of April 27. Smith — who averaged 13.7 points, 3.5 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 2.0 steals per game last season — would have two seasons of eligibility remaining after he misses the 2018-19 season.

Tough road series for the Tigers

Mizzou lost all three of its baseball games this past weekend at Florida. Only the first game, a 3-1 result, was close.

The Gators (32-6, 12-3) are the No. 1 team in the country, so Missouri never seemed likely to win a series at UF, but the sweep dropped MU’s record to 24-12 and 6-9 in conference play.

"We just got it handed to us,” Missouri coach Steve Beiser said after the Tigers lost a doubleheader Saturday, 10-2 and 7-2. “That's about all I can say. They dominated us. ... We just have to regroup and turn this thing around."

The last SEC baseball team to make the NCAA Tournament with a losing conference record was Auburn in 2015. Auburn went 13-17 in SEC play that season but had the No. 25 RPI in the country. The SEC was the best RPI league in the country in 2015, too.

Missouri currently ranks 31st in RPI, and the SEC has six of the top 12 RPI teams (No. 1 Florida, No. 4 Arkansas, No. 6 Mississippi, No. 7 Georgia, No. 11 Texas A&M, No. 12 Kentucky). Two of those teams — Kentucky and Georgia — are among Mizzou’s opponents for the Tigers’ final five conference series, so Missouri has opportunities to bolster its case to qualify for its first NCAA tournament since 2012.

Some softball success

MU’s softball team picked up its first SEC series win this past weekend, and it was technically a sweep.

Missouri had to cancel its third and final game against No. 8 Auburn, but the Tigers won the first two to push their conference record to 6-11. Those victories should help MU’s RPI, which was already No. 23 in the country as of April 8.

"We talked about how we thought we're playing our best ball of the season as of late and we showed that again today over the two games," interim Missouri coach Gina Fogue said. "Auburn is a top 10 team for a reason with outstanding pitching and we once again battled our hearts out until the very end."

Mizzou is now in 11th place in the 13-team SEC. (Vanderbilt doesn’t field a softball team.) Only the top 12 teams will participate in the SEC tournament, which Mizzou hosts this season.

The Tigers final two conference series are against tough teams: Florida and South Carolina. In the latest USA Today coaches poll, Florida was No. 6 and South Carolina was No. 11. The two teams met for a series this past weekend, and the Gators swept the Gamecocks in Florida.

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