Starting Five: Anderson ousted at Missouri
A second major conference job opened up on Sunday when Missouri announced that Kim Anderson has been asked to step down after going 26-67 over the past three seasons. Another team going through a rough season, Oregon State, can't have their star recruit arrive fast enough, North Carolina hosted an elite group and much more in this week's Starting Five.
1. MISSOURI MOVING ON AFTER DISASTROUS THREE-YEAR ANDERSON RUN
Rather than waste any more time, Missouri put an end to all speculation when they announced Sunday that head coach Kim Anderson was fired after three seasons.
Though the Tigers have been down for the past few years, the job has a chance to be an attractive one. The facilities at Mizzou are top notch, the budget is there and there is a good talent base between Kansas City and St. Louis. If athletic director Jim Sterk is willing to spend to hire a quality coach, then he can attract a reasonable name.
Since the job has been rumored to be opening for some time, many names have been circulating through the rumor mill. Some of the biggest floated have been Cal's Cuonzo Martin, Indiana's Tom Crean and Washington's Lorenzo Romar. Martin is from nearby East St. Louis and used to coach at Missouri State, Crean could be looking for a soft landing spot because of a poor season and a fanbase that seems to be turning on him and Romar gets brought up because he previously coached at St. Louis and most of all because he's signed the nation's No. 1 player, Michael Porter Jr., who lived in Columbia before Romar hired his father away from the Missouri women's program.
Other names that are sure to be linked or looked into include VCU's Will Wade, UNC Wilmington's Kevin Keatts, Winthrop's Pat Kelsey and Illinois State's Dan Muller. Florida Gulf Coast's Joe Dooley would also be one to look into if Missouri decides to go the mid-major head coach route.
No matter who gets hired, Missouri has to find somebody that can put an end to the Tigers' inability to recruit the state's top talent. It's great that Missouri produces good local talent, but it does Mizzou no good if they can't land it. Between the years of 2002 and 2017, there were 28 Rivals150 players who were from Missouri. The Tigers only landed three of them (they are four of 29 if you count four-star Jakeenan Gant, who moved to Missouri from Georgia in the spring of his senior year). As for four-star or better talent? The Tigers have gone 1-for-18 and that one player was four-star Kalen Grimes from the class of 2004.
The Tigers are already 0-for-2 in 2018 with top 30 prospects Carte'Are Gordon (St. Louis University) and Courtney Ramey (Louisville) already off the board. Time is ticking and if a new coach wants to return Missouri to a competitive state, he's got to find a way to reverse the disturbing trend of talent leaving the state.
2. THOMPSON CAN'T ARRIVE SOON ENOUGH FOR OREGON STATE
After appearing in the 2016 NCAA Tournament and returning most of their top players, things were looking up for Oregon State basketball. Unfortunately, things didn't go as planned this season as injuries and subpar play have led to a big step back during a 5-26 (1-17 in Pac 12 play) 2016-17 season.
On the bright side, the Beavers best players are young and provided they are healthy again they should take a huge step forward next season. Another reason for optimism is that guard Ethan Thompson is on his way.
Over the past few weeks, Thompson has been electric while leading his Bishop Montgomery team to a championship in a CIF Southern Section featuring several big time players and teams. Thompson's current ranking of No. 49 nationally is already impressive, but he's made a convincing argument for a nice bump in the final rankings and has all the tools to make a significant impact the moment he steps on campus. He can shoot, he can play all over the backcourt, he's athletic and most importantly he's shown the ability to be at his very best when his team most needs him to be.
3. TOP 50 SOPH COCKBURN HAS BIG WINTER
Already ranked No. 36 overall in the class of 2019, big man Kofi Cockburn has had himself a very good sophomore season at Middle Village (N.Y.) Christ the King. Standing 6-foot-10, Cockburn already looks like a college player physically and he's become much more reliable as a scoring option on the interior during his sophomore season.
In the last three days, Cockburn has picked up offers from Cincinnati and Georgia Tech after picking up offers from Minnesota and Providence earlier in the winter. Other offers include UNLV, Rutgers, Seton Hall and St. John's.
Look for Cockburn to be among the most watched big men in the country this spring and mark him down as a potential breakout prospect this spring when he hits the Nike EYBL with the New York Rens.
4. NORTH CAROLINA HOSTS ELITE GROUP
On Saturday night, North Carolina locked up their eighth ACC regular season title under head coach Roy Williams. Making things even better for Tar Heels fans was that they were able to exact some revenge against rival Duke, who beat them earlier this season. The game brought out past UNC greats Michael Jordan, Rasheed Wallace and Antawn Jamison.
Among the others in the crowd were several key recruits headlined by their top remaining 2017 target, Kevin Knox. Knox had just visited Chapel Hill officially two weeks ago and returned to Carolina a second time so he could see UNC one last time on Saturday before swinging by Duke again on Sunday. He's also considering Florida State and Kentucky but of late the feel has been that he is likely to end up somewhere on tobacco road. With ACC player of the year Justin Jackson likely headed to the NBA and good friend Joel Berry expected back to run the point for his senior season there is a growing feeling that the Heels have moved themselves into good position as Knox eyes a decision within the next month or so.
Also on hand was 2018's No. 2 player Zion Williamson and 2018's No. 31 ranked player Jairus Hamilton, a key in-state target. In addition to the elite targets, 2017 commitment Jalek Felton and 2018 pledges Rechon Black and Coby White were on hand.
5. UNDERWOOD HAS MUCH TO SELL AT OKLAHOMA STATE
Because of how strong Oklahoma State has finished the season, the Cowboys are a lock to return to the NCAA Tournament after missing the dance in 2016. Coach Brad Underwood has a good thing going and lots to sell.
The Cowboys have always been able to tap into the state of Texas and will always be competitive for local kids and I don't expect that to change. On top of that, Underwood has proven to be a winner at Stephen F. Austin and now Oklahoma State, he has good facilities at his disposal and plenty of resources. He also has a very hard-working staff that has been proactive. What I really see that Underwood has going for him, though, is his player development.
When Underwood and his coaches hit the trail, they are going to point to the rapid development of sophomore point guard Jawun Evans and junior wing Jeffrey Carroll. Evans is a flat out stud and would likely have developed into a NBA prospect regardless of who coached him, but there's a legitimate argument that the way Underwood and his staff have developed him has accelerated that process. Evans is currently getting lost in the shuffle when discussing the country's best point guards, but make no mistake about it, he's as good as there is and his 22-point, 15-assist effort against Kansas over the weekend was remarkable. He's looking like a lock NBA first round Draft pick at this point.
While Evans was bound to be a pro, what Underwood and his staff have done with Carroll is impressive. After scoring a combined 333 points in his first two seasons, the former three-star prospect has exploded as a junior scoring 536 points (17.3 per game) while also adding 6.6 rebounds per game. He's not a lock just yet, but Carroll is developing into somebody who is going to get a long look from the NBA as a senior and cases like his and Evans along with the winning culture are all things that Underwood can sell moving forward.
The star of OSU's 2017 recruiting class is likely going to be their lone Rivals150 prospect, guard Zack Dawson. However, moving forward, it won't be surprise if Underwood and his staff start landing classes full of multiple Rivals150 players and it's looking like they have a lot to sell to prospective recruits.