Missouri’s Jordan Clarkson off to a good start at point guard

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With Phil Pressey leaving school after his junior season for the NBA, Missouri had an important question to answer entering the 2013-14 season: who will grab the reins and lead the team from the point guard position? And with the team boasting an 8-0 record after beating West Virginia 80-71 on Thursday night, it’s become even more apparent that Tulsa transfer Jordan Clarkson is the correct answer to that question.

Clarkson was seen as the likely answer during the summer, thanks to his offensive skill set, and he’s lived up to those expectations thus far. Prior to Thursday’s game Clarkson led the team in both scoring and assists, averaging 19.4 points and 3.6 assists per contest. Against the Mountaineers Clarkson was able to get into the paint at will, especially in the first half, finishing the game with 25 points, six rebounds and four assists.

Clarkson’s now eclipsed the 20-point mark in four consecutive games, and clearly he’s a different option at the point than Pressey way. Not the best perimeter shooter (Clarkson entered Thursday shooting 22.7% from three and missed both attempts against WVU), Clarkson’s taken advantage of his mid-range game and the ability to get to the basket. And the presence of capable scorers Jabari Brown (18 points) and Earnest Ross (16) on the wings makes it difficult for opponents to cheat too much.

But there are areas in which Missouri needs to show improvement at the point with a game against No. 18 UCLA next on the schedule. Clarkson will need to continue to improve as a decision-maker in the Tigers’ pick-and-roll game, and with teams likely to sag off in such situations he needs to connect at a higher rate from the perimeter as well. And down the stretch the Tigers were a little too loose with the basketball, with their point guards (Wes Clark led the team with five assists) having some trouble with the pressure West Virginia was applying.

The game was essentially decided in the first 11 minutes, with Missouri scoring the first nine points and leading 25-11 with 9:06 to go in the first half. The Mountaineers, one of the highest-scoring teams in the country entering the game, couldn’t make a shot and the margin proved to be too much to make up.

WVU was a good test for Missouri as a team and Clarkson individually, and the result was a positive one on both fronts. But UCLA represents a stiffer test, and it’s one that will be a greater indicator of Missouri’s potential this season.

Illinois’ injury woes continue as starting center needs knee surgery

George Niang,Abdel Nader,Mike Thorne, Jr.
AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser
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Illinois suffered another blow in what has already turned out to be a brutal season.

Mike Thorne is expected to miss the rest of the season after tearing his meniscus. He reportedly underwent surgery on Monday to repair the injury.

Thorne, a transfer from Charlotte, was starting at center for the Illini and doing a good job of it as well. He was averaging 13.4 points and 8.4 boards, although Illinois has started off the season 3-4.

The reason for that slow start has mainly been those injuries. Tracy Abrams is already out for the season after tearing his achilles, and the Illini training room looked like a M.A.S.H. unit. Kendrick Nunn just returned two games ago from surgery to repair a torn thumb ligament. LeRon Black is still getting back to speed after offseason knee surgery. Jaylon Tate is back after dislocating a finger. Jalen Coleman-Lands was slowed by a stress fracture.

John Groce entered this season on the hot seat, and dealing with all of these injuries certainly isn’t helping his cause.

NEW PODCAST: Recapping Feast Week

Kris Dunn
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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We talk about a lot of stuff of the podcast today, mainly because a lot of stuff happened since we last spoke with you all.

For starters, we need to discuss the ‘realness’ of Syracuse and Xavier. Are they both truly top 15 teams, or do they just have top 15 resumes? We also dive into Chris Mack’s epic troll-job of Dayton at the Advocare Invitational final.

Other topics we touched on: Whether or not Scott is ever going to apologize to Wayne Selden, Wichita State’s tournament hopes, Texas A&M and whether we’d take Ben Simmons, Kris Dunn or Denzel Valentine today.

As always, you can subscribe to the podcast in iTunes right here. It’s the quickest way to get access on your cell phone or tablet.