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Missouri hires Kim Anderson to replace Frank Haith

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Missouri’s coaching search is finally over, as the Tigers announced on Monday afternoon that they had hired Kim Anderson to replace Frank Haith.

Anderson is a Missouri alum and spent the past 12 seasons as the head coach at Central Missouri, a Division II school that he led to three Final Fours and the 2014 national title.

“I’m honored and humbled to have the opportunity to return to Mizzou and lead a program that our family is so vested in,” Anderson said in a statement released by the university on Monday. “When we took over in Warrensburg 12 years ago, we faced an uphill battle. We had support, we had a winning history and great campus leadership, but the program had lost its identity. I see that same opportunity here at Missouri.”

Anderson has never been a head coach at the Division I level, but he has spent decades as an assistant at high-major programs, having worked on staff at Missouri for 11 years in two stints and spending seven years at Baylor under Gene Iba. He also worked for the Big 12 conference for two years.

Anderson is a son of Missouri, through and through. He holds two degrees from the University, played there, coached there and spent the last 12 seasons at another school in the state. He’s also, at 58, the oldest coach in the SEC despite being a Division I rookie. That doesn’t mean that this hire can’t be successful — all you need to do is look at Bo Ryan to realize that this method can turn a program into a consistent winner — but that doesn’t mean that the Tigers handled it all that well.

Haith left for Tulsa on April 18th. That’s a week and a half ago. Missouri could have made this hire on that day.

What did they do instead?

Waited until the day after a very important live period — the only one that coaches will get to go on the road to evaluate during the spring — to hire a guy that they could have had the second that Tulsa called Haith. Oh, and they spent a reported $42,500 to do it.

I get it. They paid the money and took the time to try and find a guy that would make a splash. They would have been dumb not to take a swing at Gregg Marshall or Mike White or any of those other young coaches that have been tagged with ‘hot’ label. But regardless of who they hired, Missouri was foolish to wait until the day after the live period to make this hire.

The key for Anderson is going to be hiring a staff that can land him players. The most important person to keep on staff is Tim Fuller, although there were rumors earlier during the Coaching Carousel that he was looking at leaving the program.

He’s also going to want to keep the young core of this team together. Wes Clark, Johnathan Williams III, Torren Jones, Shane Rector. Those are talented pieces that can be leaned on in the future. Keep them around.

But the bottom line is that he can coach. Just about every coach I’ve talked to about Anderson raves about him, and it’s not an unprecedented move to hire a guy that’s had success outside Division I. Ask Wisconsin about Bo Ryan. That’s worked pretty well. John Beilein had a stop at Canisius and Richmond, but he’s not a bad coach, is he?

He’ll need to get guys into the program — doesn’t matter how well you coach them if your guys are just overmatched from a talent perspective — but if he does, there are a lot of people that think this hire will be successful.

Myself included.

No. 1 Kentucky survives without Tyler Ulis in lineup

Tyler Ulis
AP Photo/Chuck Burton
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Less than a week after giving No. 2 Maryland all they could handle, Illinois State went into Lexington and gave No. 1 Kentucky fits.

The Redbirds never really threatened UK in the second half, but they went into the break tied and were within single digits down the stretch, eventually losing 75-63.

Kentucky was flustered. They turned the ball over 15 times compared to just eight assists, they shot 2-for-12 from three and just 29-for-46 (63 percent) from the charity stripe. They simply did not handle Illinois State’s pressure all that well.

And there was a reason for that.

Tyler Ulis didn’t play.

Sometimes it’s difficult to appreciate just what a player brings to a team until that player is not in the lineup, and that was precisely the case with Ulis on Monday night. It was crystal clear what he provides Kentucky. Beyond leadership and the ability to break a press without throwing the ball to the other team, he’s a calming presence. He doesn’t get rattled when a defender is harassing him and he doesn’t get overwhelmed by a situation like a mid-major threatening the No. 1 team in the country in their own gym.

He’s everything you look for in a pure point guard, and for as good as Jamal Murray and Isaiah Briscoe have looked at times this season, it should be crystal clear who the most important player on this Kentucky team is.

LSU loses to Charleston, eliminates at-large bid margin for error

Ben Simmons
AP Photo/Kathy Willens
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Ben Simmons scored 15 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, the second time in his six-game career that the LSU freshman has collected that many caroms, but that wasn’t enough for the Tigers to avoid dropping a game on the road to the College of Charleston, 70-58. It was the third straight loss for Simmons’ crew, as they fell to Marquette and N.C. State at the Legends Classic last week.

But here’s the thing: LSU didn’t just lose.

The game really wasn’t close.

LSU was down by as many as 23 points. It was 39-17 at the half, and that was after Charleston had a shot at the buzzer called off upon review. They made a bit of a run in the second half but never got closer than seven. When LSU would cut into the lead, the Cougars would respond with a run of their own, killing LSU’s spirit while keeping them at arm’s length.

[RELATED: Ben Simmons’ one college year a waste?]

Now, there are quite a few things here to discuss. For starters, LSU’s effort was, at best, apathetic, and, at worst, regular old pathetic. The team has a serious lack of leadership that was plainly evident on Monday night; would Fred VanVleet let his team fold against a program picked to finish at the bottom of the SoCon? Would Tyler Ulis? For that matter, would Tom Izzo or Mike Krzyzewski or John Calipari?

Perhaps more importantly, does any of that change when Keith Hornsby and Craig Victor get back?

Simmons did show off his potential — 18 boards, four assists, he even made his first three of the year — but he also showed precisely why there are scouts that are trying to curtail the LeBron James comparisons. Simmons was 4-for-15 from the floor with seven turnovers against a mediocre mid-major team. There are so many things that Simmons does well, but scoring efficiently — particularly in half court setting — and shooting the ball consistently are not on that list.

But here’s the biggest issue: LSU may have put themselves in a situation where they aren’t a tournament team. As of today, they’re 3-3 on the season with losses to a pair of teams that, at best, seem destined to be in the bubble conversation on Selection Sunday in addition to this loss to Charleston. The rest of their non-conference schedule is ugly. The only game worth noting is at home against No. 6 Oklahoma at the end of January.

The NCAA factors in non-conference schedule strength when determining at-large teams. You need to at least try, and LSU didn’t try; they have one of the worst non-conference schedules in the country.

The great thing about being in the SEC — as opposed to, say, the Missouri Valley — is that the Tigers will have plenty of chances to earn marquee wins. Six, by my court: Kentucky twice, Texas A&M twice, Vanderbilt on the road and Oklahoma at home. They probably need to win at least two or three of those games to have a real chance, and that’s assuming they can avoid anymore horrid losses in the process.

The season isn’t over six games in, not by any stretch of the imagination.

But LSU has done a hell of a job eliminating their margin for error.