Mizzou: ESPN’s Hart Talks Potential Porter Jr. Return; Hypes Up SEC Tourney in STL

If you hadn’t noticed, you’re Missouri Tigers men’s basketball team has been playing quality hoops within a tough SEC conference.

In fact, ESPN college hoops commentator (and Mizzou alum) Tom Hart says the SEC will wind up with eight teams in the Big Dance with Mizzou included. The Tigers didn’t get a spot in this weekend’s Big-12/SEC Challenge, but Hart pointed to the series’s impact on the conference’s standing.

“(Mizzou) is an NCAA Tournament team if for no other reason than the strength of the league as a whole,” Hart tells The Kevin Wheeler Show. “What will have more of an impact for the league as a whole and reflect the league as a whole is when they have that Big-12 challenge coming up this weekend. That’s going to be huge.”

Hart sees the Mizzou as a tournament team, but notes the inability to create space for shots as a clear Tiger weakness.

“The one thing they’re really missing is a guy who can take his man and get a shot off, off the dribble,” Hart says. “(Junior forward) Jordan Barnett has had a wonderful season, but he is a catch-and-shoot guy. He’s not a great ball-handler. Cassius (Robertson) can’t free himself for shots. He’s got to be coming off screens.

“Missouri is a really good three-point shooting team when they have space to get those shots off. When they’re getting assisted three-pointers. They can’t create on their own and that’s one thing to keep in mind when you watch this Missouri team going forward: How can they create shots?”

Michael Porter Jr. is a guy who can create space and make shots, which brings us to the question of whether we’ll see him suited up as a Tiger again. Hart believes if we do, it’ll be Feb. 2 when the Kentucky Wildcats come to CoMo.

“He’s a kid who’s shown through his social media accounts and his personality that he loves the spotlight,” Hart says. That’s a winnable game for Missouri, and if I’m not mistaken it’s a CBS national telecast. And kids these days are aware of what networks they’re on and what kind of reach they have. They’re very aware of branding. That would be a big game for him to come back for.”

Anyone who’s followed SEC men’s hoops this year doesn’t need to be told this, but March’s conference tournament at Scottrade Center will likely be one of the country’s best heading into the Big Dance. The fact Mizzou is competitive makes things a whole lot more fun than the local futility STL hoop-heads have grown more accustomed to.

“The SEC should have eight get in. They’ve never had that many before. So I just want to get in a plug for the league as a whole: With the tournament in St. Louis this year…That tournament is going to be an absolute free-for-all,” Hart added.

“It’s going to be so much fun and you’re going to have so much NBA talent on the floor…It would just be great basketball to come and watch…That’s going to be a great week of basketball in St. Louis.”

Listen to Hart’s entire talk with Wheels below and stay tuned to 101ESPN and 101Sports.com for local college hoops analysis.