Rounding up the hot topics from Mizzou beat writer Dave Matter's weekly chat.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL IN 2020?
QUESTION: What will we be doing at 11 a.m., 2:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Saturdays this fall?
MATTER: I hope you're watching college football and I'm at a stadium either in Columbia or somewhere else around the country. But everything is trending against that happening right now. The major conferences clearly want to have a season and play the season as scheduled, but we're approaching the middle of July. It’s time for a plan, not just discussions of plans. Games kick off in less than seven weeks.
It's naive to expect everyone to play a full schedule unless there's a dramatic shift in the trends of cases — not just nationwide but within these individual programs. The Big Ten has already dropped all its nonconference games. I’d expect the other Power 5 leagues to do the same by the end of the month if not sooner.
Keep in mind, this isn't solely about death rate or even hospitalizations when it comes to playing college sports. It's about mitigating spread. And while some schools have done a better job than others of keeping their number of cases down, remember, these teams haven't even practiced yet. They haven't tackled. They've lifted weights.
If they're going to play games, they have to have training camp first — and you can't social distance when you're tackling running backs and blocking linemen and covering receivers. Yet, teams are still seeing a high number of positive cases before ever practicing. If teams can't control the spread during weightlifting sessions, how are they going to control it during live practices and games?
The 10-game conference schedules are clearly becoming the popular Band-Aid solution. Wipe out your noncon games and add a couple conference games. If that happens in the SEC, maybe you see Mizzou add Ole Miss and Texas A&M to replace Central Arkansas, BYU, Eastern Michigan and Louisiana-Lafayette. Or maybe the SEC blows up the league schedule completely and redraws the games based on proximity. That could mean Mizzou plays more West teams that are in closer proximity. That's much better than not playing a season.
PINSON ON THE WAY OUT?
QUESTION: So is Xavier Pinson now on transfer/NBA declaration watch?
MATTER: Pinson posted one of his what seems like monthly cryptic social media posts that have fans wondering if he’ll return to the Tigers next season. I saw his post and checked with the team. He is not in the transfer portal and they don't expect him to enter the portal at this time.
If you know anything about Pinson's social media history, he likes to build some mystery and attention sometimes with stuff like this. And then he typically says he doesn't understand why we ask him if he's thinking about transferring.
If you read his comments to the original post, he says, "Don't worry. Plan still the same." Until I hear otherwise, I still expect all three of Mizzou players exploring the NBA draft process to return to school for 2020-21.
CAN MARTIN REACH HIS POTENTIAL?
QUESTION: When Mizzou first hired Cuonzo Martin, you mentioned he may develop into an all-time, transformative figure for the basketball program, similar to Pinkel on the football side. After a few years now of covering Martin, does that potential still exist? Is he the type of figure that can grow this program into a consistent contender in the SEC and on a national level?
MATTER: I still believe he can build a great program at Mizzou. He just needs the players. We saw what he did with his most talented roster in his first season. They lost their best player for the bulk of the year, still won 20 games with a patchwork roster and nearly earned a double bye in a strong SEC tournament field.
But, clearly, that momentum has stalled. We can cite all the injuries, but healthy or not, this program hasn't had the firepower to compete against the elite teams in a conference that cares much more about men's hoops than it did when Mizzou first joined the SEC.
This program doesn't need buzz. Buzz is fleeting. Buzz might sell some tickets, but it doesn't sustain. Mizzou needs substance. It needs development. It needs a foundation and pieces upon pieces so that it's constantly in reload mode. It’s not there yet. Maybe this season signals clear progress. If not, it’s fair to wonder when.
MACON’S JOB TO LOSE IN 2021?
QUESTION: So Tyler Macon will be the QB next year? What happened to Taylor Powell or Conner Bazelak?
MATTER: Macon, the East St. Louis quarterback committed to Mizzou, believes he can win the job as a freshman, but that doesn't mean it will happen. He'll have to earn the job. Shawn Robinson will be a senior in 2021 and could very well be coming off a productive 2020 season should he win the job and play well this fall.
The others could figure into the mix, too. Don’t count out Bazelak. Brady Cook is on campus now, too. Powell has some game experience and will compete for the job.
WILL ONE OF THE QB'S TRANSFER?
QUESTION: Given what you said above, will one of those four quarterbacks be making the inevitable transfer after this year?
MATTER: Possibly. I say all the time that quarterbacks either start or transfer. You don't see many backup quarterbacks go through senior day ceremonies.
It's not something I'd worry about. The best option usually gets the starting job and then the rest takes care of itself. In 2021, Robinson will be a senior, Bazelak a redshirt sophomore, Cook a redshirt freshman and Macon a true freshman. That’s a good mix of experience and youth.
POST-COVID REALIGNMENT OF CONFERENCES?
QUESTION: Could you see the COVID crisis leading to a next round of conference realignment/expansion? Less money means less loyalty.
MATTER: Yes, if the football season is wiped out or a good chunk of it is lost and schools lose millions and millions in revenue, I could see some folks in the major conferences decide its best to redraw the map and shape conferences on more of a regional basis to cut down travel expenses, especially for the non-revenue teams that operate at a budget deficit.
By having to travel to Florida, South Carolina and Georgia instead of Kansas, Kansas State and Iowa State, Mizzou's across-the-board travel costs have risen sharply over the last eight years.
Now, getting conference commissioners to agree on any kind of sensible plan would be much easier said than done.
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