Michael Porter Jr.

When you make bold predictions in columns that come true, you sound smart.

When you’re wrong, you sound foolish.

I’m a little of both when it comes to the Michael Porter Jr. saga at Missouri.

I wrote in early January, “I’m still confident Missouri will march into the NCAA Tournament – and coach Cuonzo Martin’s team won’t need Michael Porter Jr., to accomplish the feat.”

Got that, right.

I followed with, “Porter will be physically able to play by season’s end following November back surgery, will suit up for a handful of SEC games and go full blast in the SEC Tournament.”

Got that wrong.

He played in nary a conference game and was far from “full blast” in the two games he played to close the season – both of them Missouri losses.

I’ll let you, the reader, judge me on this one; “(Michael Porter Jr.) should not come back if he is not 100 percent.”

It’s subjective. I think I’m closer to right than wrong. Regardless of high school stardom, none of us know how great Porter Jr. would have been in the collegiate ranks because we never saw him play uninjured.

He was far from great in respective losses to Georgia in the SEC Tournament and Florida State in the NCAA Tournament. He was far from 100 percent and I think NBA scouts are left with unanswered questions about his back injury.

He was 1-1 from the field in his cameo appearance against Iowa State before surgery and he ended the season 10 for 30. He averaged 10 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. I feel it was more than not being in game shape. Is his back, right? Time will tell.

Porter Jr. will still be a NBA lottery pick, but get ready for an up-and-down ride between now and the NBA draft in late June.

Martin remakes Mizzou

The Tigers closed the season at 20-13 and reached the NCAA Tournament. The gallant second half comeback against Florida State doesn’t excuse the disastrous first half that left them down 22 points.

But Martin got the sinking ship left by Kim Anderson back afloat and headed in the right direction. He did it without Porter Jr. and he did it amidst a player defection and very short bench.

If Jontay Porter returns to Mizzou next season, the Tigers should plan a return to the NCAA Tournament in 2019. If he joins his brother in the NBA Draft, the Tigers might have a difficult time getting back in “The Dance.”

Martin has doubters and detractors. His recruiting class will be heavily scrutinized. He’ll hear from the haters early and often if the Tigers get off to a slow start next year.

For now, Martin should take a bow before getting back to work. Missouri basketball means something again. It meant nothing at this time last year.

Rambling on

Let’s get back to predictions.

In the second week of December after Loyola-Chicago beat Florida, I wrote, “Loyola’s surge is great news for the Missouri Valley Conference, the Arch Madness Tournament and for the host city of St. Louis …, the MVC would be gleeful if thousands of Loyola fans spent a few days here for the tournament in March.”

The Ramblers rolled through the MVC Tournament with a large contingent of fans in attendance for their three-game run. That run is far from through.

After topping Miami and Tennessee on last-second shots, Loyola is alive, well and will be favored to beat upstart Nevada in a Sweet 16 game.

When former SLU assistant coach Porter Moser took over Loyola-Chicago 2011, they were at rock bottom. When Loyola joined in 2013, replacing Creighton, it was far from winning its title.

Porter made it happen in short time.

His “grassroots rebuild,” is only six years old – and it’s successful.

“We knew we were having to win and win the (MVC) conference and then get to the conference tournament, and it’s been this mentality of you win, enjoy the moment,” Moser said following Saturday’s upset of the favored Volunteers. “I’m letting them enjoy it because it’s a mature, close group. And I want them to enjoy it. Then the next day, we all say put it in the bank, next one up.”

I like the Ramblers over Nevada – and then a showdown with Kentucky in an Elite Eight game that will be one of the most-watched NCAA Tournament games in years.

Bracket brilliance

Not!

Mine is a total mess. Missouri in the Sweet 16? Virginia in the championship game? North Carolina in the Final Four? Cincinnati in the Elite Eight? No one saw Maryland-Baltimore topping Virginia, but that doesn’t excuse the rest of my mess.

I listed 15 black coaches last week in the NCAA Tournament and there were actually 16. The guy I left out must have read the column because he decided to be the lone black coach in the Sweet 16.

My most sincere apology to Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton.

His Seminoles trailed favored Xavier, the West Region No. 1 seed, throughout Sunday’s game but rallied to take a 75-70 win.

Hamilton has been at Florida State’s helm since 2002 and compiled an impressive 324-207 record. He’s seen his share of basketball and he called the rash of stunning upsets during the NCAA Tournament’s opening rounds “a revolution.”

“What happens is you start categorizing people by the reputation that their players get going into college. But in reality, kids are playing basketball all over the country and teams are getting better. Just because maybe they might not be in one particular conference or maybe they're not considered to be one of the more traditional rich schools, people are playing basketball."

As for reaching the Sweet 16, Hamilton said, “we were much better than Xavier in the last 2 1/2 minutes of the game. Sometimes when the games are close, that's all that's important.”

Alvin A. Reid was honored as the 2017 “Best Sports Columnist – Weeklies” in the Missouri Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest. He is a panelist on the Nine Network program, Donnybrook, is a weekly contributor to “The Charlie Tuna Show” on KFNS and can also be heard on Frank Cusumano’s “The Press Box.” His Twitter handle is @aareid1.

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