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Jontay Porter reclassification solidifies Mizzou basketball’s lofty expectations

It’s officially NCAA tourney or bust for the Tigers.

NCAA Basketball: Arizona at Missouri Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

There’s no denying it now. The bar has been set for the Missouri Tigers men’s basketball team.

A higher bar than one could have ever fathomed when the Tigers finished up the 2016-17 season with a loss to Ole Miss in the SEC Tournament to close the season at 8-24.

Less than a week after that defeat, things started falling into place for Mizzou.

Washington fired Lorenzo Romar the same day Missouri hired Cuonzo Martin. It quickly became apparent Michael Porter Jr., the top player in the Class of 2017, could be on his way to Columbia. Porter's father would be named to Martin's staff and the anticipation became palpable.

But then there is always the innate pessimism that comes with being a Mizzou fan. The one developed through years of Pavlovian training.

Something great happens, then a slap in the face.

  • The creation of Sodd Reesing in 2007, then getting passed over for a spot in the Orange Bowl for Sodd Reesing’s team.
  • The No. 2 seed in the 2012 NCAA Tournament, then a loss to a Norfolk State team led by a future NBA player.
  • The football team’s 7-0 start in 2013, then a doink off the upright to complete a total collapse against South Carolina.

Those are just a few of the moments in the last decade that have shaped Mizzou fans.

So excuse the self-doubt some had until Porter Jr. committed on March 24 (and others had until he signed on April 12).

The focus of most national writers at that point became the assumption that a third straight No. 1 pick in the draft would miss out on the NCAA Tournament.

Fair enough.

Then came the string of commitments that has pushed Missouri basketball into a March-Madness-or-bust category. First was Blake Harris, who signed the day after Porter Jr., and then came the flipping of Jeremiah Tilmon a month later.

Possibly the last domino fell on Wednesday, but what a big domino it was. Jontay Porter, who had already committed to the Tigers in May, announced he would reclassify to the class of 2017.

The announcement from Michael’s younger brother ended months of speculation over whether the two would get to play together in Mizzou Arena. As this fell in place, what fans and pundits alike glossed over was just how good Jontay Porter is.

It’s easy to be overlooked when your brother is expected to be the first player selected in the 2018 NBA draft. But the truth is Jontay Porter is the real deal. The experts at 247Sports.com have the five-star Porter ranked as a top-25 player nationally in a class full of guys a year older than him.

There’s no way around it now. This team should make the NCAA Tournament. That should be the minimum goal for a program that has two five-stars and two four-stars joining the fold—even if all four are freshmen.

Why did Ben Simmons at LSU and Markelle Fultz at Washington fail to make the Big Dance? They had no help. Michael Porter Jr. doesn’t have that excuse. Not with an experienced roster returning. Not with Harris, Tilmon and Canisius transfer Kassius Robertson joining the ranks. And certainly not with his brother reclassifying.

Nope, it’s time to go all-in on this team and just hope there isn’t a slap to the face coming.