COLUMBIA, Mo. — Missouri opens its season Friday night against Southeastern Louisiana and coach Frank Haith won’t be there to see it.
The opener marks the start of a five-game suspension Haith received from the NCAA last month for failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance while coaching at Miami.
“It’s going to be pretty hard,” he said. “You can imagine. It’s something I’ve never experienced.”
Haith won’t be allowed to communicate with his team until after its Nov. 25 game against IUPUI. He’ll also miss matchups with Southern Illinois, Hawaii and Gardner-Webb. Tim Fuller will take over as interim head coach.
“The most important thing is those 16 heartbeats in the locker room,” said Fuller, 35, who has no head coaching experience. He arrived with Haith in 2011 and played at Wake Forest when Haith was an assistant with the Demon Deacons.
Missouri returns just one starter, Jabari Brown, for the second consecutive year, and less than 40 percent of its scoring, rebounding, assists and steals from a 23-11 campaign last season. Brown, a junior, averaged 13.7 points in 2012-13 while senior Earnest Ross added 10.3 off the bench.
The Tigers struggled in their second exhibition game Nov. 1 against Central Missouri, trailing 45-43 at halftime before recovering for a 92-79 win. Against Southeastern Louisiana, the team will be without senior forward Tony Criswell, who is suspended for violating team rules.
Haith and Fuller hope their reassembled team can find an identity Friday against the Lions, who were picked to finish sixth out of 12 teams in the Southland Conference preseason coaches’ poll.
Senior guards Dre Evans (9.3 points per game) and Jeffery Ricard (9.0) are the only returning starters for coach Jim Yarbrough’s team, which finished 13-18 overall last season but 10-8 in the Southland Conference.
“You’d like to play great right out of the gate,” Yarbrough said, “but I think all of us are looking for a level of consistency, and it will be a great environment to see if we can get a little bit of that.”
NICHOLLS STATE AT AUBURN: In Auburn, Ala., Nicholls State opens the season at Auburn for the second time in three seasons, and the Colonels four starters and 10 letterwinners, led by preseason second team All-Southland Conference selection Dantrell Thomas. Thomas is the Colonels’ top returning scorer, averaging over 13 points and four rebounds per game last season.
Nicholls also features upperclassmen Jeremy Smith, Shane Rillieux and Pedro Maciel and younger players JaMarkus Horace, Amin Torres and T.J. Carpenter.
Auburn went 9-23 last season and 3-15 in the Southeastern Conference and return two starters and four letterwinners while adding eight newcomers.
‘PO-BOY TIP-OFF DINNER’ SET: In New Orleans, the UNO men’s basketball program will host the third annual ‘Po-Boy Tip-Off Dinner’ on Monday at 7 p.m. at Koz’s Lakeview restaurant.
The restaurant is located at 515 Harrison Ave.
UNO coach Mark Slessinger will preview the team, and several of players will be in attendance to meet with fans, who will also have the option to purchase season tickets. Those who have purchased season tickets will have the opportunity to pick them up at the event.
The dinner will start at 7 p.m. with a donation of $20 accepted at the door.
TALLADEGA COLLEGE 82, LOYOLA 70: In Talladega, Ala., Arielle George recorded a team high 24 points for the Tornadoes (4-0), while Ashawnte Hawkins and Tianna Jones chipped in with 11 points and three rebounds apiece.
Jasmine Brewer led the the Wolfpack (1-1) with 19 points, going 7-for-9 from the field and 5-for-5 from the free-throw line. Megan Whittaker added 17 points, going 5-for-8 from 3-point range. Janeicia Neely had 12 points.
UNO AT TULANE: In New Orleans, cross-town rivals Tulane and UNO tangle at 6 p.m. at Devlin Fieldhouse.
The Green Wave averaged 66.1 points, 41.6 rebounds, 16.2 assists, 9.2 steals and 4.4 blocks per game last season. Junior forward Tiffany Dale is back after leading the team with a .505 field goal percentage while also leading the team in rebounding (6.6 per game) and 1.3 blocks per outing last season. Also back are junior guard Jamie Kaplan, who led the team with 4.4 assists per game and junior guard Danielle Blagg, who is the team’s leading returning scorer after averaging 9.8 points with 64 3-point baskets
The Privateers have six returning players, including a pair of sophomores in Yasmin Taylor and Mathilde Fogelstrom. Taylor leads all returning players in field goal percentage (45.7 percent) last season, while Fogelstrom led the team in blocks with 29 as a freshman.
The Privateers also feature seniors Amber Clay and Samantha Gray, each of whom played in at least 25 games last season. Clay averaged 5.4 rebounds per game, while Gray had 38 assists and 17 steals.