Tuesday, October 26, 2010

No. 15 Missouri Tigers

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Last Season: 23-11, 10-6 (5th Big XII), lost to West Virginia in the 2nd round of the NCAA Tournament

Head Coach: Mike Anderson

Newcomers: Tony Mitchell*, Phil Pressey, Matt Pressey, Ricardo Ratliffe, Kadeem Green, Ricky Kreklow

Key Losses: JT Tiller, Zaire Taylor, Keith Ramsey

Projected Lineup:

  • G: Mike Dixon, So.
  • G: Marcus Denmon, Jr.
  • G: Kim English, Jr.
  • F: Laurence Bowers, Jr.
  • F: Ricardo Ratliffe, Jr.
  • Bench: Justin Safford, Sr.; Matt Pressey, Jr.; Ricky Kreklow, Fr.; Steve Moore, Jr.; Phil Pressey, Fr.; Kadeem Green, Fr.; Tony Mitchell, Fr.*

Outlook: Just two years ago, the Missouri Tigers were an Elite 8 team. So when I say that this is the most talented roster that Mike Anderson has had in his time in Columbia, MO, know that praise like that doesn't come likely. That talent isn't because the Tigers are loaded with first round picks and early entrees to the NBA Draft. Its because this roster will be capable of going 10 or 11 deep. And having a rotation of 10 or 11 players will be a key in the "40 minutes of hell" system that Mike Anderson runs.

If there is a star on this Missouri roster, it is Kim English. As a sophomore, English -- who is a gym rat of the highest degree -- worked his way into the starting lineup after coming off the bench early in the season. At 6'6", he has great size for the perimeter. He's probably the most potent offensive weapon at Anderson's disposal, with his game centering around his jump shot. He has range on that jumper and has spent the offseason developing the rest of his game -- pump fakes, mid-range, handle attacking the basket -- to keep defenders off balance. Defensively, English's length makes him ideal for the pressure and trapping that Missouri likes to apply.

As I said before, Missouri's lineup is quite deep. Joining English on the wing will be Marcus Denmon, who was Mizzou's second leading scorer despite being their sixth man. Denmon is one of these lightening-in-a-bottle kind of scorers, a kid that can hang 20 on you when he gets it going. Ricky Kreklow, a sharp shooting freshman, and Matt Pressey, a junior college transfer, will also see time on the perimeter.

The most interesting positional battle here will be between sophomore Mike Dixon and freshman Phil Pressey. Dixon was a part-time starter last season, but as a freshman he proved to be a capable scorer and creator, a very good defender, and the kind of player that will thrive in this system. Pressey, albeit a bit smaller than Dixon, is that same kind of player. A highly-regarded recruit (and along with Matt, the sons of Anderson's college roommate and former NBA player Paul Pressey), Pressey loves to play an up-and-down tempo and is an excellent athlete. It is going to be difficult to keep him out of the paint.

Up front, there is a lot to like on this team even if Tony Mitchell, the crown jewel of Anderson's recruiting class, isn't allowed to suit up this season (academic issues from high school). Laurence Bowers, the team's third leading scorer last season, is a versatile, 6'9" power forward that is a bit reminiscent of Leo Lyons and DeMarre Carroll. Expect a boost in his numbers this season. The likely starter in the middle will be Ricardo Ratliffe, who was arguably the best prospect in the JuCo ranks last season. He's a 6'8", 240 lb bruiser that will eat up space inside and help relieve pressure on the guards when the Tigers don't score in transition.

Senior Justin Safford, who should be fully recovered after partially tearing his acl last season, is another versatile, 6'9" forward that will compete with Bowers for minutes at the four. Junior Steve Moore is another big-bodied center that will see minutes this season. Freshman Kadeem Green, who is not quite 100% after rupturing his achilles in January, will only help to provide more depth when he gets healthy (provided he isn't redshirted).

Perhaps the best sign of the success this Missouri team will have is what the rest of the Big XII looks like. Kansas State really has one ball-handler in Jacob Pullen. Kansas may be without Josh Selby this year. Baylor will be dealing with replacing Tweety Carter. Texas will likely have freshman Cory Joseph running the point. None of those situations are ideal when you're going to be forced to deal with a defense that is pressuring and trapping with fresh bodies for 40 minutes. Missouri is a sleeper team to win a very good Big XII this season, and should be expected to make noise come March.

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