Friday, October 7, 2011

2011-2012 Top 50 Countdown: No. 21 Missouri Tigers

Over the coming weeks, we will be counting down our Top 50 teams in the country. Teams 26-50 will be posted in groups of five, while we will count backwards from No. 25 to the No. 1 team in the country. You can find a complete schedule of our 2011-2012 Season Preview coverage here. To browse through the rest of the Top 50, click here.

Last Season: 23-11, 8-8 (t- 5th Big 12), lost to Cincinnati in the first round of the NCAA Tournament

Head Coach: Frank Haith

Key Losses: Mike Anderson, Justin Safford, Ricky Kreklow, Laurence Bowers

Newcomers: Frank Haith, Tony Lester, Kadeem Green

Projected Lineup:

- G: Phil Pressey, So.
- G: Marcus Denmon, Sr.
- F: Kim English, Sr.
- F: Ricardo Ratiffe, Sr.
- C: Steve Moore, Sr.
- Bench: Michael Dixon, Jr.; Kadeem Green, Fr.; Matt Pressey, Sr.

Outlook: Missouri was a bit of a disappointment last season. The Tigers returned a ton of talent from a team that won 22 games in 2009-2010 and went 10-6 in the Big 12. They started out the year ranked in the top 15 and climbed as high as No. 8 in the country at one point during non-conference play. But Missouri was never able to iron out their wrinkles. For starters, the Tigers were hit or miss defensively. While they were ninth in the country at forcing turnovers -- and probably the best in the country at forcing turnovers that led to wide open layups -- they struggled to force an opponent into a tough shot if their press was beaten, and were even worse when it came to the defensive glass, ranking 317th in the country in defensive effective FG%. While they were able to win their games at home, the Tigers went just 1-7 on the road in league play.

This season, however, with Frank Haith at the helm instead of Mike Anderson and his '40 Minutes of Hell' defense, the Tigers are going to be a team that plays much different. The good news is that the players on the roster are talented enough that they will be able to survive playing a different, more controlled style. The bad news is that they lost arguably their most important piece in Laurence Bowers.

Bowers tore his acl playing pickup in October and will miss the season, and there is a valid argument to be made that he was the most valuable player on this roster. On a team that doesn't have too much depth in the front court, Bowers was their second leading scorer last season and their leading rebounder and shot-blocker. A lanky, 6'8" power forward with some serious athleticism, Bowers was the most versatile defender on their roster, the perfect compliment to Ricardo Ratliffe on the front line.

Without him, Missouri will have a massive hole at the four spot. Ratliffe should be fine in the post, and may actually be better off playing in a slower system. He's a big body and a guy that has the ability to score on the block. He'll need to become a bigger presence on the glass this season, but he should be one of the better big man in the conference this season. Senior Steve Moore should get the first crack alongside Ratliffe, and while Moore was productive in limited minutes, it will be interesting to see how the 270 lb career reserve reacts to playing significant minutes for the first time in his career. The only other option up front will be Kadeem Green, a redshirt freshman from Canada with a similar physical profile to Bowers. Moore and Green are now the most important players on this roster.

Missouri's perimeter attack is going to be loaded. It starts with Marcus Denmon, an explosive scorer and sharpshooter at the off-guard spot. Denmon is one of the more underrated guards in the country and a guy that the stat gurus love. He was the 19th most efficient player in the country a season ago thanks to he sniper-esque 44.8% from long range, his impressive shot-selection and the fact that he doesn't turn the ball over. He averaged 17.2 ppg as a sophomore, so it will be tough to ask him for more, but the Tigers may end up needing it.

Joining him on the perimeter will be Kim English, a 6'6" wing that had a season-long shooting slump last year. Mizzou will be counting heavily on him to return to his sophomore year form. If English can iron out the kinks in his jumper, he gives Missouri three players that are capable of going for 20 points on a given night. English may also be counted on to play bigger this season, as there will probably be times when he has to play the four spot if Haith is forced to use four guards. Another senior, Matt Pressey, rounds out the perimeter rotation.

Missouri also has two quality point guards on their roster in sophomore Phil Pressey, Matt's younger brother, and junior Michael Dixon. Pressey is the smaller of the two, but he's a lightening quick point guard that can get into the lane and create. Dixon is a better scorer and shooter than Pressey. Dixon isn't a big point guard, but he has more size than Pressey and is better at drawing contact in the paint. As a combination, they give Missouri a very good point guard rotation. Don't be surprised when you see them on the court together at the same time.

The Tigers will have a different feel than they have in the past, but they do have the talent to contend for the Big 12 title. That will be a more difficult task without Bowers, but its possible if English turns back into the scorer he was a sophomore and the Tigers get better both on the defensive end of the floor and on the glass.


Anonymous said...

Look man Mike Dixon is the starter...pressey is a good player but Dixon is the point

Anonymous said...

point guard Michael Dixon; he averaged 3.5 assists less than two turnovers a game and given the amount of time Dixon has the ball in his hands, he put up the lowest turnover rate in the entire country last season. His backup, Phil "Flip" Pressey put a team-best 3.9 assists per game, but a much higher turnover rate