The Missouri Tigers' program has been all over the radar this offseason; due to conference realignment rumors, new head coach Frank Haith's possible connection to the scandal at Miami, and most recently, a season-ending injury to senior Laurence Bowers. The lattermost of those dropped Missouri several spots in my rankings and means the Tigers enter the season with only eight eligible scholarship players.
The loss of Bowers puts added pressure on a talented backcourt that was likely to carry the load anyway. Returning starters Michael Dixon, Marcus Denmon, and Kim English bring experience and scoring to the lineup. Denmon is a big-time threat since he can stroke it from deep or use his quickness to get to the basket. English briefly flirted with entering the NBA Draft, but chose to return and adds some size and versatility on the wing. Michael Dixon is more of a scoring point guard but also a solid defender.
The Pressey brothers will provide depth off the bench. Phil Pressey started twelve games as a freshman and is more of a true point guard than Dixon. Matt Pressey struggled with his shot in his first season at Missouri after transferring in from a junior college, but will play a bigger role due to the transfer of Ricky Kreklow. The injury to Bowers could also mean Haith will show some four-guard looks with English playing the four.
Extra pressure will be placed on Ricardo Ratliffe inside. He was the Big XII Newcomer of the Year last season and will have to become even more assertive in the middle due to the losses of Justin Safford and Bowers. Ratliffe should play out of position some at center since the team's only true big man, Steve Moore is pretty much a non-factor on the offensive end though he can be a rim protector on D. Redshirt freshman Kadeem Green is a long, athletic, but offensively raw forward who will have to play an immediate role off the bench due to a lack of bodies inside.
George Goode would have helped offset Bowers' injury some and brought added size to the middle. The former Louisville Cardinal was supposed to transfer to Missouri as a grad student and become immediately eligible, but never enrolled for the fall semester. Haith did sign a pair of talented transfer wing players in Auburn's Earnest Ross and Keion Bell from Pepperdine who should help immensely in 2012-13 when the Tigers lose Denmon, English, and Matt Pressey to graduation.
Missouri will probably have a different style of play this season as the team transitions from Mike Anderson's "40 Minutes of Hell" to Haith's new system. A lot of key players are back from last year's team that finished with an extremely disappointing year and with several of them being seniors, they will look to end their careers with a bang, which will be difficult to do since there is not a lot of size or depth inside.
Player to Watch: Kim English, G/F
The 6-6 wing saw his scoring average drop four points from his sophomore to junior season. That made his decision to test the NBA waters rather baffling. English showed his sophomore season that he possesses the talent to make an impact in every aspect of the game and as I mentioned, will have to play bigger due to a lack of bodies in the frontcourt. He must have a major bounce back year if the Tigers are going to avoid another disappointing season.
As a Jags fan, I was glad to see him slide to the second rd. My only question would be "will San Diego's 2nd and 3rd Rd picks be far superior to what Jax selected?" I hope not, but only time will tell.