2012-2013 Overall Rank: #15
Conference Rank: #3 Southeastern Conference
Missouri Team Page
The 2011-2012 Missouri Tigers were a blast. Their go-go offense scored over 80 points per game while shooting over 50% from the floor. While winning 30 games overall and winning the Big 12 conference tournament, Missouri had one of their better seasons in school history.
One of the more popular sports-related websites lists Missouri’s conference record from a year ago on their team home page. While the Tigers did indeed go 14-4 in their conference, saying they were 14-4 against the SEC last season is factually inaccurate although I can see where the confusion lay. The Tigers are a member of the SEC now, a conference that has been very top-heavy in recent years. The change in scenery might hinder Missouri a bit but this year’s team is very good. Maybe I am being presumptuous; perhaps this site’s “14-4 vs. the SEC” was simply mislabeled as last year’s record and it was, in fact, a prediction.
2011-2012 Record: 30-5, 14-4
2011-2012 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Frank Haith
Coach Record: 30-5 at Missouri, 159-105 Overall
Missouri played hard and fast in their first season under Frank Haith. The head coach relied heavily on his guards to push tempo and control the offense, often playing four-guard lineups. The two main contributors to this style, Marcus Denmon and Kim English, have both graduated to the professional ranks. The two combined for astonishing figures a year ago. Denmon, the team’s leading scorer at 17.7 points per game, also finished second on the Tigers in rebounds and steals, and third in assists. Meanwhile, English was second in scoring at 14.4 points per game and was right there with Denmon in rebounds, steals and assists, while shooting a much better percentage from the floor. For an outside shooter (170 attempted threes), English’s shooting splits are amazing. He made 52% of his field goals and 46% of his threes. Denmon was no slouch either with shooting splits of 0.46/0.41/0.90 (field goals / threes / free throws). But the most efficient scorer on Missouri’s team was forward Ricardo Ratliffe. The big man, who is also gone from the team, scored 13.9 points per contest on just 303 field goal attempts. He made an otherworldly 69.3% of his shots from the floor. Even if they were mostly dunks and layups created by the guard play, it is still an astounding number.
Along with the return of high-impact guards and a number of high level recruits, Missouri should get an added lift from a couple transfer students this season. Keion Bell is a scoring guard from Pepperdine who had to sit out last season. He is now eligible to play. But the bigger impact may come from Alex Oriakhi, former Connecticut Husky, who has transferred to the Tigers. Because of the unpleasantness and uncertainty surrounding the Huskies program, Oriakhi searched for a new home. Fortunately for Coach Haith and the Tigers fans, because of UConn’s postseason ban, the center/forward will not have to sit out a year. He can immediately come in and fill the hole in the middle left by Ricardo Ratliffe. Although Oriakhi will not score as much or as well as Ratliffe did, he is a superior defensive talent. With much better shot blocking skills and the ability to snatch rebounds in bunches, Alex can give Missouri an inside presence to pair with Bowers.
Who to Watch:
To make up for the departure of so many efficient scorers, Missouri will have to rely on the playmaking of their other returning guards. Phil Pressey and Michael Dixon Jr scored a little less than their aforementioned teammates; they shot a little poorer from behind the arc and were not quite as good rebounders but they finished first and second on the team in assists as they often created easy shots for the rest of the Tigers. Pressey especially seemed to jump off the screen during games when Denmon and English were still in uniform. His final three games of last season (all conference or national tournament games) saw him average just over 19 points and 6 assists while shooting a combined 18 for 30 from the floor. It remains to be seen just how big of a leap he can take this coming season when he becomes the team’s leader. Throw in the return of forward Laurence Bowers who missed all of last season after tearing his ACL. Bowers is a double figure scorer and force in the middle on both the offensive and defensive sides. His return, if he is back to full strength, gives the team an element they really did not have a season ago.
Although not quite on Kentucky or Florida’s level, Missouri should be able to battle to that second tier of their new conference. With veteran guards returning to run Frank Haith’s offense, scoring should not be a problem. The added boon of Bell, the return of Laurence Bowers and Oriakhi on the defensive end should round out this team. Not to overstate Oriakhi’s abilities but his block totals in his worst year were still better than what anyone on Missouri’s roster was able to scrounge together. The Tigers should plan for the NCAA Tournament with the hopes of advancing rather than just making it.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Phil Pressey, Junior, Guard, 10.3 points per game
Michael Dixon Jr., Senior, Guard, 13.5 points per game
Keion Bell, Senior, Guard, DNP last season
Laurence Bowers, Senior, Forward, DNP last season
Alex Oriakhi, Senior, Center, 6.7 points per game at UConn
Madness 2013 NBA Draft Rankings:
#55 Alex Oriakhi
#75 Laurence Bowers