|No. 11 Missouri|
Coach: Frank Haith
Years at school: 1 (30-5)
Best NCAA Tournament finish: 2nd round (2012); second round (2008)
|Vital Info: No. 11 Missouri|
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Last season's record: 30-5 (lost in the second round to Norfolk State)
Notable returnees from last season: Phil Pressey, Michael Dixon, Laurence Bowers
Notable losses from last season: Marcus Denmon, Kim English, Ricardo Ratliffe, Matt Pressey, Steve Moore
Notable newcomers: Alex Oriaki (UConn), Keion Bell (Pepperdine), Ernest Ross (Auburn), Jabari Brown (Oregon -- mid-year), Tony Criswell, Stefan Jankovic, Ryan Rosburg, Negus Webster-Chan, Dominique Bull
Projected starters: G: Phil Pressey; G: Michael Dixon; F: Keion Bell F; Laurence Bowers C; Alex Oriakhi
Why this team will be good: These guys have an elite point guard in Phil Pressey and no shortage of talent surrounding him. Pressey is a magician with the basketball in terms of pushing the ball and creating easy opportunities for his teammates. Want proof? Look at what he did last year with Marcus Denmon and Kim English. Frank Haith made certain there wasn't much of a drop-off, if one at all, in terms of talent by adding a bunch of transfers. Michael Dixon can slide right into Denmon's spot and Missouri won't miss a beat in the backcourt. They also add a pair of big-time defensive players on the frontline in Laurence Bowers, who missed all of last season with a torn ACL, and UConn transfer Alex Oriakhi. Then there's plenty of talented wings with three transfers: Keion Bell, Ernest Ross and Jabari Brown. There's also depth up front with Tony Criswell and Ryan Rosburg. As you can see, these guys are stacked with experience, talent and balance. That's usually a pretty good mix for success.
Why this team might disappoint: Chemistry. Pressey is truly the only player in the same role from a year ago. Dixon will move from his role as the sixth-man to the starting lineup, Bowers returns from a torn ACL that sidelined him the entire season -- and then there's a bunch of guys that all transferred into the program. Ross and Bell led Auburn and Pepperdine in scoring and will not have to accept roles, Oriakhi needs to get his swagger back after spending last season in Jim Calhoun's doghouse and Brown becomes eligible after the first semester and has question marks after leaving Oregon just two games into his career. It's all about roles and chemistry -- and that's where Frank Haith needs to do his finest work if the Tigers are to fulfill their potential.
Bottom line: When a team has arguably the best point guard in the nation, a guy who loves to pass the ball, and there's plenty of talent around him, that's usually a recipe for victories. Bell, Ross and Brown will need to accept their roles, but winning usually cures just about anything -- and I'd be shocked if these guys don't do plenty of winning. Oriakhi doesn't need his touches to be effective; he can rebound and provide a shot-blocking presence. Bowers, if healthy, is a versatile player who brings length and athleticism to the team. Haith's primary issue will be to manage egos and playing time -- and Pressey's task will be to make certain everyone is happy on the court. Mizzou, though, has a chance to win the SEC in its first season in the league.
Quote from an opposing coach in the league: "As long as they have Pressey, they'll be fine. He finds a way to keep everyone happy and the bottom line is that if you win, the chemistry takes care of itself. Two years ago, that team was a mess -- and last year Haith handed Pressey the ball and let him go. Obviously, guys will need to buy in, but as long as Pressey is healthy and stays on the court, Missouri will be a contender to win whatever league they are in -- whether it's the SEC, Big 12 or ACC."