Coming off one of the best seasons in school history, the 2012-2013 Missouri Tigers look to build off of last year’s success going in to their first season in the SEC.
And much like with the football team going into their inaugural year in the SEC, the anticipation and excitement for Mizzou basketball this upcoming season hasn’t been this high in quite some time.
Under first year coach Frank Haith, the 2011-2012 Missouri Tigers surprised everyone last season, overcoming an offseason full of turmoil and setbacks that have been well documented over the past year.
The loss of former coach Mike Anderson, the spurning by Purdue coach Matt Painter, the outrage and heat from the fans and media after the Haith hire, the allegations against Haith that he knew of NCAA violations at his time as coach at Miami, and the loss of senior forward Laurence Bowers for the year right before the beginning of the 2011-2012 season.
All of that coming off of a disappointing 2010-2011 season where the Tigers lost 5 of their last 6 games and were one and done in the NCAA Tournament.
But Haith and his new team full of hungry, motivated seniors in Kimmie English, Marcus Denmon, Ricardo Ratliffe, Matt Pressey and Steve Moore, to go along with junior Mike Dixon and sophomore Phil Pressey, came together and produced one of the most memorable seasons in Missouri history.
The Tigers finished an outstanding 30-5 on the season, which included a Big 12 Tournament Championship and a 14-4, 2nd place finish in their final year in the conference.
However the dream season for Mizzou ended in a nightmare. The #2 seed Tigers were stunned by #15 seed Norfolk St in the second round of the NCAA Tournament and just like that, Mizzou was one and done and their Final Four aspirations were over.
It was one of, if not the biggest upset in NCAA Tournament history. Based off point spreads and seedings, it definitely was. Mizzou became just the 5th #2 seed to lose to a #15 seed and the first since 2001 (#15 Hampton over #2 Iowa St.). Duke of course became the 6th #2 seed to lose to a #15 seed just hours later. The Tigers became the first team in NCAA Tournament history to make 10 three pointers, shoot over 50% and commit less than 10 turnovers…and lose. They also were the first team since 2006 to make 13 three pointers and shoot over 50% in a tournament game…yet they lost.
It was truly one of the flukiest losses of all-time and just an awful way for the seniors to go out.
Typical Mizzou luck huh?
But while it will be tough to forget the disappointing ending, most Tiger fans will remember how great of a season it really was.
With only seven scholarship players on the team, and only two of them taller than 6’6 after the loss of Bowers and the departure of Kadeem Green, Haith was forced to use mainly a seven man rotation for the entire season and start 6’6 shooting guard Kim English at the 4 spot where he would be matching up with power forwards that were obviously much taller and bigger.
While the team struggled defensively due to that lack of size and depth, the four guard lineup of Flip Pressey, Dixon, Denmon, English and big man Ricardo Ratliffe, went on to become the most efficient offensive team in the country.
Mizzou played the game the right way and there was no team more fun to watch than the Tigers. They had incredible chemistry and were very unselfish. They were one of the best shooting teams in the nation and their fantastic ball movement in the half court allowed them to almost always take the best shot possible. They were still one of the fastest and more explosive teams in transition and their quickness and athleticism in the half court overwhelmed most opponents.
They were an offensive juggernaut and led the Big 12 in several offensive categories including PPG% (80.4), FG% (50.4%), 3PT% (39.8%), FT% (76.6%), APG (16.2), A/T ratio (1.58) and TPG (10.2). They were ranked 6th, 1st, 8th, 8th, 11th, 1st and 5th nationally in those categories respectively.
The Tigers finished the regular season ranked 3rd in both the AP and coaches poll, Missouri’s highest ranking ever to end a season. Mizzou won 11 games over Top 50 RPI teams and won the second most games in the country away from home.
And Frank Haith, who was seen as a very underwhelming hire from the get go, won AP National and Big 12 Coach of the Year.
It was definitely a special team and a special season.
But now it’s time to turn our attention to the 2012-2013 Missouri Tigers.
This year’s team is almost completely different than last year’s.
Last year’s Tigers of course had little depth and only two players over 6’6 on the roster.
This year’s Tigers have A LOT of depth and a lot more size.
With five seniors (and three non-scholarship seniors) graduating, including Mizzou’s top two leading scorers in English (14.5 ppg, 52% FG%, 46% 3PT%, 4.2 RPG, 1.6 APG) and Denmon (17.7 PPG, 46% FG%, 41% 3PT%, 5 RPG, 2.1 APG), Haith and his staff were able to quickly retool this team by bringing in five highly touted transfers to go along with four incoming freshmen.
The newcomers will join one of the best backcourts in the country in junior Flip Pressey and senior Mike Dixon, who are the only two players back from last year’s team. Another familiar face will be back on the court too in senior forward Laurence Bowers, who is returning from a torn ACL in his left knee suffered a little over a year ago.
With Pressey, Dixon and Bowers returning to go along with the transfers and incoming freshmen, preseason expectations are a little higher this year than last.
The first AP Top 25 poll has Mizzou sitting at 15th in the country, while the USA Today coaches poll has the Tigers at 17th. And the media has the Tigers finishing 3rd in their first season in the SEC behind Kentucky and Florida.
This team definitely has the talent to do even better than that.
And on a freshly painted court…
…Wearing brand spankin new uniforms:
Let’s take an in-depth look at your 2012-2013 Missouri Tigers:
HEAD COACH: Frank Haith (2nd year, 30-5, 9th year overall: 159-106)
ASSISTANT HEAD COACH: Tim Fuller
THE BEST BACKCOURT IN THE COUNTRY
PG. PHIL “FLIP” PRESSEY – 5’11, 175lbs, Junior (11-12: 10.3 PPG, 43% FG%, 36.5 3PT%, 77.5% FT%, 6.4 APG, 3.3 RPG, 2.1 SPG)
Coming off of a fantastic 2011-2012 campaign, Flip Pressey is widely considered the best point guard in the country. Several media members seem to think so too as Pressey was voted SEC preseason player of the year, beating out Florida guard Kenyon Boynton.
Flip was arguably the most important player on last year’s 30-5 offensive juggernaut. Pressey was the floor general of the most efficient offensive team in the country and improved his game in virtually every way last season.
Flip possesses insane quickness, speed, floor vision and passing ability. He’s brilliant in transition and in the half court and operates the pick and roll to perfection. Pressey can also shoot the ball and has range, which makes him even more deadly. He’s a good finisher at the basket, especially in transition, and can shoot off the dribble with ease.
Flip is also a disruptive force defensively, although his lack of size, wingspan and strength can hinder him at times. But his instincts, closing speed and ability to close passing lanes results in many steals and easy buckets in transition for the Tigers.
Pressey also possesses the leadership skills, work ethic, character and love for the game that is needed to be as good as he has become.
After breaking the school record for assists in a single season last year (223), it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him break his own record this season.
Flip Pressey. Get used to hearing that name a lot.
SG. MIKE DIXON – 6’1, 190lbs, Senior (11-12: 13.5 PPG, 49% FG%, 37% 3PT%, 88% FT%, 3.3 APG, 1.8 RPG, 1.2 SPG)
The senior out of Kansas City, MO is the other part of one of the best starting backcourts in the nation this season.
Mike Dixon had a fantastic 2011-2012 season and set a career high in both points per game (13.5) and field goal percentage (49%).
Coming off the bench, Dixon was named the Big 12’s 6th Man of the Year, although he did play more minutes than starter Matt Pressey.
Dixon possesses deadly quickness and is extremely dangerous in transition with his ability to finish at the rim. Dixon has always had a great mid-range game and is one of the better free throw shooters in the country, as he shot 87.9% from the charity stripe last season. Dixon has range too, although he is better inside the 3 point line. Dixon, like Pressey, splits defenders regularly with his quickness and first step and is arguably a better finisher in the half court than Flip.
Mike is a very scrappy player on the defensive side of the ball and is a very solid on the ball defender for the Tigers. While not as disruptive as Pressey, Dixon has had his share of picking pockets to create easy baskets in transition for his team.
Dixon will be in the starting lineup this season, although he was basically a starter the last two years. Expect a huge senior season from Mike as he will have a lot more opportunities to score this season with the departures of Kim English and Marcus Denmon.
THE RETURN OF BOWERS
PF. LAURENCE BOWERS – 6’8, 227lbs, Senior (11-12: DID NOT PLAY-INJURED)
The senior forward is back! After tearing his ACL in his left knee right before the season last year, Laurence Bowers returns for his senior year in black and gold.
At 6’8, 227lbs, Bowers possesses a wiry frame, great athleticism, and length (wingspan), which Mizzou desperately lacked last season. Laurence is a very smooth athlete with great mobility for his size.
Bowers has a soft touch on his shot and is a great finisher at the rim. He has the ability to be a very good mid-range shooter and should take advantage of that this season.
Laurence isn’t the most physical forward, but as mentioned, he has a very long wingspan and possesses the lateral quickness to guard smaller players in the half court. He’s not a great rebounder, but some of that might have been due to the system he was playing in with Mike Anderson.
Will he be back to 100%? That remains to be seen, but even at 90%, Bowers’ presence will be a big factor for the Tigers in his senior season.
THE TALENTED TRANSFERS
C. ALEX ORIAKHI – 6’9, 255lbs, Senior (11-12: 6.7 PPG, 49.5% FG%, 57% FT%, 4.8 RPG)
A Christmas gift you weren’t expecting. Those were the words of Frank Haith when asked about the addition of former UConn Husky Alex Oriakhi. I think that’s a good way of putting it.
The 6’9, 255lb senior big man and National Champion from two years ago decided to leave the University of Connecticut and transfer to Mizzou for his final collegiate season. He’s able to play right away because of UConn’s NCAA Tournament suspension and is reuniting with former AAU teammate and friend Phil Pressey, who played a big part in Oriakhi’s decision to come to Columbia.
Another big factor in lulling Oriakhi to Mizzou was the need of an experienced center to replace Ricardo Ratliffe. He wanted playing time for a contender, and that’s what he’ll get.
Oriakhi was a big reason why his Huskies won the National Title two years ago, but his minutes decreased last season due to the addition of 5 star freshman Andre Drummond, now in the NBA.
Naturally, his numbers went down too.
He won’t have to worry about his minutes in Columbia, although he will probably play less overall minutes than Ratliffe did last season because the Tigers have more depth down low this year.
Oriakhi has a very strong frame and an impressive 7’3 wingspan that causes havoc defensively under the rim. He’s a good shot blocker, can defend the post and is very physical down low. Oriakhi is also a very good rebounder, in fact he was one of the best rebounders in the country two years ago.
He has some skills offensively too. While he doesn’t possess elite back to the basket skills down low, he is very decisive with his moves and is a very good finisher above the rim, which will be a noticeable difference from Ratliffe last year who was an under the rim type of player.
Overall, this was a huge get for the Tigers this season. Oriakhi might not be as efficient offensively as Ratliffe was last season, but he’s a much better defender, rebounder and shot blocker and is a more physical player in the paint. He’ll get his points too with Pressey running the show and should be very effective in the pick and roll game.
SF. EARNEST ROSS – 6’5, 222lbs, Junior (11-12: DID NOT PLAY-TRANSFER)
Along with fellow transfers Keion Bell and Jabari Brown, the former Auburn leading scorer and rebounder from two years ago has been with Mizzou since last season. All of them of course had to sit out a year, but they were practicing and with the team every day, so they’re already comfortable and ready to go.
Earnest Ross is a 6’5, 222lb versatile guard/forward who averaged 13.1 points per game and 6.6 rebounds per game his sophomore season at Auburn.
Ross has a strong frame and very good athleticism at his size. He’s also very physical and used to playing in the SEC. Ross is a very good defender and rebounder, and is aggressive at getting to the bucket and finishing. He’s also a very underrated shooter and definitely has the ability to hurt teams from the outside.
Ross should be one of the first players off the bench for Frank Haith and will provide the Tigers with a physical presence at the 3 spot.
SG. KEION BELL – 6’4, 200lbs, Senior (11-12: DID NOT PLAY-TRANSFER)
Keion Bell is a very intriguing player and will excite Tiger fans many times this season with his insane athleticism. The transfer from Pepperdine was the Waves’ leading scorer his last two seasons there averaging almost 19 points per game in both.
Bell will most likely be starting at the 3 spot for his senior season with Mizzou and he will have to accept his role with this team. He won’t be the main guy anymore like he was with Pepperdine.
Keion is a very explosive athlete with great body control and can score in bunches. He is very aggressive at slashing to the hole and can finish at the rim. He’s a solid shooter, but he won’t remind people of Kim English or Marcus Denmon from beyond the arc.
Bell has the ability to be the best perimeter defender on the team this year, and they’ll need him to be. He has experience at the point and defending opposing point guards effectively.
Keion was another great pickup by Haith and his staff, and as an experienced senior, he will provide some leadership on a team that lost five seniors from a year ago.
SG. JABARI BROWN – 6’5, 205lbs, Sophomore (11-12: DID NOT PLAY-TRANSFER)
The former 5 star and #19 overall recruit in the nation might end up being the most impactful player out of all the transfers by the time he ends his career at Mizzou.
Brown transferred to Mizzou early last season after only playing two games at the University of Oregon. Since he transferred during the first semester of last season, Brown won’t be eligible to play until the start of the second semester this season.
Jabari was a 5 star recruit for a reason: He’s a scorer. He’s an excellent shooter and could fill the void of English and Denmon from behind the arc once he’s eligible to play. Jabari is a very smooth athlete and a good ball handler. He’s a very good shooter off the dribble and can create shots for himself. Brown is also very aggressive at driving to the hole and is a very good finisher with either hand.
Brown has the talent to be one of the best shooting guards in the country and he’ll show flashes of that all season coming off the bench for the Tigers. Get used to this kid because he’ll be a household name come his junior season for Mizzou.
PF. TONY CRISWELL – 6’9, 226lbs, Junior (11-12: DID NOT PLAY-TRANSFER)
Tony Criswell might be the most underrated Tiger transfer and will surprise some people with his offensive game.
The 6’9, 226lb power forward JUCO transfer brings some more size and experience to the Tigers. Criswell played his freshman season at UAB before transferring to Independence (KS) Community College last year.
Criswell, like Ricardo Ratliffe two years ago, was considered one of the better JUCO power forwards of 2012. He has a nice skill set for a big guy, including a smooth mid-range game. He’s also a physical presence defensively and will provide the Tigers with another capable rebounder in the paint.
THE FOUR FRESHMEN
PF. RYAN ROSBURG – 6’10, 250lbs, Freshman
The 6’10, 250lb center from Chesterfield, MO should make the biggest immediate impact out of the four freshmen this season.
Rosburg is a very physical player and relishes contact. He has soft hands, good footwork in the post and has the ability to be a very good rebounder for the Tigers. Rosburg also plays with a very high motor and has the smarts and coachability that will serve him well during his time in Columbia.
Don’t be surprised to see Rosburg make an impact for this team right off the bat. His physicality will be a welcome presence down low with Oriakhi and Criswell.
SF. STEFAN JANKOVIC – 6’11, 230lbs, Freshman
The Serbian native and Canadian resident is a very intriguing prospect for Frank Haith and the Tigers.
Jankovic is a very skilled power forward and should be a nightmare matchup for teams. He isn’t your typical power forward as he isn’t very physical right now and doesn’t initiate contact. But Jankovic has the offensive skills of a shooting guard.
He’s an excellent shooter from the outside with great touch and is a great ball handler at his size. He can drive to the basket and finish and can create his own shot off the dribble.
Jankovic will have to add some bulk and become more physical, but this kid has a really good chance to become a force offensively and mismatch against traditional power forwards.
SF. NEGUS WEBSTER-CHAN – 6’7, 200lbs, Freshman
Jankovic’s high school teammate, Negus Webster-Chan could end up being the best of this freshman bunch when it’s all said and done.
The 6’7 small forward is a very versatile player and possesses very good athleticism and body control. NWC has a long wingspan and good frame, but must add some bulk to that frame and become a more physical player.
NWC is another aggressive offensive player and can get to the basket and finish with both hands. He’s another good ball handler at his size and can create his own shot. He has a very quick release on that shot and can get hot from beyond the arc, but he’s a streaky shooter. He has shown the ability to be a very good defender as well.
NWC needs to focus on becoming a more consistent player overall, he has loads of potential.
SG. DOMINIQUE BULL – 6’4, 220lbs, Freshman
Dominique Bull is a J.T. Tiller like guard and should become a very good defender for the Tigers down the road. He has a very strong build and is a physical guard who is definitely not afraid of contact.
Bull possesses good body control and athleticism. He has a very quick first step and can blow by defenders or plow through them on his way to the basket.
Bull probably won’t make too much of an impact his freshman season, but he should become a solid contributor for the Tigers as his career goes on.
PF. DANNY FELDMANN – 6’9 225lbs, Sophomore (11-12: DID NOT PLAY-TRANSFER)
Danny Feldmann joined the team last season after playing at Columbia College of the Ivy League the year before.
Feldmann, like Ross, Bell and Brown, had to sit out last year due to NCAA transfer rules.
SG. COREY HAITH – 5’10, 160lbs, Freshman
Son of coach Frank Haith, the 5’10 shooting guard will probably only play when the Tigers have a very comfortable lead late in the game.
2012-2013 NON-CON SCHEDULE:
10/29 Mon – NORTHWEST MISSOURI ST* – 7PM MSN
11/4 Sun – MISSOURI SOUTHERN* – 2PM MSN
11/10 Sat – SOUTHER ILLINOIS-EDWARDSVILLE – 3PM MSN
11/13 Tue – ALCORN ST. – 7PM MSN
11/16 Fri – NICHOLLS ST. – 7PM MSN
11/22 Thu – STANFORD (BATTLE 4 ATLANTIS) – 12PM AXS
11/23 Fri – LOUISVILLE/NORTHERN IOWA (BATTLE 4 ATLANTS) – TBA
11/24 Sat – TO BE ANNOUNCED (BATTLE 4 ATLANTIS) – TBA
12/1 Sat – APPALACHIAN ST. – 2PM MSN
12/4 Tue – SEMO – 7PM MSN
12/8 Sat – TENNESSEE ST. – 2PM MSN
12/17 Mon – SOUTH CAROLINA ST. – 7PM MSN
12/22 Sat – ILLINOIS (BRAGGIN RIGHTS) – 5PM ESPN 2
12/28 Fri – @ UCLA – 9PM ESPN 2
1/5 Sat – BUCKNELL – 6PM MSN
2013 SEC SCHEDULE:
1/8 Tue – ALABAMA – 6PM ESPN
1/12 Sat – @ Ole Miss – 7PM FSN
1/16 Wed – GEORGIA – 7PM SEC Network
1/19 Sat – @ Florida – 1PM ESPN
1/22 Tue – SOUTH CAROLINA – 6PM ESPNU
1/26 Sat – VANDERBILT – 4PM ESPNU
1/30 Wed – @ LSU – 7PM SEC Network
2/2 Sat – AUBURN – 12:30PM SEC Network
2/7 Thu – @ Texas A&M – 8PM ESPN/ESPN 2
2/9 Sat – OLE MISS – Noon CBS Sports
2/13 Wed – @ Mississippi St. – 7PM SEC Network
2/16 Sat – @ Arkansas – 3PM ESPN/ESPN 2
2/19 Tue – FLORIDA – 8PM ESPN
2/23 Sat – @ Kentucky – 8PM ESPN
2/28 Thu – @ South Carolina – 8PM ESPN/ESPN 2
3/2 Sat – LSU – 3PM SEC Network
3/5 Tue – ARKANSAS – 6PM ESPN
3/9 Sat – @ Tennessee – 3PM ESPN/ESPN 2
Mizzou leaves one of the strongest basketball conferences in the country, but the SEC is arguably right behind the Big 12, Big East and ACC when it comes to hoops.
Kentucky is obviously the team to beat in the SEC, similar to Kansas in the Big 12. Florida won back to back National Titles in 05-06 and 06-07 and should be really good this season after an Elite 8 appearance last year. Tennessee has high hopes this season after some very good years under former coach Bruce Pearl. Arkansas has had its ups and downs, and of course former Mizzou coach Mike Anderson will take that rivalry up a notch. Vanderbilt has had success and Texas A&M has had the Tigers’ number in hoops for years in the Big 12. Former Kansas St. coach Frank Martin left Manhattan to run the South Carolina program and Alabama started off last season on a roll, but fell apart once SEC play began.
This conference is definitely on the rise when it comes to basketball.
But before SEC play begins, the Tigers will have some work to do in the non-con.
Mizzou’s first big test will come against Stanford (Top 40 team) in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in Nassau, Bahamas on November 22nd. The Tigers will then get either #2 Louisville or Northern Iowa on the 23rd and then either #8 Duke, #16 Memphis, Minnesota or Virginia Commonwealth on the 24th.
Mizzou will then play only four games in almost a month’s span before getting the Fighting Illini for the annual Braggin Rights game on December 22nd. Mizzou then travels to #13 UCLA for another early season battle on December 28th before completing the non-conference schedule against Bucknell January 5th.
Three days later, the Tigers will begin their first season of SEC play against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Mizzou Arena on ESPN.
Mizzou will play a school record 13 nationally televised games in league play, including the ESPN family of networks 11 times.
The 18 game format for conference play includes an annual home and home series with the school’s cross division rival and four rotating opponents.
Mizzou’s cross division rival is the Arkansas Razorbacks…coached by Mike Anderson.
Most likely the most anticipated home game on the schedule all year will be Anderson’s return to Columbia on March 5th. Mizzou and Arkansas first meet in Fayetteville on February 16th.
Another high profile game that will receive a lot of buzz is when the #10 Florida Gators visit Columbia on February 19th on ESPN. The game after that will probably be even bigger as ESPN Gameday visits Lexington for the Tiger’s first SEC battle against the National Champion #3 Kentucky Wildcats. Both games should be high stake late season battles in the race for the SEC East title.
The Tigers do have a league high three Thursday-Saturday turnaround games, but this team will have the depth and experience to handle it.
REGULAR SEASON PREDICTON: 25-6 (14-4 & 2nd in SEC)
Expectations are high for the 2012-2013 Missouri Tigers.
Mizzou returns arguably the best backcourt in the nation in Phil Pressey and Mike Dixon and the Tigers get their experienced senior forward back in Laurence Bowers.
But other than those three, everyone else on this team is a newcomer.
Mizzou loses three of the most efficient offensive players in the country last season in Marcus Denmon, Kim English and Ricardo Ratliffe, but Frank Haith and his staff have done a fantastic job of retooling this roster with a loaded group of talented and experienced transfers and a crop of intriguing freshmen to go along with Dixon, Bowers and the best point guard in college basketball in Flip Pressey.
It’s not very logical however to expect the Tigers to become the most efficient offense in the nation again like last season with the losses of Denmon, English and Ratliffe. But whenever you have a point guard like Pressey, there shouldn’t be that big of a drop off offensively, especially with the talent around him.
This team should be much better defensively though. While the offense was nearly unstoppable last year, the Tigers struggled on the defensive side of the ball because of the lack of size, length and depth on the team.
Mizzou now has size, length and depth.
Pressey and Dixon are good on-ball defenders that can put pressure on opposing guards man to man. Keion Bell and Earnest Ross are upgrades defensively over Denmon and English. And the return of Bowers and the additions of Oriakhi, Criswell and Rosburg down low give this team plenty of size and skill defensively that they didn’t have last season.
The key to this season will be how quickly all of the newcomers mesh together. Last year’s team had amazing chemistry and everyone knew their role. This year’s team will try to duplicate that chemistry, but it will be difficult at first with all of the new pieces.
If Frank Haith can get this team to come together like he did last year, the sky is the limit for the 2012-2013 Tigers.
The National Champs will be the favorites in the SEC again, but Mizzou and Florida won’t be too far behind. There are several pundits out there that believe the Tigers can overtake Kentucky and win the SEC in the first year in their new conference.
This program experienced a lot of success last season. Winning 30 games and a league tournament title was impressive. But they didn’t get it done in the NCAA Tournament. Last year’s team had a legit shot at the first Final Four in school history, but it just wasn’t meant to be obviously.
This year’s Tigers have that same shot with the talent and experience on the roster.
But as I said, it will come down to whether or not all of the new faces can come together and accept their roles.
If they do, then get ready for another very exciting season of Mizzou basketball.
Topics: Alex Oriakhi, Dominique Bull, Earnest Ross, Frank Haith, Jabari Brown, Keion Bell, Kim English, Laurence Bowers, Marcus Denmon, Mike Dixon, Missouri Tigers, Negus Webster-Chan, Phil Pressey, Ricardo Ratliffe, Ryan Rosburg, SEC, Stefan Jankovic, Tony Criswell