COLUMBIA, MO - FEBRUARY 11: Phil Pressey #1 of the Missouri Tigers celebrates with Michael Dixon #11 after scoring during the game against the Baylor Bears on February 11, 2012 at Mizzou Arena in Columbia, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
The season post-mortem series begins quite a bit earlier than we hoped.
In 1993-94, an incredibly senior-laden Missouri squad went undefeated in the Big 8, advanced to the Elite Eight, and finished the season 27-4. Seniors played 59 percent of the team's minutes. In 1994-95, however, a patched-together squad of Paul O'Liney, Julian Winfield, little-used sophomores (Derek Grimm, Jason Sutherland), and newcomers (the Haley twins, Kendrick Moore, Corey Tate) began the season 18-3 and reached as high as ninth in the polls before fading. They finished the year by falling by the narrowest of margins to eventual champion UCLA in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. As impressive as Norm Stewart's coaching job was in 1993-94, his work was doubly impressive the next year as he prevented program collapse ... or at least staved it off for a year.
This past season, seniors played 68.7 percent of available minutes for a Mizzou squad that finished 30-5 and won the Big 12 Tournament. The devastating loss to Norfolk State in the NCAA Tournament certainly dampened the overall sense of accomplishment for this squad, but this was still quite possibly the best Mizzou team since 1994 (really, only 2008-09 can compete for that honor). Now, heading into the 2012-13 season, Frank Haith faces a rebuilding job quite similar to that which faced Stewart in the spring of 1994. Obviously we have no idea how the pieces will all fit together for next season's Tigers, but as we start our season postmortem series, it is probably worth it to take stock of what those pieces actually are.
6'1, 185, Sr. (Lee's Summit, MO)
2009-10: 16.6 MPG, 7.5 PPG (54% 2PT, 36% 3PT, 86% FT), 1.6 APG, 1.1 RPG, 1.0 SPG
2010-11: 22.3 MPG, 10.3 PPG (41% 2PT, 39% 3PT, 83% FT), 3.5 APG, 2.5 RPG, 1.8 SPG
2011-12: 26.7 MPG, 13.5 PPG (58% 2PT, 37% 3PT, 88% FT), 3.3 APG, 1.8 RPG, 1.2 SPG
We have no idea about defense or rebounding at this stage, but as long as this team is led by Mike Dixon and Phil Pressey, the offense is going to be pretty damn good. In the 1995 analogy, Dixon is the Paul O'Liney, the potentially high-volume scorer who not only has no problem taking shots in the clutch, but demands it. His late drive won the Texas game in Austin, his incredibly clutch free throws against both Kansas and Norfolk State came in handy (to say the least), and his Mike Dixon Eff You Threes™ became a major staple of what was the best offense in the country this season. He brings Marcus Denmon's scoring ability to the table, only with some Jason Sutherland attitude.
In terms of similarity scores I ran for fun, Dixon is basically 19% Sutherland, 13% Denmon, 13% Zaire Taylor, 13% Jason Horton, and 6% Lee Coward, Keyon Dooling, Lynn Hardy, Reggie Smith, John McIntyre and Stefhon Hannah (each). You have to admit: that sounds about right. The Big 12's Sixth Man of the Year and an all-conference defensive performer, Dixon will be one of the three faces of Missouri's first SEC squad.
5'10, 175, Jr. (Dallas, TX)
2010-11: 22.3 MPG, 6.5 PPG (41% 2PT, 36% 3PT, 76% FT), 3.9 APG, 2.3 RPG, 2.0 SPG
2011-12: 32.1 MPG, 10.3 PPG (47% 2PT, 37% 3PT, 78% FT), 6.4 APG, 3.3 RPG, 2.1 SPG
In his first full season as a Mizzou starter, Phil Pressey set Mizzou's single-season assist and steals records. Because of his sheer proficiency in those categories, in addition to his solid scoring ability, it was hard to find similarity scores too close to Flip. He basically graded out as two parts Melvin Booker and one part each of Ricky Clemons, Lee Coward, Stefhon Hannah and Keon Lawrence. Really, though, we all know the comparison we want to make here: T.J. Ford. Frank Haith made the "Next T.J." reference on quite a few occasions this year, and as we see, it is a semi-worthy comparison.
Here are the stats from Ford's sophomore season: 33.6 MPG, 15.0 PPG (43% 2PT, 26% 3PT, 82% FT), 7.7 APG, 3.9 RPG, 2.0 SPG. Ford was asked to carry more of a scoring load than Pressey on a squad that basically featured Brandon Mouton, James Thomas and a host of role players. With Denmon, English and company, Pressey didn't have to shoot as much, and he was quite a bit more efficient from the field. We will probably see Pressey shoot quite a bit more next year, for (often) better or (sometimes) worse. But he will still have Dixon with him in what will be one of the more explosive backcourts in the country.
6'8, 221, Sr. (Memphis, TN)
2008-09: 6.9 MPG, 3.2 PPG (59% 2PT, 67% FT), 2.1 RPG, 0.4 BPG, 0.5 APG, 0.4 SPG
2009-10: 22.5 MPG, 10.2 PPG (57% 2PT, 65% FT), 5.7 RPG, 1.4 BPG, 1.2 APG, 1.1 SPG
2010-11: 24.8 MPG, 11.6 PPG (54% 2PT, 75% FT), 6.1 RPG, 1.8 BPG, 1.4 APG, 1.1 SPG
Oh, Party Starter. Because of his dunks, his year-to-year improvement, and his general likability, Mizzou fans (and especially Rock M'ers) have developed a serious attachment to Laurence Bowers in his now four years on campus. It felt nearly tragic when he tore his ACL last October, and though Mizzou thrived in his absence, it was easy to wish he was on the court ... just so we could watch him on the court. We will get that chance in 2012-13, and honestly, the timing couldn't be better. With Ricardo Ratliffe graduating, Phil Pressey loses his pick-and-roll muse, and Bowers could fill that role incredibly well. He's a solid finisher, he has a decent mid-range jumper, and his hands have proven solid through the years. Of course, Ratliffe and Pressey developed such a wonderful rapport that Bowers has some work to do in that regard. But is anybody going to doubt him?
With the infusion of size coming to Columbia this coming year, it will be interesting to see the role Bowers ends up playing. He could see some time both at the 4 spot (with some well-sized newcomers at the 5), or he could end up seeing minutes at center while Earnest Ross plays the "English 4." Regardless, his ability to both finish near the basket and, perhaps even more importantly, block shots, will come in very handy for a team in transition.
6'5, 222, Jr. (Cary, NC)
2009-10 (Auburn): 13.4 MPG, 2.8 PPG (39% 2PT, 22% 3PT, 64% FT), 3.0 RPG, 0.8 APG, 0.8 SPG
2010-11 (Auburn): 31.8 MPG, 13.1 PPG (43% 2PT, 33% 3PT, 79% FT), 6.6 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.4 SPG
6'3, 200, Sr. (Los Angeles, CA)
2008-09 (Pepperdine): 25.4 MPG, 12.9 PPG (47% 2PT, 32% 3PT, 75% FT), 4.7 RPG, 2.2 APG, 1.5 SPG
2009-10 (Pepperdine): 31.5 MPG, 18.5 PPG (45% 2PT, 36% 3PT, 75% FT), 5.1 RPG, 3.2 APG, 1.3 SPG
2010-11 (Pepperdine): 29.7 MPG, 18.9 PPG (48% 2PT, 26% 3PT, 74% FT), 4.1 RPG, 2.4 APG, 0.8 SPG
Next season, transfers from Auburn, Pepperdine, Oregon and perhaps even Columbia will see the floor for Mizzou. Ross and Bell are by far the most experienced of the transfers bunch, and they will be counted on to log some serious minutes. Because of his interesting size, Ross probably starts out with first billing here. A role player as a freshman, Ross became the proverbial "best player on a bad team" in 2010-11, averaging 13 points per game and showing strong rebounding and slashing ability. He is not an amazing outside shooter, but he is as athletic as you could hope for him to be. With Pressey leading the break and lobbing to either Bowers, Ross, Bell or even Jabari Brown, Mizzou should once again be an incredibly fun team to watch in transition. But the work these two do in the halfcourt offense could be more directly correlated to Mizzou's W-L record.
The only glimpses of these two we have gotten so far came in last October's Black-and-Gold game. Ross very much stole the show, scoring 20 points on 8-for-14 shooting and grabbing four offensive rebounds. For his somewhat limited size, he may have the best rebounding instincts of any non-freshman on next year's team.
Bell, meanwhile, has a really interesting transition to make. He was the go-to scorer at Pepperdine, a high-volume shooter who alternated between shooting the Waves into, and out of, games. He will likely spend quite a bit of time as the third of a three-guard set with Dixon and Pressey, and he might be asked to do quite a bit more distribution than he did in Malibu. His Black-and-Gold box score -- zero FG attempts and three assists in 22 minutes -- was interesting in this regard. (Also interesting: the players he spent most of his time guarding, Dixon and Matt Pressey, shot just 7-for-26 from the field.) Bell is a mystery at this point, but with his size, diverse skill set, and potentially strong perimeter defense, he may have the most direct impact on Mizzou's success of any of the newcomers.
6'5, 205, So. (Oakland, CA)
2011-12 (Oregon): 25.5 MPG, 6.0 PPG (50% 2PT, 14% 3PT, 42% FT), 2.0 RPG, 0.5 APG
Jabari Brown is a strong, physical, aggressive guard who built quite a name for himself as a five-star freshman ... and both looked and played miserably in his short time at Oregon. He transfered to Mizzou at the end of the fall semester, and his sophomore season will begin sometime around next December's Braggin' Rights game.
Brown is almost as big a mystery as Bell, honestly. He supposedly wants to craft himself as a point guard, but his scoring ability is far more advanced than his distribution. On top of that, he seems to fall back on his jumper quite a bit; it was viewed as one of his strengths as a high school prospect, but he evidently left his jumper in Oakland when he moved to Eugene. (Perhaps Oregon's court was just giving him depth perception issues, ahem.) It is very difficult to figure out what role he might play for the Tigers once eligible, but he does step into a rather comfortable position -- Mizzou has plenty of wings, and he won't be stepping into a high-pressure, "you must perform at a high level immediately" environment. Whatever he can offer will be nice ... and of course, if he rediscovers the blue-chip talent he didn't show at Oregon, it could transform the team.
6'8, 230, Jr. (Oklahoma City, OK)
2010-11 (UAB): 14.2 MPG, 3.2 PPG (54% 2PT, 75% FT), 3.6 RPG, 0.5 APG
2011-12 (Independence CC): 10.2 PPG (48% 2PT, 19% 3PT, 87% FT), 5.4 RPG, 0.7 APG
It is probably fitting that the one YouTube clip I could find from Tony "Lyons" Criswell's time at UAB was of him drawing a game-clinching charge against VCU. Criswell did not really distinguish himself in Birmingham, averaging just 14 minutes per game and rarely shooting the ball. But he played for that team a role that he could find in Columbia, too: Steve Moore-esque scrapper. He lacks Moore's heft, he was decent on the offensive glass, and he apparently didn't mind drawing a charge. He almost certainly will not become a major star for the Tigers in 2012-13, but if he can give Frank Haith 8-10 decent Moore-ish minutes, that will be welcome. And if he can fill in the gaps well, rebounding and finishing some putbacks, he could get even more minutes than that.
6'10, 240, Fr. (Chesterfield, MO)
One of two 6-foot-10'ers in this class, Rosburg is much more of an inside player, which might give him a leg up in the competition for playing time. His lengthy high school film above shows a player with quickness, agility and some nice post moves. Rosburg averaged 20 points per game for the Marquette Mustangs last year and provided a lovely rebounding presence as well. Because of that alone, he could be in line for early playing time, if he is ready and able to contribute, anyway. The home-state kid saw his recruiting stock improve as dramatically as his game did over the last couple of years.
6'11, 225, Fr. (Mississauga, Ontario)
Of all the YouTube film I compiled here, no one's intrigued and entertained me more than Jankovic's. The Canadian (by way of Huntington Prep) manages to combine smoothness and stiffness in a way I'm not sure I've ever seen. He seems comfortable on the perimeter, but he will be asked to log quite a few minutes on the interior, either as a center or a long 4. If he is ready to see the court early, he could provide Mizzou with some interesting matchup advantages that they very clearly did not possess in 2011-12.
6'3, 215, Fr. (Tilton, NH)
A guard who is "built like a bull" and drew immediate comparisons to J.T. Tiller from Frank Haith, Bull could be a wonderful complement to the undersized Dixon and Pressey in Mizzou's backcourt. He has shown solid scoring ability, but his route to playing time will depend as much on his defensive ability. Mizzou has the offense covered on the perimeter; now they need someone who can help limit teams' perimeter effectiveness. Bull was not an incredibly highly touted recruit, but if he can truly show some "Tiller II" capabilities, he could see plenty of minutes next winter.
6'7, 195, Fr. (Scarborough, Ontario)
Like his Huntington Prep teammate Jankovic, Webster-Chan's game is basically that of a really long guard. He has shown a lovely shooting touch and a willingness to pull the trigger. Like Bull, however, he may quickly find that his defensive capabilities determine his minutes. It is easy to get starry-eyed thinking about a long-armed shot blocker on the perimeter, but it probably goes without saying that YouTube highlight videos do not usually include clips of guys playing perimeter defense. Initially a Louisville commit who chose to follow Tim Fuller to Mizzou, Webster-Chan further provides length that the Tigers did not have in 2011-12. Now let's just see how well you hop into that defensive stance, NWC.
6'9, 215, So. (Jefferson City, MO)
2010-11 (Columbia): 8.1 MPG, 1.0 PPG (80% 2PT, 14% 3PT, 0% FT), 0.7 RPG, 0.5 BPG
A walk-on and Helias grad who transferred to Mizzou following a year at Columbia, Feldman very well could have earned some minutes on this past season's size-hungry squad. But with players like Criswell, Rosburg and Jankovic entering the fray this winter, he might find the going a bit difficult. Still, it is nice to have options, and Feldman might be able to earn some minutes playing the role I described for Criswell above -- play some defense, draw some charges, block some shots, position yourself for some putbacks on offense. His limited statistics from Columbia suggest that, like Jankovic, he doesn't mind playing on the perimeter, but his minutes (if any) will come inside. We'll see.
For those who chose to count, we just listed 11 scholarship players and one walk-on above. That means Mizzou still has two more scholarships to give out if it so chooses. The Tigers will have some intriguing depth, length and explosiveness throughout the court, but as we will discuss later in this series, another intriguing (to say the least) player could still enter the fray next year.