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Hoop M Nation

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.  Braggin’ Rights is here.  Let’s go for an abbreviated trip around the nation.

Buzzkill:  I was in the midst of writing a Hoop M Nation built around the singular talents of Phil Pressey when word broke that the freshman point guard has fractured the ring finger on his right hand, an injury likely to keep him out for two weeks.  In the grand scheme of things, it’s not that serious an injury, but even a relatively minor impediment to Pressey’s ability to handle the ball and pass could be a major obstacle to his effectiveness when he returns.

Distribution Center: Last week, I was listening to Soren Petro talk to the Kansas City Star’s Blair Kerkhoff on KC’s WHB in one of the best recurring segments on radio in this region.  They were discussing Michael Dixon’s suspension and Phil Pressey’s opportunity (this was before Thursday’s Oral Roberts game), and Petro said something that struck me as utterly wrongheaded.  He recounted a discussion with Mike Anderson about Mizzou’s point guards in which he (Petro) said that he saw Dixon as a natural distributor and Pressey as a scorer.  Anderson told him that he had that backwards, and Petro told Kerkhoff that he thought, no, he had it right.


Suffice it to say, Anderson has the better of the argument.  Michael Dixon has played 43 career games and has exceeded five assists in a game three times, with totals of 6, 6 and 7.  Phil Pressey has appeared in eleven games (one of those for less than one minute) and has already posted single-game assist totals of 7, 8, 9 and 11.


Two years from now, when Marcus Denmon and Kim English are gone, I expect to see Pressey at the point with Dixon (a surprisingly efficient scorer) at shooting guard.  In fact, it’s hard to imagine it any other way.  Pressey has ball skills not seen at Missouri since Keyon Dooling, and perhaps never before that.  


The 500 Club:  The current Missouri career assists record belongs to Anthony Peeler, who dropped 497 dimes as a Tiger.  Phil Pressey will claim the record for himself in the 2013-14 season when he sails past 500.


Speaking of records, Pressey’s 11 assists on Saturday night tied him for the fifth best single-game performance in Missouri history.  But it could have been better.  Ricardo Ratliffe and Justin Safford combined to miss three point-blank shots that Pressey put on a tee.  Had they converted, Pressey’s total would have been 14, giving him the Tiger record.


Weird stats:  Lost in the wide-eyed wonder at Pressey’s recent play is the reemergence of Kim English, who recorded 10 assists of his own on Saturday, making him the only Tiger ever to record double-digit assists and not lead the team.  Just as strange, Mizzou had more assists (33) than rebounds (32) against Central Arkansas.


Double-double-double-double-double-double-double:  Missouri had seven players – Denmon (21), Bowers (20), Ratliffe (18), P. Pressey (15), English (14), Safford (11) and Kreklow (11) – in double figures on Saturday, the first time that has happened in fifteen years.


Out of their depth:  They’re dropping like flies.  With Tyler Stone leaving the program in the offseason, Tony Mitchell not making it to campus, John Underwood departing over the weekend, Michael Dixon being indefinitely suspended, Matt Pressey suffering the effects of an elbow to the head, and Phil Pressey breaking his finger, it is possible that Missouri will have just seven healthy, recruited scholarship players available for the Braggin’ Rights game (though it now appears that Dixon will play).  At most, the Tigers will have nine.  At first blush, it would seem that Mike Anderson will have to adjust his style of play without a deep bench to draw from.  But the Tigers have already grown accustomed to playing with a short rotation against tough opponents.  Against Georgetown, only seven Missouri players saw appreciable minutes in an overtime game (Phil Pressey and Steve Moore each played a single minute), and just nine Tigers saw the floor against Vanderbilt.  In other words, it can be done.


Across the Twitterverse:  Jeff Goodman holds firm, still picks Mizzou to the final four, while Dave Reiter notes that Wednesday’s Braggin’ Rights game will be theseason’s first matchup of two ten-game winners.


Selby, Cobra:  That didn’t take long.  As Blair Kerkhoff pointed out on Saturday, Josh Selby reached double figures within four minutes of checking into his first collegiate game.  Then he buried a three-pointer with 26 seconds left to give Kansas a one-point lead, and ultimately the win over Southern Cal.  Selby led Kansas in scoring (21) and field goal attempts (11) and was third on the team in minutes played (27).  It wasn’t perfect – he had four turnovers – and, as a team, Kansas wasn’t any better with him (the Jayhawks had to go to the wire at home to beat a team that previously lost to Nebraska, Rider, TCU and Bradley).  But the guy is a tactical weapon in high tops, and assuming he gets fully assimilated into KU’s offense, he’ll make the Jayhawks all but impossible to beat.


Offensive production:  When we left Kansas City on Saturday for Missouri’s game against Central Arkansas, Kansas State owned comfortable lead over Florida.  An hour later, my wife was checking scores on the phone when she told me that the Cats were down 52-36 with four minutes to play.  "Let me guess," I said "Jacob Pullen is 5 for 19 from the field."  I was close.  He was 4 for 15 at that point, on his way to a 6 for 17 night in KSU’s 57-44 loss.  While that game was wrapping up, Baylor was tipping off against a wobbly Gonzaga team in Dallas, and LaceDarius Dunn was matching Pullen, missed shot for missed shot.  The Bears’ All-America candidate made just 4 of 13 shots from the field as Baylor fell, 68-64, their first loss of the season.  Blair Kerkhoff (a recurring figure in today’s happenings) noted that night that K-State and Baylor combined for just 12 assists on the day as they adjust to life without Denis Clemente (KSU) and Tweety Carter (BU).  I touched on this in the Rock M hoops preview, and it bears mentioning again that those two teams, great expectations notwithstanding, have gaping holes in the backcourt.  Each has one stud guard who is being forced to carry the scoring load while also trying to facilitate for his teammates.  That’s a lot of burden to bear.  And it’s why I think each team is a long shot for the final four despite their lofty rankings.  Both teams are dangerous, capable of beating anyone.  But I don’t think either will be consistent enough to string together the necessary wins against top-flight competition.

Hey Porter:  One of Mizzou’s top recruiting targets for 2011 is Otto Porter, a 6’8" forward from little Scott County Central in southeast Missouri.  His most recent stat line looks a lot like every one of his stat lines, and every one of his stat lines looks like it was put up in a video game:  29 points, 15 rebounds, 8 blocks and 5 assists.


And finally . . . :  Ninety-four feet in 0.9 seconds?  Sure, why not?