Three weeks after the last installment, it's time for another irregularly-scheduled edition of this quasi-weekly feature. Let's go around the nation.
You can't spell "Laurence Bowers has a knee injury" without using the letters that comprise S-U-C-K-S (assuming you use the S twice)
You know by now that Laurence Bowers, in the midst of an all-conference caliber season, sprained a medial collateral ligament and will miss at least two games before being reevaluated. The first of those games is at Ole Miss, which appears to be among the better teams in a bad SEC. I've already seen it suggested that if Mizzou power forward Tony Criswell (who has missed the last three games with a broken finger) can't play on Saturday, Tigers coach Frank Haith should use 6-5 swingman Earnest Ross in the role Kim English played last year, that of the undersized power forward. I think Haith should do that even if Criswell is available. Neither Criswell nor Missouri center Alex Oriakhi are threats to score more than a couple of feet from the basket, and if Haith puts them on the floor, that's a lot of beef clogging up the paint. Phil Pressey is at his best - and is all but unstoppable - when he has lanes available to the hoop. Putting Ross (or Stefan Jankovic) on the floor as a stretch-four will spread out opposing defenses, thus giving Pressey more room to operate. This could cause particular trouble for Ole Miss by making Murphy Holloway (6-7, 240 pounds) or Reginald Buckner (6-9, 235) - by far, the Rebels' two most productive inside players - chase perimeter players on defense. If Ole Miss counters by playing zone, it will be up to Ross to get to the top of the lane to disrupt the zone from the inside, and for Jabari Brown to show more of the shooting touch he displayed against Alabama and destroy it from long range. Could be an interesting chess match.
Florida feels your pain
Laurence Bowers isn't the only SEC impact player sidelined for the immediate future. Florida big man Erik Murphy, the team's second-leading scorer at 12.1 points per game, could be out for as long as two weeks with fractured ribs. And given that Mizzou travels to Gainesville a week from Saturday, the availability of Bowers and Murphy could be a huge story in the SEC race. The Tigers and Gators have been the two best teams in a bad league so far (see this on how the league's putrid non-conference performance will stick with it through March). If Mizzou can steal a win on Florida's court, they gain a half-step on the rest of the league.
Now that the tyranny of the bowl season is behind us, you have tons of time to catch up on college basketball. When you get a chance, watch Creighton. It's no shock that Doug McDermott, the Blue Jays' 6-8 junior forward is good, but he has validated everything we already knew about him and then some. In Creighton's 15-1 start, McDermott is averaging 22.6 points and 7.3 rebounds per game while shooting 49.3% from behind the arc. An amazing player, the best of what college hoops is about. And speaking of amazing, it would be a stretch to say that I found myself rooting for Bucknell in Saturday's game against Mizzou, but I did form a profound appreciation for Mike Muscala, the Bison's low-post behemoth. Part of college basketball's undeniable charm is watching a group of experienced, well-coached players go toe-to-toe, shot-for-shot, against superior athletes. Would anyone be shocked to see Bucknell in the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament? I sure wouldn't. And finally, of all the recent opponents we've seen, none is more painful to watch than Alabama's sensational Trevor Releford. I know why Missouri didn't make the junior guard from Kansas City a priority in recruiting three years ago (Phil Pressey was the Tigers' top choice at point guard in that class). But Releford's ability to handle the ball and shoot would be a huge boon to a team that unexpectedly lost Mike Dixon. Pressey bears entirely too much burden for the Tigers this year.
As I tweeted Tuesday night, had Phil Pressey's 13-assist performance against Alabama come two weeks earlier, it would have tied the Tigers' single-game record. But given that it followed Flip's 19-assist effort against UCLA, it seemed relatively mundane in comparison. And perhaps that's the highest praise we can give Pressey: his 13-assist performances do not impress us.
But back to Pressey's performance against UCLA. It started me thinking about the best efforts by individual Tigers in losses. So I put together a list of five such performances. The list is not exhaustive. Add your own in the comments.
5. Arthur Johnson vs. Kansas, March 7, 2004. The Tigers were trying to make something out of a season that started with great promise but spiraled downward in the wake of Ricky Clemons's jailhouse phone calls and Linas Kleiza's season-ending injury. The last game at the Hearnes Center produced a classic clash between Missouri and Kansas, but also a bitter finish, as David Padgett's jumper with two seconds remaining gave the Jayhawks an 84-82 win. But the Tigers only had a chance because of Arthur Johnson's play. In his last home game, the senior center scored 37 points on 13 of 17 shooting.
4. Phil Pressey vs. UCLA, December 28, 2012. This just happened, so I don't have to remind you, but Flip destroyed the Tigers' single-game assist record of 13 by dropping 19 dimes on the Bruins to go along with 19 points.
3. Arthur Johnson and Rickey Paulding vs. Marquette, March 22, 2003. This game came in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Had it come a week later, it would be remembered as one of the greatest games of all-time. Rarely have the Tigers played any better than they did in this 101-92 overtime loss. Most people remember how Marquette's Steve Novak sank three three-pointers in the extra period (the Golden Eagles failed to miss a shot of any kind in OT), but Missouri's junior duo played like titans. Arthur Johnson posted 28 points and 18 rebounds, and Rickey Paulding scored 36 points and made nine of fifteen three-point attempts and one vicious tip dunk.
2. Anthony Peeler vs. Kansas, March 8, 1992. Anthony Peeler already had 24 points when the Tigers found themselves down 78-64 in Lawrence with less than eight minutes to play. But he scored 19 more points in the closing minutes, including three straight three-pointers to cut the lead to 91-89 before Kansas put the game away with free throws in the waning seconds. How could anything top 43 points at Kansas?
1. Willie Smith vs. Michigan, March 20, 1976. If anything ever dislodges Willie Smith from the top spot, something has gone catastrophically wrong. The Tigers trailed by 18 points after ten minutes in this Elite Eight matchup before Smith went full-bore apocalyptic on the Wolverines. After scoring just two points in the first ten minutes, he scored 41 the rest of the way, including 29 in the second half, and propelled Missouri to a late-game lead before the Wolverines rallied to win. "I can't think of any words to describe what he does," Smith's teammate Kim Anderson said after the game.
Let's hope this list stays as-is for a good long time. Let's meet back here next week.
And before we go, in case you missed it, San Diego State’s Jamaal Franklin did this against Fresno State last night.