In college basketball, most teams range from having 7-9 guys that take up the majority of the important minutes in a game. Some have a strict core group and run with mainly six, while others have a bit more depth and can throw 10 guys out there.
Dennis Gates has constructed a team with 12 players who all can have an impact on games and are trusted on the floor.
With the recent emergence of Mohamed Diarra and Isiaih Mosley, the Tigers’ depth has only increased. Then, Kaleb Brown began to receive quality minutes in the Ole Miss game, in large part thanks to his defensive ability. A team that already spread out minutes between nine guys added three more contributors to the mix, and it has continued to work just fine.
The division of minutes continues to fluctuate as well. Ronnie DeGray III started multiple games before not seeing the floor against Iowa State. Aidan Shaw played 17 minutes in the Alabama game but just six against ISU. And after getting only 12 minutes against Ole Miss, DeAndre Gholston was on the floor for 24 against the Cyclones.
Only seven players played ten or more minutes against Iowa State, but that was largely because of Tre Gomillion’s absence and Gates finding a couple of hot hands on the floor.
In the previous three outings, at least eight players played ten minutes in the game for Mizzou. In the Ole Miss game, nine players did. Gates consistently ‘feels out’ the game before finding his best lineups for the opponent. Hot hands generally emerge, as seven different players have scored in double-figures over this four-game span as well.
“I trust these guys, and they trust me. That’s one of our core values,” Gates said. “If I’m over there not trusting them to do certain things, then what am I standing for? I want them to play with their instincts.”
The benefits of having such great depth are obvious, but they also directly support Missouri’s style of play. The Tigers want to run up and down the floor and apply high levels of ball pressure. Both of those things require plenty of options to rotate in, keeping players fresh throughout the game.
It also means that, in the unfortunate event of an injury, there are plenty of players at each position to step up in someone’s place. While they obviously would’ve liked to have them, the Tigers barely missed a beat when Kobe Brown missed the Alabama game and Gomillion missed the ISU game. The loss of one player does not drastically affect how the team plays thanks to the variety of skillsets on this team.
Now the only issue for Gates is figuring out how to spread all of these minutes evenly, giving each player a chance to make his own impact. It’s a problem any coach in the country would be thrilled to have.