Mizzou Tigers' Michael Dixon: Best Sixth Man in the Nation?

Dan IrwinCorrespondent IIFebruary 19, 2012

Missouri's Michael Dixon has had to accept his role off the bench.
Missouri's Michael Dixon has had to accept his role off the bench.Jamie Squire/Getty Images

At the beginning of the 2011-12 Missouri basketball season, Michael Dixon was ready to pick up from where he left off the season before, except take it up a level.

And why not, it's his junior year.

However, Michael got some bad news just before the start of the season:  He found out from new head coach Frank Haith that he wasn't going to be starting at all, all season.

“I didn’t know if I was being punished or if they saw something that I didn't,” Dixon said of Haith's decision.  “I just knew I wasn’t starting.”

After playing in every game of his freshman year with eight starts as a true freshman, and then having 17 starts last season, Dixon was primed for success.  But when he was told he wasn't starting, it was deflating him personally, and it showed.

“When I realized I wasn’t (a starter),” Dixon said, “it hurt pretty bad.”

But playing with respect is something he learned from his father, who shares the same name.  Michael Dixon, Sr. is a former college player himself from San Jose State.

Michael knew that he had to focus and shake off what was bothering him if he was going to be successful.

At first, sixth man might sound a bad "s" word to any college basketball player, but Dixon has learned that Frank Haith had to resort to this.

When senior power-forward Lawrence Bowers went down in October with a devastating ACL tear, Haith had no other option but to bring Dixon in off the bench, to help even out their now-thinned rotation.

And Michael Dixon has risen to the occasion, defining himself as a solid basketball player with an extremely bright future.

But sixth man?

You could almost say he loves the title now.  Coming off of the bench with more minutes-per-game than he's played yet, he is up in nearly every statistical category, especially points-per-game, with 12.5 per game.

You could almost forget the stats.  His solid, all-around abilities have not gone unnoticed in the Big 12 conference.

“No coach who faces their team thinks of him as a sixth man,” Baylor head coach Scott Drew said of Dixon.  “He’s a starter and a potential all-conference player...regardless of whether he starts on the court or on the bench, he’s one of the best guards in the country.”

For now, Dixon is enjoying things.

The high national ranking and the possibility of getting a No. 1 seed in the Midwest Regional bracket exist at the pace that Dixon and company are playing this season.