While the Missouri Tigers lost a sensational group of seniors that included Marcus Denmon, Kim English and Ricardo Ratliffe, coach Frank Haith is wasting no time reloading with talent—experienced talent, to boot.
CBS Sports' Gary Parrish reported that former Connecticut forward/center Alex Oriakhi will be transferring to Mizzou for next season. He will be immediately eligible because of UConn's Academic Progress Rate-related ban from next year's NCAA tournament.
Oriakhi's 2011-12 numbers dropped drastically as he struggled to share time with touted freshman Andre Drummond, who declared for the NBA draft on Friday. Oriakhi stumbled to 6.7 points and 4.8 rebounds per game after recording 9.6 and 8.7 as a sophomore.
While stitching together a roster from talented Division I transfers worked for Haith's former Big 12 rival Fred Hoiberg at Iowa State, Missouri's addition of Oriakhi comes just in time for the Tigers' move to the SEC.
The Tigers lacked size last season in the wake of Laurence Bowers' season-ending ACL tear. Ratliffe was the only player capable of providing much low-post offense, but Oriakhi and Bowers will combine to form a dangerous pair next season.
Point guard Phil Pressey and the Big 12's top sixth man, Michael Dixon, return to spearhead the backcourt, and they'll be joined by plenty of talent, both new to college basketball and new to Columbia.
Pepperdine transfer Keion Bell will join the Tigers for his senior season after three strong seasons in Malibu. In Bell's last two seasons, he averaged over 18 points per game.
Junior-to-be Earnest Ross is a veteran of the SEC, having played his first two seasons at Auburn. In 2010-11, Ross ranked in the league's top 15 in rebounding at 6.6 per game, despite standing only 6'5".
In addition, freshman Jabari Brown, a former ESPNU top-30 prospect, will join the Tigers for the spring semester after leaving Oregon. Brown, like Bell a California native, played only two games as a Duck, managing to rack up 11 turnovers while scoring only 12 points. He will likely back up Bell and give the second unit another explosive scorer to work with Dixon.
As if the embarrassment of experienced Division I talents wasn't enough, Haith has added a pair of in-state junior college transfers and two three-star freshman forwards.
Quantel Denson, a 6'9", 230-pound native of Kansas City, averaged 6.5 points and four rebounds per game as a freshman at Hutchinson (Kan.) CC before transferring to Paris (Tex.) JC. His scholarship offer has survived an arrest for allegedly breaking into a dorm room at Hutchinson.
Tony Criswell played his sophomore season at Independence (Kan.) Community College after averaging three points and three rebounds as a freshman at UAB. The 6'9", 225-pounder notched 10.2 points and 5.4 boards per game at Independence.
Serbian freshman Stefan Jankovic (6'9", 200) is a talented frontcourt shooter who could play as a stretch four in a smaller lineup, but is a year or two away from being a help on the boards.
Finally, Haith has signed center Ryan Rosburg, a 6'10", 250-pound native of Chesterfield, Missouri. Rosburg is a hard-nosed big man who enjoys throwing his weight around and drawing contact, which could make him a crowd favorite in Columbia.
A look at the prospective depth chart illustrates why the Tigers are still expected to start the season in the top 20 despite the heavy attrition.
PG: Pressey / Dixon
SG: Bell / Brown
SF: Ross / Jankovic
PF: Bowers / Criswell / Denson
C: Oriakhi / Rosburg
A legitimate 11-deep roster should give Mizzou every chance to challenge for the SEC championship, and the experience on hand could be a legitimate advantage over Kentucky's annual influx of freshmen.
Bowers and Oriakhi will provide valuable NCAA tournament experience—essential since Michael Dixon is the only other player who has been part of a tournament victory.
While the faces have changed, Tiger fans have legitimate reasons to believe that the winning results will stay the same. While 30 wins would be a tremendous encore, the Mizzou faithful would at least appreciate a March win to get the taste of Norfolk State off their collective minds.
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