Missouri Basketball: One Early-Season Adjustment Each Tiger Must Make
As the Missouri Tigers players take a break from nonconference action to take their final exams, a lot can be learned from studying the team's progress through their first eight games.
Sitting at 7-1 in what has already been an eventful season, head coach Frank Haith has to feel pretty good about how his team of new faces has played so far this season.
Even with the loss of Michael Dixon, Mizzou should remain a contender in the SEC this season.
In order to solidify their candidacy as a conference contender, the Tigers must continue to improve. Mizzou must not only get better at playing together as a cohesive unit, but also at the individual aspects of each their games.
Here are a list of ways each contributor on the Mizzou roster can improve and adjust their play in order for the Tigers to continue to march through the season.
Phil Pressey: Stop Forcing Shots
Mizzou point guard Phil Pressey has a lot of pressure to carry on his shoulders.
As Mizzou's only player to previously play under Frank Haith, Pressey is carrying the burden as the team's best player, in charge of getting the rest of the gang to play together.
Adding to that pressure were the preseason accolades Pressey received, including being named SEC Preseason Player of the Year.
Thus far, Pressey has played admirably and lived up to the hype, for the most part at least.
The flashy guard is averaging 13.0 points, 5.8 assists and 1.9 steals per game as the team's main catalyst.
But at times, Pressey has tried to force the issue too much, which has caused him to take bad shots and turn the ball over on too many occasions.
Pressey's assist-to-turnover ratio is just 1.75, down from 2.67 a year ago.
Pressey is also shooting just 37.4 percent from the field this season, down from 42.8 percent a year ago.
If Pressey can stop forcing the issue as often and make himself more efficient offensively, the Tigers' offense will benefit down the road.
Keion Bell: Contribute in Ways Other Than Scoring
Keion Bell came to Mizzou from Pepperdine with the reputation of being an elite scorer.
The athletic monster has shown flashes of his scoring ability at times, but Bell's true value is maximized when he contributes without putting the ball in the basket.
At times, Bell has looked lost on both ends of the court, likely because he is not the first option on offense.
But when Bell asserts himself in other ways by buckling down on defense, grabbing loose balls and attacking the boards, he has shown that he can be a very effective player.
Bell did exactly that in the SEMO game. After Mizzou trailed by 10 points at the half, Bell played an outstanding floor game during the second-half charge, finishing the game with 12 points and 11 rebounds to help lead Mizzou to a key victory.
Bell should be a very dangerous weapon off the bench once Jabari Brown becomes eligible. If Bell can focus on hustle and grit as opposed to taking shots, he will see plenty of time on the floor even if he does not start.
Earnest Ross: Knock Down Open Shots
Small forward Earnest Ross served in a variety of roles during his time at Auburn.
Now at Mizzou, the junior is a position to do a variety of things to help the Tigers win.
Ross has a NBA-ready body at the small forward position and can defend and grab rebounds with the best of them.
But for Mizzou to have long-term success this season, Ross will need to do a better job of knocking down shots.
Ross is shooting just 37.8 percent overall from the field, and as one of the few Tigers who can shoot from the outside, he is shooting just 30 percent from beyond the arc.
Ross is having a nice season thus far, averaging 9.1 points and 5.6 rebounds in more than 25 minutes per game, but he has to become a threat from the outside to give Pressey somebody to get the ball to and to give Laurence Bowers room to operate in the paint.
Laurence Bowers: Be Even More Aggressive on Offense
After missing last season due to a torn ACL, power forward Laurence Bowers has been Mizzou's best player through the team's first nine games.
Bowers is averaging a team-leading 16.9 points per game this season while grabbing 6.9 boards per game.
Bowers has had a pair of particularly nice games, including an incredible performance against SEMO when the Tigers trailed by 10 by halftime. It was Bowers who led Mizzou back, ending the game with 26 points.
While a guy like Ross has a poor field goal percentage, Bowers has shot the ball incredibly well, knocking in 57.9 percent of his shots from the floor.
Bowers needs to be even more involved in the Mizzou offense. He is easily the team's best offensive threat from the inside and has shown an improved stroke from the outside.
If Bowers and Pressey can run a little two-man game even more often, then Mizzou should benefit as the season progresses.
Alex Oriakhi: Run the Floor Better
Alex Oriakhi came to Mizzou as a former NCAA championship center from UConn. Oriakhi's reputation was as a defensive-oriented player, but Haith wants to feature Oriakhi on the offensive end.
Unfortunately, Mizzou is at its best when they are running the floor and playing in transition. With Oriakhi on the floor, Pressey and company seem to struggle to find easy baskets on the fast break.
If Haith wants to feature Oriakhi on offense, then the big man has to do a better job of running the floor and making himself available in transition.
Oriakhi also needs to be more efficient offensively. Despite nearly all of his shots coming from within five shots of the basket, Oriakhi is making just 48.5 percent of his from the field.
Oriakhi is averaging more than 10 points for the first time in his career, but he must adjust to his teammates' strengths and get up and down the floor more quickly.
Conclusion: Mizzou Must Continue to Gel
While many of the Tigers' players have individual parts of their game they can adjust and improve upon in order to help the team, none of it will matter unless the entire team can play better together.
With so many new faces, Haith has quite a job on his hands to get this team playing together as a cohesive unit on both ends of the floor.
This Mizzou team is big, deep and skilled. But none of that will matter if the team can not develop a chemistry on the floor.
It is on Haith to figure out the right lineup combinations, the appropriate substitution patterns and the right tempo for this team to play.
Haith has quite a job in front of him, and he will be just as key as any individual player to Mizzou's success and ability to become a threat in the SEC.