Hold on to your hats, because you're about to read a statement that will surprise.....no one.
The Missouri Tigers are a worse offensive basketball team without DeMarre Carroll and Leo Lyons.
Yes, every Missouri basketball fan knew this was going to happen, but we were at least hoping that increased scoring output from the guards and realized potential from the young bigs would make up for it. Well, one of those things has happened.
J.T. Tiller has upped his average from 8.4 to 9.8, Zaire Taylor is averaging 10.6 per game compared to 6.7 last season, and of course, Kim English's average has rocketed to 16.6 from just 6.5 last season. But as for the post players, Laurence Bowers is the only one in the Tigers' top six, and he's tied for third with 10.3 points per game.
Even more concerning is that Bowers only scored 11 points in Mizzou's two losses, to Richmond and Vanderbilt. That spells big trouble for when the Tigers take their act to the Big 12, the toughest conference in the country (sorry, Big Ten).
Mizzou fans were hoping that young players like Bowers, Stafford, and even Ramsey could step up and fill the enormous void left by two All-Big 12 performers. Maybe the freshman could even add some valuable minutes, we thought. Ummmm....not so much. John Underwood and Tyler Stone have only played in four of Missouri's seven games, and they've scored a combined nine points.
The problem (for now) is that this is still the University of Missouri. Other schools can reload when they lose their top players. Connecticut seems to be doing OK without Thabeet, Adrien and Price. North Carolina is still a top 20 team without four NBA draft picks. Oklahoma hasn't missed a beat without the Griffin broth....actually, I'd better get back to you on that one.
Fortunately, there is some good news. Missouri has an excellent recruiting class on the way next year, led by five-star recruit Tony Mitchell. He's the second player in four years who committed to Kansas State before his mom decided Missouri would be better (no, really). Hopefully he'll turn out better than Stefhon Hannah, but he has had some academic issues. Still, if any coach can handle a kid like that, it's Mike Anderson.
Nonetheless, Mike Anderson's system simply isn't built to bring in stars, especially the ones who have their eyes on the NBA. If you don't buy into team basketball at Mizzou, you're not going to play as much as you want. Just ask Leo Lyons.
That's why Justin Stafford and Laurence Bowers have to speed up their progress on the offensive end.* Bowers is the best athlete on Missouri's team, and Stafford has an amazing ability to do things that you never imagined possible from his typical play. But their lack of consistency is going to break the backs of the guards currently responsible for carrying this team.
In case you were wondering, no, I don't believe Keith Ramsey has much of a future offensively. Give him credit for nearly doubling his scoring average so far this season (6.1 per game!), but he simply doesn't have the moves or the shot to be a consistent scorer. Yet, he is far and away the third-best option for the Tigers inside, and is challenging for second. Yikes. That said, he should be Mizzou's best low-post defender.
Last season, Lyons and Carroll averaged more than 30 points per game, and that total increased to more than 42 when you factor in the other post players. The guards contributed just about as much. This season, the guards have increased their scoring output to 62.2, and Missouri's team average is only three points higher.
Don't forget, I'm comparing all of last season to the first seven games of 2009, against mediocre to average teams. Uh-oh.
If the Tigers can't find some inside offense by January, things could get ugly. That means Bowers, Stafford, and even Ramsey need to become legitimate scoring threats, and fast.