Recent Wins Nice, but Missouri Basketball Developing Dangerous Trends

Robert GivensContributor IDecember 29, 2009

COLUMBIA, MO - FEBRUARY 14: Keith Ramsey #15 of the Missouri Tigers dunks during the game against  the Nebraska Cornhuskers on February 14, 2009 at Mizzou Arena in Columbia, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

At first glance, the University of Missouri Tigers' 46.3 percent three-point shooting in their last two games is a welcome sight compared to earlier this season.

A four-game stretch from Nov. 28-Dec. 9 saw the Tigers drop three of four games. In that stretch, MU managed to shoot barely above 37 percent.

But everything is OK in Columbia now that Kimmie English and Michael Dixon and Marcus Denmon's shots have become wetter than the floor of Harpo's on a Thursday night, right?

Not so fast.

Overlooked in this barrage of bombs is the weakest aspect of the 2009-2010 Tigers: low post play.

While no one can realistically expect the frontcourt combination of Justin Safford, Keith Ramsey, Steve Moore, or Laurence Bowers to dominate offensively (at least not yet on the latter two), MU's reliance on the three will become an increasingly larger liability as the Tigers enter conference play.

I am not delusional. I do not expect Ramsey to dominate like Big 12 peers Cole Aldrich or Dexter Pittman, but a little balance on offense is not out of the question. Simply cycling the basketball through the low post will create more offensive opportunities for the Tigers, whether it be more open threes or an easy dunk from a double team.

While the latter may be wishful thinking (MU has no post players that would command a double team, although Bowers is approaching that level), balancing out your offense in time for conference play can't hurt.

However, to be fair, coach Mike Anderson's style of play does not lend itself to a traditional offense with a dominating post player. However, if the transition play does not get an easy layup or open shot, too many times this year MU has impatiently hoisted up a shot from as far away as I-70.

If the Tigers get cold from downtown, don't look for many second chance opportunities. The low post trio of Bowers, Ramsey, and Safford accounts for 2.6, 2.1, and 1.2 offensive rebounds per game. While statistics would suggest otherwise (MU currently shoots threes at 42 percent), the Tigers' lack of offensive rebounding sets the stage for a dangerous dependency.

On Sunday, Austin Peay outrebounded MU 31-26, including a 13-6 advantage on the offensive boards. These discrepancies are simply unacceptable. APU ranks in the middle of the Ohio Valley Conference in rebounding, playing no one over 6'8". Take into consideration that guard Zaire Taylor had two of MU's six offensive rebounds, and the numbers become that much more troubling.

As the Kangaroos of University of Missouri-Kansas City bounce into Mizzou Arena Wednesday night, MU has another opportunity to reverse the rebounding trend. No one on UMKC tops 6'7", and despite their mascot, the 'Roos rank dead last in the Summit League with 30.4 rebounds per game.

Because after Wednesday, only the Georgia Bulldogs and Savannah State Tigers stand between MU and Big 12 Conference play. UGA outrebounded Illinois 35-26 during the Illini's 70-67 loss at Georgia on Dec. 19. Comparatively, Illinois dominated MU on the glass 44-32 during the Tigers' Braggin' Rights victory.

With Christmas come and gone, let's hope the Tigers' wish list included a whole lotta Windex.