Missouri Tigers 2011-12 Season Preview: Meet the Players

Brian HaenchenContributor IINovember 2, 2011

Missouri Tigers 2011-12 Season Preview: Meet the Players

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    It has been a tumultuous offseason for the Missouri Tigers to say the least. Almost immediately after their season came to an abrupt end in the NCAA tournament, head coach Mike Anderson announced that he would be leaving to return to his home state of Arkansas.

    After reports of Purdue coach Matt Painter possibly leaving his alma mater to coach the Tigers were shot down, athletic director Mike Alden selected Miami head coach Frank Haith to replace Anderson. At the time, the move was baffling to say the least. Haith was basically unheard of and had his tenure at Miami was mediocre at best.

    A few months after Haith was hired, former Miami booster Nevin Shapiro accused the new Missouri head coach of paying recruit DeQuan Jones to attend the University of Miami. Haith immediately released a non-commital statement, but has since gone on record to deny any allegations of wrongdoing during his tenure at Miami and is now awaiting the NCAA to finish its investigation.

    Just as Mizzou fans turned their attention to the upcoming season, senior Laurence Bowers suffered a season ending ACL injury. While Bowers was redshirted, meaning that he will not lose his final year of eligibility, his absence damaged a Missouri team that was already perceived as being soft down low.

    Despite the loss of Bowers, the Tigers are still an NCAA tournament caliber team. Here is a look at the players who will be taking the court this season for the Missouri Tigers. 

Head Coach: Frank Haith

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    Even though fans are not sure what to expect from Frank Haith as a coach, the expectations for his team are high. The program he is taking over has become a perennial NCAA tournament contender and has excited fans with its up-tempo style of play. While Haith admitted during his introduction last spring that his style of play would not be the same as Mike Anderson’s fastest 40 minutes, he will have to utilize some elements from that style of offense—namely the aggressiveness in transition—if he hopes to be successful in his first few years as Missouri’s head coach.

    The first priority for Haith should be to school this team on how to properly run the half court offense. Under Anderson, the Tigers struggled mightily when opposing defenses slowed the tempo and forced Missouri into a half court set. With sharpshooters like seniors Kim English and Marcus Denmon, Haith has the tools necessary to run plays inside of a half court offense.

    Another key to his success in year one will be rebounding. Lets face it, Mizzou has become a very soft team down low. Anderson’s system was not conducive to the prototypical center and as a result, the team lost out on a lot of second chance points. With Laurence Bowers already out for the season, Haith must get Ricardo Ratliffe, Steve Moore and Kadeem Green to develop their physical interior presence. By developing those players into more physical interior players, Haith will not only improve the team, but will also draw positive attention to his program from prospective recruits.

    Personally, I think fans will find it refreshing to have a coach who actually coaches during games. Anderson's offense became stale toward the end of his tenure at Mizzou. It looked like five guys getting the ball, running down the court and chucking up shots. Haith is a coach who focuses on running set plays and actually has a set philosophy when it comes to his game plan. 

    It will be hard for Haith not to be successful in his first season at Mizzou. The team is returning all but one player from last season and even without Bowers, the redshirt freshman, Green, appears ready to step up in his place. With a five games against cupcake opponents—like SEMO and Truman State—to open the season, Haith’s team should be well acquainted with his style and ready to take on Notre Dame in their first test of the season on Nov. 21.

Senior Guard: No. 24 Kim English

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    Vitals: 6'6" | 200 pounds | Baltimore, Md.

    2011 stats: 10.0 PPG | 3.1 RPG | 1.9 APG | 25.8 MPG | .366 FG% | .366 3PT% 

    After a dismal junior season, Kim English will be relied upon heavily by the Tigers to put up big numbers on offense.

    Fortunately for English, he is probably the one who stands to benefit the most from Haith’s new offense. More of a spot-up shooter, English has shown the potential of being a serious threat from beyond the arc. With Haith’s emphasis on running set plays, expect plenty of plays early in the season involving English taking mid-to-long-range jump shots as they try to get him into a groove early in the season.

    It will be pivotal for this senior guard to cut down on the turnovers from last season and to not only re-discover his jumper, but to also hone his skills at the free throw line. Once a dependable free throw shooter, he struggled last season hitting over 72 percent of his free throw attempts. While English will open the season as a starter, if he continues to struggle as he did last season, he will lose that starting job

Senior Guard: No. 12 Marcus Denmon

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    Vitals: 6'3" | 185 punds | Kansas City, Miss.

    2011 stats: 16.9 PPG | 3.5 RPG | 1.8 APG | 30.5 MPG | .500 FG% | .448 3PT%

    A legitimate Big 12 player-of-the-year candidate from last season, Marcus Denmon will be relied upon to repeat his performance from last season, in which he averaged almost 17 points per game. Denmon is very agile and always seemed to find a way to score points last season, even as teams began to key in on him.

    A point of emphasis on Denmon is on his defensive talents. Last season, Denmon picked up 61 steals, which may not seem like a lot, but he turned many of those steals into points in transition. He developed a knack for not only coming up with the big steal late in the game, but then converting that take-away into points for the Tigers—like in games versus Vanderbilt and Illinois.

    While Haith’s offense would seem to work in favor of a player like English, it could work just as much to the detriment of Denmon. Last season, he thrived on Anderson’s fast paced, coast-to-coast style. It allowed him to rush down the court for either easy lay-ups or wide open looks from the 3-point line. It will be interesting to see how he fits into Haith's new system. 

Junior Guard: No. 11 Michael Dixon

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    Vitals: 6'1" | 185 pounds | Kansas City, Miss.

    2011 stats: 10.3 PPG | 2.5 RPG | 3.5 APG | 22.3 MPG | .403 FG% | .388 3PT% 

    Michael Dixon is an upbeat and selfless player who ranked ninth in the Big 12, with 113 assists, fifth in steals with 56, and sixth in free throw percentage shooting a cool .825% from the charity stripe.

    Dixon’s value to the team comes not in his shooting abilities, but in his willingness and ability to set up his teammates for open shots, so he should fit in nicely with Haith’s offense, while his aggressiveness on defense should benefit him as he continues to compete with sophomore Phil Pressey for minutes. 

Junior Forward: No. 10 Ricardo Ratliffe

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    Vitals: 6'9" | 240 pounds | Hampton, Va.

    2011 stats: 10.6 PPG | 6.0 RPG | 24.8 MPG | .571 FG% | .267 3PT% 

    Ricardo Ratliffe was probably the most highly touted recruit from the Mike Anderson era at the University of Missouri. The 6'9" power forward is built to dominate the boards and is capable of slamming home rebounds when necessary.

    Last season’s Big 12 preseason newcomer of the year, Ratliffe must improve the physical aspects of his game down low. While he put up gaudy rebounding numbers against teams like Iowa State and Baylor last season, he was basically a non-factor on the boards against Kansas.

    It was frustrating to watch Ratliffe play down low last season, because, for whatever reason, he did not box out when going after missed shots. Hopefully, Haith has coached his power forward and taught him how to utilize his size when it comes to rebounding.

    Ratliffe has a natural ability to finish around the rim, so he has potential to be one of the team’s biggest assets once he improves his physical play on the boards.

Sophomore Guard: No. 1 Phil “Flip” Pressey

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    Vitals: 5'10" | 175 pounds | Dallas, Texas

    2011 stats: 6.5 PPG | 2.3 RPG | 3.9 APG | 22.0 MPG | .387 FG% | .361 3PT% 

    Like Dixon, Phil Pressey is more of a spark plug, providing plenty of assists on one end, while coming up with the big steal on the other. Assuming English bounces back, Pressey will be splitting time with Dixon again this season.

    In 12 starts last season, Pressey broke Missouri freshman records in steals (61) and assists (117). The one-two punch of him and Dixon, especially when the two are on the court at the same time, makes the Tiger offense that much more lethal and will be reminiscent of Anderson’s fastest 40 minutes, despite Haith’s new, more conservative style.

Senior Forward: No. 32 Steve Moore

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    Vitals: 6'9" | 270 pounds | Kansas City, Miss.

    2011 stats: 2.0 PPG | 2.3 RPG | 11.4 MPG | .636 FG% 

    Teams discovered a formula for beating Missouri. That formula was simple, attack Ratliffe and Bowers to get them in foul trouble early, to force Steve Moore off the bench and into the game.

    No offense to Moore, who has become a fan favorite, but he struggled in Anderson’s offense. He had difficulty keeping up and was basically a non-factor when he was in the game.

    Perhaps this new style of offense will benefit Moore, but do not expect him to get a ton of playing time, especially with Green now healthy and ready to go. 

Senior Guard: No. 3 Matt Pressey

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    Vitals: 6'2" | 195 pounds | Dallas, Texas

    2011 stats: 5.7 PPG | 1.8 RPG | 1.6 APG | 17.5 MPG | .413 FG% | .261 3PT%

    Playing behind his younger brother Phil, as well as Dixon and English, it is unlikely that Matt Pressey will get a lot of playing time this season for the Tigers. He played in 33 games last season, starting on 10 different occasions. 

Freshman (RS) Forward: No. 15 Kadeem Green

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    Vitals: 6'8" | 210 pounds | Toronto, Canada

    2011 stats: Did not play

    After sitting out his first season in Columbia due to a ruptured Achilles tendon he suffered in high school, Kadeem Green is finally ready to suit up for the Missouri Tigers.

    The 6'8" forward possesses a 7'1" wingspan and is excellent at rebounding and blocking shots. Remember, Anderson recruited Green, meaning that he is built and conditioned for an up-tempo style of offense. It will be interesting to see how Haith mixes and matches Green and Ratliffe during the game. Having both on the floor at the same time would offer more security in terms of rebounding, but that could lead to both players quickly getting into foul trouble.

    Expect Haith to go with Green off the bench early in the season, but for both him and Ratliffe to be start against teams like Kansas, where rebounding could prove to be the difference.