2008-09 Missouri Basketball Preview: #54
Overall Rank: #54
Conference Rank: #6 Big 12
2007-08: 16-16, 6-10, 10th
2007-08 postseason: none
Missouri has to replace some quality players, but Coach Mike Anderson is finally getting close to having the athletes and the depth he needs to run his fast pace offense and pressure defense. He has done more with less at UAB, but the Tigers have to get the off-court problems behind them if they want to play up to their potential and reach the NCAA Tournament.
Stefhon Hannah was leading the team with 14.6 points and 5.2 assists per game when he was kicked off the team. Most of the time the Tigers struggled to score without him, but with more time to adjust to his absence will be a good thing. Adjusting to the loss of Keon Lawrence might be more of an issue. The guard started 20 games last year and averaged 11.0 points per contest. He opted to transfer to Seton Hall to be closer to home. Jason Horton picked up the slack at point after Hannah was gone and did a decent job during his senior campaign. The final loss to the backcourt is little used Nick Berardini. The news up front is a little better, but Marshall Brown, Vaidotas Volkus and Darryl Butterfield were all contributors.
The most important issue is finding a starting point guard. Miguel Paul and Zaire Taylor are solid choices. Paul, an incoming freshman, is quick and can always push the tempo. The 6-1 Lakeland, Florida product does a great job finding his teammates, but he can score as well and that is a good thing for a team that could use another scorer in the backcourt. Taylor is the more interesting prospect. The transfer from Delaware has a couple years of division I college experience, but he is also 6-4 and has long arms. If he can effectively run the point, his length will provide something on the defensive end that Paul cannot. Taylor is also a decent scorer and could see minutes at the two or three spots. In a pinch, Marcus Denmon could run the show, but he is better suited to play off the ball and do a ton of scoring. At 6-6, Kim English will bring size to the perimeter and the more size the better in Coach Anderson’s defensive schemes. Laurence Bowers and Steve Moore will provide some depth to the frontcourt, but it is Keith Ramsey who is expected to make a big impact. The junior college transfer is a perfect fit for the system and can handle the ball and pass effectively. His outside shooting will take him out towards the three-point line, but his best asset is beating opposing big men off the dribble. At 6-9 and 210 pounds, the lefty is big enough to battle in the paint, but the opposition will have trouble matching his foot speed.
Who to Watch:
If Missouri did not already have a great frontcourt, Ramsey would be starting. But on a team that employs pressure defense, having quality depth is very, very important. Now DeMarre Carroll and Leo Lyons can play aggressively without having to worry as much about foul trouble. Carroll had a great year in 2007-2008 after transferring in from Vanderbilt. He averaged 13.0 points and a team high 6.7 rebounds per contest and should be even better as a senior. Lyons emerged as a big threat during his junior campaign and got better as the season progressed. On the year he averaged 13.1 points and 5.7 rebounds and, if he continues to improve, Lyons will be the leader of the pack.
Even with all the talented newcomers, J.T. Tiller and Matt Lawrence should hold onto their starting roles on the wing. Tiller is the slasher and had some great games once he became a starter. The Tigers will need him to be more consistent this year. Speaking of consistency, that is what Lawrence lacked as well. Two years ago Lawrence hit 44.3 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc. Last season that number plummeted to 34.8 percent. Without Hannah, it will be up to Lawrence to be the main long range shooting threat and he has to get closer to his 44.3 percent this time around or the Tigers offense will struggle.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NIT
Projected Starting Five:
Miguel Paul, Freshman, Guard, DNP last season
J.T. Tiller, Junior, Guard, 6.8 points per game
Matt Lawrence, Senior, Guard, 8.8 points per game
DeMarre Carroll, Senior, Forward, 13.0 points per game
Leo Lyons, Senior, Forward, 13.1 points per game