Overall Rank: #32
Conference Rank: #3 Big 12
2006-07: 18-12, 7-9, 6th
2006-07 postseason: none
When the starting five could go in so many directions, it says a lot about the depth of the team. And that is exactly the case with Missouri. Coach Mike Anderson has quickly built a team that has a whole lot of scoring threats. The bad news is this is practically the same group that went 7-9 in conference play last year. That is not going to cut it this year. The team had some good wins last year, but also some baffling losses to teams they should not lose to in the Big XII. Another year of experience should help the squad win those close games against inferior opponents or, preferably for the Tigers, make those games not even close at all.
The lone graduating senior is Marcus Watkins who saw limited minutes in just 18 contests. The departure of Kalen Grimes and Glen Dandridge will have a bigger impact. Grimes, who started 24 games, is the noticeable loss. The 6-9 center averaged 7.0 points and a team high 5.6 rebounds per game and leaves behind a gaping hole in the paint.
If the name DeMarre Carroll sounds familiar, it should. At the end of the 2005-2006 campaign the 6-8 forward was making his mark on the SEC at Vanderbilt. During that sophomore season, Carroll averaged 12.1 points and 7.4 rebounds during conference play and will add a much needed presence on the glass. Justin Safford, a 6-8 225 pound power forward, will find it difficult to see minutes this year. Safford may have the size, but he is not a banger under the basket. Safford is a shooter. A year or two to work on his strength and rebounding is a necessity, but his style will fit in well with the Tigers once they have a big man who can handle all the work under the basket so a power forward like Safford can spend time floating on the perimeter.
Who to Watch:
Stefhon Hannah will likely play the point this year after averaging a team high 15.4 points and 4.6 assists. Hannah is a great shooter, but the turnovers were painful to watch at times. That is why Jason Horton is not out of the starting picture. Horton, who started 22 games at the point last year with Hannah by his side, is a much more efficient point guard. He has senior leadership and all the intangibles, but he is not a scorer. They could both start again if it was not for Keon Lawrence, J.T. Tiller and Matt Lawrence. Keon Lawrence had a great freshman year, averaging 9.7 points per game. With a year of experience under his belt, Keon Lawrence is ready for a breakout year. Matt Lawrence was second on the team with 11.2 points per game and was a lights out shooter from long range. It will be extremely difficult to keep Hannah and the two Lawrence’s out of the starting five and that leaves Horton on the outside looking in for now.
Another player who could lose his starting job is Marshall Brown. The 6-6 forward averaged over ten points per game last year and can play either forward position. When Missouri needs to go big Brown will be at the small forward position, but Carroll will take away some of his minutes, and maybe his starting job, at the four. The most important player on the team could end up being Leo Lyons. With the departure of Grimes, Lyons suddenly finds himself as the most experienced big man. The 6-9 junior has showed plenty of potential over his two years in Columbia, but now is the time he needs to step up, especially in the rebounding department where the Tigers would have struggled even if Grimes was coming back. Former junior college transfers Darryl Butterfield and Vaidotas Volkus will be asked to fill some of the void up front for their senior seasons. The only thing this team is lacking is a quality, proven big man who can rebound and do a little scoring in the paint. If nobody can do that, Missouri will be in trouble and Coach Mike Anderson might end up putting his five most talented players on the floor instead of worrying about rebounding. One thing is for sure, the talent on Missouri could put them in the NCAA Tournament if everybody can fill their roles and do what is asked of them. The other sure thing is that the Tigers will run and be a fun and interesting to watch this season.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Stefhon Hannah, Senior, Guard, 15.4 points per game
Keon Lawrence, Sophomore, Guard, 9.7 points per game
Matt Lawrence, Junior, Guard, 11.2 points per game
DeMarre Carroll, Junior, Forward, DNP last season
Leo Lyons, Junior, Forward, 7.4 points per game