What Now For Missouri Without Michael Dixon?Posted by DPerry on November 29th, 2012
Michael Dixon was expected to be a key contributor for the Missouri Tigers in their first SEC season, but after a second accusation of forcible rape, the senior guard revealed Thursday in a leaked text message to a friend that he would be leaving the program:
“Yea I’m done here bro I’m not gonna be here anymore another girl my freshman year pulled this … on me now it’s coming out and everyone is gonna think it’s real so I’m thru bro I appreciate you tho just let as many (people) as u can know”
Frank Haith, Missouri’s current coach, is not implicated in the situation, but current Arkansas coach and former Tiger Mike Anderson can’t say the same. Reportedly, Dixon’s initial accuser met with Anderson after the first incident [as he refers to in his freshman year], and though the coach didn’t pressure her to sit on her story, questions have to be asked about his treatment of Dixon in the aftermath. Anderson, through a Razorbacks spokesman, declined comment.
Dixon was the college basketball equivalent of James Harden for Missouri last season. On a team that featured four guards in the starting lineup, he was the best bench scoring option in the nation. The Kansas City product averaged 13.5 points and 3.3 assists per game, while shooting almost 49% from the field. In addition, he showed an outstanding ability to get to the free throw line, averaging almost four free throws per game and converting them at an 88% clip.
Outside of star point guard Phil Pressey, Missouri was forced to replace its entire starting lineup in 2012-13. Transfers and players recovering from injury were expected to round out the Tigers’ frontcourt, but Dixon was expected to join Pressey in one of the nation’s top backcourts. The senior started the season on suspension (for undisclosed reasons), but as we frequently see in unexplained suspensions throughout college basketball, there was little reason to believe that Dixon wouldn’t return to Missouri’s lineup well before conference season began.
Now that we know Dixon won’t be returning for the Tigers, Haith will be forced into some difficult decisions with his lineup. Auburn transfer Earnest Ross and Pepperdine transfer Keion Bell will compete for time at the two, but neither approaches the productivity that Dixon guaranteed. Both players came from programs in which they were expected to carry the scoring load, but at Missouri, they are likely to be complementary pieces. Neither has done much to distance themselves from the “gunner” reputation, as shown by their roughly 40% individual field goal percentages so far this season.
Missouri has gone through their first six games of the new season with the expectation that they were playing without their presumed top scorer. Unfortunately for the Tigers, that player’s absence won’t end. Missouri was the most backcourt-oriented of any elite team in 2011-12, but with Dixon’s departure, that identity stands to undergo a substantial change. Pressey remains one of the top point guards in the nation, but he isn’t a score-first guard. UConn transfer Alex Oriakhi and frontcourt partner Laurence Bowers are the new top scoring options for the Tigers. Oriakhi has shown offensive ability thus far, but the majority of his value is presumed to come on the defensive end. The impact on Bowers’ level of expectation is the most notable. The senior forward was anticipated to round out the Tigers’ rotation last season, but after an unfortunate knee injury that cost him the entire season, he was exiled to the sidelines. Going into 2012-13, Bowers was considered a wild card, potentially the impetus for an unexpected run at the SEC title. Now, the pressure on him increases exponentially, with Bowers now relied upon to be an essential contributor in Missouri’s first SEC campaign.
The loss of Dixon severely damages Missouri’s hopes for a conference title in its inaugural SEC season. Other than perhaps Florida, the league lacks a dominant team, but without a reliable wing option, the Tigers will have work to do in order to breach the elite class of the conference.