SEC Power Rankings: Week Three

Posted by KAlmekinder on December 5th, 2012

Every week, the SEC microsite will post a composite power ranking list for the league’s performances coupled with a short commentary justifying each team’s specific ranking. Week Three’s SEC Power Rankings:

Is there a clear explanation for Kentucky’s back-to-back losses?

  1. Florida - The Gators just keep winning with one key reason: an evenly spread, highly efficient offense. Of the two marquee match-ups Florida has had so far this season, they have won against then-#22 Wisconsin by 18 points, and most recently, against a regularly tough Marquette squad, 82-49. The Gators are averaging nearly 74 points a game on 47% shooting (36% from beyond the arc). In the win over the Golden Eagles last week, six Gators, including three off the bench, posted double figure points while shooting over 50% from the field. Florida’s chemistry and rhythm has led them to the top of the SEC Power Rankings and a top six ranking in the national polls.
  2. Missouri - With most of the attention involving Missouri is focused on Michael Dixon leaving the team, the Tigers have been able to focus on winning with their other personnel. The key to Missouri’s quick turnaround has been forward Laurence Bowers, making his presence known this year after missing last season due to injury. Bowers posted a season high 23 points on 9-of-11 shooting in the Tigers’ win over Appalachian State last Saturday, including 3-for-3 from long distance. With no other difficult match-up until the annual “Braggin’ Rights” showdown versus Illinois later this month, Missouri should remain near the top of the Power Rankings.
  3. Alabama - A narrow 58-56 loss to #17 Cincinnati showed Alabama’s true colors earlier this week. The Tide rallied from 13 down to only lose on a Cashmere Wright fadeaway at the buzzer. Alabama could have used another efficient night from guard Trevor Releford (5-15 shooting, only 12 points), but a loss to a ranked Cincinnati team tested Anthony Grant’s club the entire night and proved that they have the ability to rally when needed. Both Dayton (5-2) and VCU (5-3) come to Tuscaloosa in the next few weeks for another couple of solid tests for the Tide.
  4. Ole Miss - Ole Miss has quietly risen through the rankings because of its own success and the failures of others. Kentucky’s losses (discussed below) have paved the way for an undefeated Rebels squad to a top four position in the SEC Power Rankings. While Ole Miss’ schedule can be considered weak, they have still yet to lose a game. Ole Miss ranks second in the nation in points per game and sixth in rebounds per game. The next test, the Rebs’ first true road game at Middle Tennessee State, will show the rest of the league if they are better than people think. Read the rest of this entry »
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Set Your DVR: Thanksgiving Weekend Edition

Posted by bmulvihill on November 23rd, 2012

Brendon Mulvihill is the head curator for @SportsGawker and an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

The Battle 4 Atlantis and the NIT Tip-Off continue over the weekend with some very interesting match-ups. So grab some Thanksgiving left overs and settle in for some good hoops.

#5 Michigan vs. Kansas State (PNIT Finals) – 4:30 PM EST, Friday on ESPN (****)

The Wolverines are going to need better three-point shooting from Tim Hardaway Jr. against Kansas State. (Melanie Maxwell/AnnArbor.com)

  • Both Michigan and Kansas State. are coming off tough semifinal wins in the NIT Tip-Off. Michigan was able to pull out a victory with strong second-half defense in the 1-3-1 zone and great defensive rebounding. While the Wolverines are not going to win many games going 3-17 from three-point land, it is encouraging to see them win with their defense, particularly because Kansas State brings a strong defense into any game. The Wildcats are only allowing teams to shoot 27.4% from downtown and are creating turnovers on 28% of opponents possessions. K-State also had eight players go double-figure minutes against Delaware while the Wolverines only had six players go into double-figure minutes against Pitt. The Wolverines could get tired in the second half due to K-State’s physical play if they do not get more minutes from the bench. KSU is going to have to improve its shooting significantly if they want to walk away with a big win. They’ve shot 41.5% eFG against Delaware and 44.8% eFG through five games this season. The Wildcats need to shoot over 50% eFG to have a chance at winning this one.

#23 Cincinnati vs. Iowa State (LV Invitational) – 6:30 PM EST, Friday on CBS College Sports (***)

  • While Cincinnati and Iowa State have two common opponents already, Campbell and North Carolina A&T, its tough to glean any significant information from the games because both were blowouts. The Bearcats come into the game with an adjusted defensive efficiency of 88.4, which is good for 11th in the nation. They are cleaning up on the defensive boards and shutting down two-point shooting. ISU is ranked 16th in the country in two-point shooting, hitting 56.9% of their shots inside the arc thus far. Keep a close eye on who wins the battle in the paint, as it should determine the winner of this one.

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SEC M5: 11.07.12 Edition

Posted by KAlmekinder on November 7th, 2012

  1. We are under 60 hours away from college basketball’s first regular season games tipping off and both Joe Lunardi of ESPN and Andy Glockner of Sports Illustrated have released their first bracket projections of the 2012-13 season. Each bracket has only five SEC teams in the field as of today: Kentucky, Florida, Missouri, Alabama, and Tennessee. Kentucky is projected to be a #1 seed in both Lunardi’s bracket as well as Glockner’s while they disagree on the seeds for the remaining four teams. Get over there and check them out — it’ll get you more ready for the season to start than you might think.
  2. The season has not even begun but the problems keep accumulating for Mississippi State and Rick Ray, as the Bulldogs just lost another player to injury. Brandon Marcello from the Jackson (MS) Clarion-Ledger originally reported that freshman guard DeAndre Applewhite suffered a devastating knee injury late last week. On Tuesday, an MRI scan showed that Applewhite tore the ACL and meniscus in his left knee, thus sidelining him for the entire 2012-13 season. Applewhite joins Jacoby Davis on the injured list with virtually the same knee injury that the point guard suffered back in July. Applewhite’s injury leaves the Bulldogs with only eight healthy scholarship players on the squad, but healthy or not, Mississippi State opens its season Friday versus Troy.
  3. The pundits writing for ESPN’s College Basketball Nation blog hosted a fantasy college basketball draft earlier Tuesday, drafting five starters, a reserve, a head coach and an arena for the season. The draft took place via live-blog on Tuesday afternoon while former-Tennessee-coach-turned-analyst Bruce Pearl recapped the proceedings in a more reader-friendly article. The draft results are also here for an easier view. Only four SEC players, coaches, or venues were drafted among the group. Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel and Missouri’s Phil Pressey were drafted as players, Kentucky coach John Calipari as a coach, and Rupp Arena as a venue. Makes sense.
  4. A lot of the press coverage the Missouri Tigers are receiving this preseason is with respect to all their talented transfers who will suit up this season. One player ready to play again on Friday (and going largely unmentioned in most of these analyses) is forward Laurence Bowers, a player finally ready to return from an ACL tear suffered 13 months ago. Bowers’ hard work in rehabilitation will provide another strong body in the post, a piece the Tigers desperately missed at times last year as when they were bounced in their opening game of the NCAA Tournament against Norfolk State. Bowers will join transfer Alex Oriahki from Connecticut (more on him in a moment) as a dynamic tandem in the Tigers’ frontcourt.
  5. USA Today released an article late Tuesday describing college basketball’s “free agency era,” a situation slowly gaining popularity with programs across the country. The article mentions former Connecticut Huskies forward Alex Oriahki, now with the Missouri Tigers because of the unique situation UConn was in last season regarding academic APR sanctions and including a postseason ban. As the APR takes greater effect with a higher threshold in the future, many more high-caliber players could follow suit, leaving schools to play for programs not similarly restricted. Could this usher in a new free agency system that directs certain recruits to certain schools? Oriahki has set the model in play for a potential change with the NCAA rulebook.
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ACL Well: Analyzing Six Huge Returnees From ACL Injuries

Posted by Chris Johnson on August 29th, 2012

Chris Johnson is an RTC columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.

The fickle nature of college hoops owes itself to a number of different factors. Every year there are a handful of teams that underperform or overperform versus expectations for various reasons, from team chemistry to coaching philosophy to collective work ethic. Perhaps the most uncontrollable element of a team’s performance is injury, the sudden and often catastrophic medical ailments that – in the blink of one single cut to the hoop, defensive rotation or hard sprint down the court – dramatically alter teams’ seasons and programs’ trajectories. Last season we saw several injuries to key players, some more impactful than others, fundamentally shift the competitive balance in various leagues. For those players, the situational outlook was bleak: not playing competitively with the team you’ve spent all summer practicing with just plain stinks. But for the most part, their departures faded into the periphery as the season wore on, players began furiously rehabbing their various injuries, teams adapted and college hoops rolled along with minimal fuss.

If Mbakwe can return to form, the Gophers could be poised for an NCAA Tournament berth (Photo credit: Tom Olmscheid/AP Photo)

There was a strikingly large proportion of one particular injury last season, or at least it seemed that way for several of the sport’s most influential medical breakdowns. It’s known as the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear, and it’s one of the most common and oft-repeated of all athletic detriments. A complete recovery normally requires major surgery, between six and nine months worth of substantial rehabilitation and a cautious return to athletic activity. I’ve identified six instrumental players who experienced this very process after tearing their ACLs last season and all of them are expected to return – rehabbed and ready to go – for a redeeming 2012-13 campaign. Each player is rejoining their teams (or in some cases, new teams) under slightly different circumstances from which he left, with situational and rotational specifics dictating the terms of their returns. I’ve tried to dig into some of the circumstantial elements playing into these players’ comeback seasons and how you should expect them to fare this season. Here are the results of my research, a full-fledged breakdown of college hoops’ big-name torn ACL-returnees. Enjoy… and try your best to avoid a similar fate.

Trevor Mbakwe (sixth-year senior, Minnesota)

This isn’t unfamiliar territory for Mbakwe. Way back when he still played for Marquette – the same year (2007-08) Mario Chalmers’ legendary three-point shot KO’d a high-powered Derrick Rose-led Memphis team in the national finals – Mbakwe missed the majority of the season with a knee injury. He recovered, packed his bags and moved on to Miami Dade Community College, where he averaged a modest 16.3 PPG/13.2 RPG double-double while earning Southern Conference Player of the Year Honors. When he eventually made his way to Minnesota, after sitting out the 2009-10 season while awaiting trial for a felony assault charge, Mbakwe unleashed the ferocious rebounding and inside scoring touch he demonstrated in the JuCo ranks on Big Ten forwards. Much to the chagrin of Tubby Smith’s middling program, Mbawke had only played one full season and six full games last year before going down with an ACL tear.

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SEC Weekly Five: 08.03.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on August 3rd, 2012

  1. Kentucky basketball special assistant Rod Strickland was arrested Thursday morning for charges including driving on a suspended license, failure to signal, and having no vehicle registration. The university sent out a statement issued by UK athletics spokesman DeWayne Peevy. ”Rod Strickland was pulled over this morning in Lexington on a routine traffic stop on the way to the office,” the statement said. “According to police reports, he was pulled over for failure to signal and for driving with a suspended license. According to Strickland, his vehicle was properly registered and he produced his driver’s license at the scene. We are currently gathering information on whether his license was suspended due to a clerical error which led to his arrest.” Strickland was last arrested in April of 2010 for a DUI while a Kentucky assistant.
  2. John Calipari and his Kentucky Wildcats worked hard for their national championship rings. And now they have given one to UK basketball fan and hip hop star Drake. Really? “They gave me a chance to actually come in and talk to them early in the season,” Drake told CoachCal.com in 2010. “Just them listening to me, I think we all connected. They’re all my boys. This is my family.” That’s understandable, but giving the guy a championship ring after he’s been a fan for three years? Come on. Give one to Ashley Judd, coach! Or find a way to reward the loyal fans who camp out for weeks to receive Big Blue Madness tickets. The ring was even etched with Drake’s nickname, “Drizzy”.
  3. Speaking of head coaches making friends with music stars, new South Carolina head coach Frank Martin is now friends with Pitbull. Martin sent out this tweet stating, “On my way 2 Atlanta 2 c the best performer that’s our there @pitbull . I want our players 2 play w the same passion w which he petforms.” What’s next? How about Kevin Stallings going to a Reba McEntire performance? Maybe Mike Anderson taking in a Coldplay show? Steven Tyler could befriend Billy Donovan and start attending games in Gainesville. Who knows, maybe John Calipari will give Drake his national championship ring. Oh wait, maybe that’s not quite out there enough. Deadspin calls the relationship “weird,” but I say it’s awesome. I’m not sure how much inspiration the Gamecocks can seek from Pitbull’s performances, but I like a little celebrity action when I take in college basketball. I just don’t think any fan deserves a championship ring that the players and coaches earned.
  4. Laurence Bowers, the 6’8″ Missouri Tigers forward who sat out all of last season with an ACL injury, has been cleared for full contact. Bowers averaged 11.6 points and 6.1 rebounds per game in his junior season for the Tigers in 2010-11. Frank Haith missed Bowers’ size last season, as he was forced into playing a four-guard lineup. With Bowers’ return, Missouri immediately becomes a major threat at the top of the conference, and for that matter, the nation.
  5. Rob Dauster of NBC’s College Basketball Talk wrote a post on how “sleaze is alive and well in the recruiting world.” In his article, he utilized a picture of Kentucky’s John Calipari on the cover, even though Calipari wasn’t involved in any of the implications. Oh uh. As you might expect, Kentucky fans responded. As our friends at A Sea of Blue point out, “The article does look a little bit like an attack, even though I’m pretty sure Calipari wasn’t the intended target, but “sleaze” in general. Sadly, for many, Calpari is the poster boy for that word. Yes, that’s unfair, but since when was life fair?”
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Morning Five: 07.09.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 9th, 2012

  1. Kentucky head coach John Calipari will not be adding an Olympic medal to his trophy case in London this year after his Dominican Republic team lost to Nigeria at the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Caracas, Venezuela, over the weekend. Interestingly enough, it was former Arizona State All-American Ike Diogu who pushed the Nigerians past the Dominicans, scoring 25 points including some key threes to earn the most valuable player award in the tournament. Although we can’t envision a scenario where Calipari could actually improve his recruiting pitch, UK fans are no doubt privately happy that Coach Cal will now have the next month available to get out on the road and evaluate future prospects. Louisville an former Puerto Rico head coach Rick Pitino, on the other hand, is quite clearly enjoying his summer vacation.
  2. While on the subject of the Louisville coach, WDRB’s Eric Crawford and Rick Bozich recently published a March interview transcript with the Cardinals’ talented-and-getting-better center Gorgui Dieng. The article — a notebook style commentary on area schools — also revealed that Indiana NPOY candidate Cody Zeller doesn’t think it’s a “big deal” that the UK-IU series has ended, and some discussion about the most indispensable players in college basketball next season. Worth a read if you have a few minutes.
  3. Missouri is a team that seemingly lost several indispensables in the forms of Marcus Denmon, Kim English and Ricardo Ratliffe. But with a number of key contributors returning, several elite transfers, and the return of Laurence Bowers from injury, Missouri insiders think that next year’s squad might be in even better position to make a run at the Final Four. Prior to last October’s injury, Bowers was widely considered the Tigers’ best returning player — if he returns his confidence and game from the latter part of 2010-11 and all the newcomers mesh with waterbug Phil Pressey and Michael Dixon, the SEC might get taken by storm in much the same way Arkansas entered the league some 20 years ago.
  4. It didn’t take long for South Florida head coach Stan Heath to cash in on his program’s success last season, where the Bulls won 22 games including the school’s first-ever NCAA Tournament wins (over California and Temple). Heath’s contract was extended by the school for three more years to 2017-18, and he now takes home a crisp $1.19 million annually (representing a 32% raise). Without question, Heath entered last season at USF on the hot seat, but with a number of returnees expected from one of the most efficient lockdown defensive teams in America, the Bulls could be on the verge of a sustained multi-year run of success. This is especially true with the overall downgrade in basketball talent that the Big East losses of West Virginia, Syracuse and Pittsburgh will enable — some program will happily fill that void.
  5. Old Dominion received some good news late last week when NC State transfer DeShawn Painter was ruled eligible by the NCAA to compete for the Monarchs next season. The rising senior moved back to the Hampton Roads area to be closer to his family and ailing great-grandmother, the woman who essentially raised him. ODU is in a tough spot next year as it has been banned from competing in the CAA Tournament, meaning that it will have to perform exceptionally well throughout the regular season to ensure a spot in the NCAA Tournament. The Monarchs have been involved in the NCAAs in four of the last seven seasons, and the addition of Painter as a beast on the low blocks will help toward that end. Last season on NC State’s Sweet Sixteen team, he averaged 6/4 in about 20 minutes per game, and his size and maturity will be a tremendous boon for Blaine Taylor’s team on the inside next year.
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Big 12 Morning Five: 01.25.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on January 25th, 2012

  1. During the past month, the folks at Ballin’ is a Habit have taken a cross-country road trip to visit 13 college basketball venues across the Midwest. It’s a hoops fan’s dream trip — when I ran into them in Springfield during a Creighton-Missouri State game last week, I even told them how jealous I was of their month-long trek. From Nashville to Assembly Hall, they’ve been everywhere. And most recently, they made a stop at Allen Fieldhouse, where they caught up with KU’s Connor Teahan. The piece outlines his journey beginning in high school, when most of his scholarship offers consisted of Missouri Valley Conference schools. Now a senior, Teahan has cracked the rotation for a Top 10 team and one of the most historic programs in college basketball. If you’re a fan of the underdog story, BIAH’s feature is worth a read.
  2. Talk radio is terrific for controversy, and that’s exactly what former UMKC coach Rich Zvosec stirred up after saying Laurence Bowers‘ injury was “addition by subtraction” for Missouri this season. He attributed MU’s success to its four-guard lineup, and he claimed that Bowers would only disrupt this unique style. We see his point, but that’s still a ridiculous position to take. How could losing an All-Big 12 forward ever be a good thing? Even with Bowers in the lineup, Missouri would still be faster than just about every team in the nation. It would still shoot lights out from three and run an efficient half-court offense. That’s because the players have rallied around Frank Haith to play unselfish, inspired basketball. Sure, the four-guard lineup helps, but that’s not why MU beat Baylor last Saturday. That happened because Ricardo Ratliffe came to play and the Tigers’ outrebounded and out-toughed the Bears. You think having Laurence Bowers blocking shots, rebounding and providing post depth wouldn’t help this team? C’mon, Coach Z.
  3. Frank Martin announced Tuesday night the reinstatement of Jordan Henriquez, who could not practice with the team for the past six days because of “conduct detrimental to the team.” We’re still not sure what that phrase means, but Martin attempted to explain it, saying the junior center “just lost his focus and needed time to understand his priorities.” Whatever he did, the junior center and KSU’s best shot-blocker is now back in action. He still may not play against Texas Tech tomorrow night, but the Wildcats shouldn’t have much trouble without him in Lubbock. If they do, then they’ve got bigger problems than Henriquez’s detrimental conduct.
  4. In this age of lame student sections, Kansas actually pulled out a decent Billy Cundiff reference during some free throws in the Jayhawks’ win over Texas A&M on Monday. The Aggies still shot 7-11 from the line, so it didn’t exactly have the desired effect. Still, credit those guys for coming up with something at least somewhat original, although it certainly does not top the time Missouri’s student section made blow-up versions of these incriminating pictures of a future NBA Rookie of the Year in a win over Oklahoma in 2009. That’s still an all-time favorite to this day.
  5. Staying with Missouri, here’s yet another look at the Tigers’ resurgence under Frank Haith. This time, the guys at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch conduct a roundtable about Haith’s success, and there’s nothing new here. Missouri is ranked higher than its been in a decade, and after a tumultuous offseason and the departure of Mike Anderson. Like we’ve been saying for a while, as long as MU keeps winning, expect these articles to keep rolling out.
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The Transfer Effect: What the Statistics Say about Missouri and Iowa State’s Recruiting Methods

Posted by dnspewak on December 27th, 2011

No matter how established the program, every college basketball coach eventually takes a chance on a transfer. Jim Boeheim, for example, plucked Wesley Johnson from Iowa State and turned him into the Big East Player of the Year in 2009-10. Tom Izzo and Mike Krzyzewski’s current rosters both include transfers with Brandon Wood (Valparaiso) and Seth Curry (Liberty), and in 1979, a former Indiana Hoosier named Larry Bird nearly won a title with Indiana State just a few years after quitting basketball (and Bob Knight’s Indiana Hoosiers) altogether.

Hoiberg and Haith Are Recruiting Transfers Heavily to Their Programs

Normally, coaches take one or two transfers at a time to fill immediate holes, but that’s not everybody’s philosophy. Meet Missouri’s Frank Haith and Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg, a pair of coaches who have abandoned traditional recruiting methods at their new schools in favor of Division I transfers. Haith, hired in April to replace Mike Anderson, is using three open scholarships in 2011-12 on players who will not appear in a single basketball game this season by signing Keion Bell (Pepperdine), Earnest Ross (Auburn) and Jabari Brown (Oregon). Hoiberg, on the other hand, has four transfers on his roster in his second year with the Cyclones: Chris Allen (Michigan State), Chris Babb (Penn State), Royce White (Minnesota), and Anthony Booker (Southern Illinois). The two coaches have energized their fan bases by signing big names from major schools, but Haith and Hoiberg’s recruiting tactics cannot be accurately judged at this point. Iowa State’s Fab Four will begin Big 12 play next month, and Missouri’s three transfers will not all be eligible until December 2012.

Instead of speculating as to whether the two teams will suffer from dreaded chemistry problems with so many transfers, why not crunch the numbers to see if The Transfer Effect really exists? Although finding aggregate data for Division I transfers is virtually impossible, recent anecdotal evidence shows that the recruiting strategy is an enormous risk for both coaches. Seven teams from both the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons welcomed three or more transfers to their programs at the same time, and only two teams (San Diego State and UNLV) finished above .500 in league play. Seton Hall, the only power conference team in the group, missed the NCAA Tournament.

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Big 12 Morning Five: 12.13.11 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on December 13th, 2011

  1.  On the surface, the brawl between Cincinnati and Xavier this weekend had nothing to do with the Big 12 Conference. However, here’s an interesting perspective on the whole deal from a Big 12 point of view: Should the fight affect the way the league views Cincinnati as an expansion candidate? This particular writer argues that the incident will give the university a black eye when it comes to expansion, but we think the hoopla may blow over soon. Mick Cronin‘s lack of harsh punishment has also added to the public relations disaster, but this is only one event in one sport. The entire athletic department of Cincinnati hasn’t been tarnished.
  2. Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg is 5-1 against the Iowa Hawkeyes as a coach and player after his team’s victory last Friday, and he told reporters after the game, “I wish I was playing.” The Cyclones have now won three straight games in the rivalry, which has lost some luster with the nosedive both programs have taken in recent years. ISU may be on the way up, though. Guard Scott Christopherson broke out again against Iowa, scoring 16 points. Last year, he scored 30, and he’s never lost to the Hawkeyes. “It’s a great thing to say you’ve never been beat by the Hawkeyes,” he said.
  3. With the new Associated Press and Coaches’ Polls released on Monday, both Missouri and Kansas predictably jumped up in the rankings. MU now sits at #8 in the AP poll, while KU jumped to #12 after knocking off #2 Ohio State. Had Jared Sullinger played on Saturday, the Jayhawks would have likely gotten a lot more credit for their win. Still, there’s no reason to downgrade that victory against a very tough squad, even if the game was at the Phog.
  4. Speaking of Missouri, the Tigers are starting to get some outstanding publicity from major analysts. Jay Bilas, for example, says Missouri can win the national championship. Nobody doubted Missouri would be good this season, despite the departure of its head coach and the loss of All-Big 12 forward Laurence Bowers. The Tigers returned an experienced group with three straight NCAA Tournaments under their belts — but at 9-0, this team is flying higher right now than anyone imagined. It’s not that Missouri is just winning. It’s that MU is dominating the competition, and it has looked terrific on both ends of the floor.
  5. Hey, did you notice Oklahoma is 7-1 right now? The Sooners haven’t played a murderer’s row so far, but they look like a different team under first-year head coach Lon Kruger. He has helped guard Steven Pledger elevate his game, as he’s now among the Big 12′s leading scorers as a junior. Mike Anderson, who coached against OU as Missouri’s coach and saw his Arkansas team lose to the Sooners over the weekend said “I think more than anything, they’re older. They’re mature.” And it’s showing. We’ll find out a little more about this team, though, once January rolls around and Big 12 play begins.
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Tempering Expectations: Is Missouri Really This Good?

Posted by dnspewak on November 23rd, 2011

Forget the controversial hiring of Frank Haith or the ensuing scandal in connection to his Miami days. Forget the Laurence Bowers injury or the Mike Anderson departure. Missouri put every criticism to rest this week with two blowout victories in the CBE Classic. It was stunning enough to watch the Tigers dismantle a consistent Notre Dame program by 29 points on Monday. The Irish are young, but they’re trying to replace Ben Hansbrough and they probably just got overwhelmed by an experienced MU team. Right?

Kim English

Kim English Took Four Charges -- In One Half

But one night later– after Missouri then beat Pac-12 favorite California by 39 points — there were no good words to describe the Tigers’ performance. They’ve been brilliant. CBE Classic MVP Marcus Denmon scored 26 points against the Irish and managed 18 against the Golden Bears. Even in a relative “off-night” (6-13 overall, 2-8 from three-point land) against Cal, he still finished with four assists. Revitalized senior Kim English led the team with 19 points, but more impressively, he took four charges in the first half. MU shot 58% from the floor during the tournament, tallied 30 team assists and dominated the defensive end by forcing turnovers. The Tigers had run away with both games by the second TV timeout.

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Night Line: Four Guard Attack is Working Wonders for Missouri

Posted by EJacoby on November 23rd, 2011

Evan Jacoby is an RTC columnist. You can find him @evanJacoby on Twitter. Night Line will run on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s slate of games.

When forward Laurence Bowers suffered a season-ending ACL injury in an early practice this season, the preseason buzz surrounding Missouri was quieted a bit. Anytime a team loses its second-leading scorer, it’s a big blow, but Bowers was especially important because of his role as one of the few inside scoring threats on the team. He was also their leading returning rebounder and shot-blocker. But Frank Haith’s Tigers have adapted well to his injury, deciding to go with a four-guard starting lineup in order to get their most effective players on the court regardless of size. The result? Mizzou, under its new and somewhat embattled head coach, is now 5-0 while thrashing Notre Dame and California at the CBE Classic to the tune of 29- and 39-point wins, respectively.

Kim English

Guard Kim English is Excited About Missouri's Hot Start (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Saying that Missouri has been impressive through five games is a massive understatement. They just stomped on unbeaten No. 18 California, perhaps the best team in the Pac-12, by 39 points. No, that’s not a typo; thirty-nine points. How’d it happen? For this team, when it rains, it pours, and the Tigers have been liquid from the perimeter all year. Coming into tonight’s game, Mizzou had already been one of the most efficient offensive teams in the nation, averaging 84 points per game while shooting 50% from the field. Those numbers will improve even more after the 92-53 beatdown they just gave to Cal. During the ESPN2 telecast, Dick Vitale noted that the Tigers truly love sharing the ball. There’s nothing that makes a guard-heavy attack run smoother than such a trait. If selfishness could slow the Missouri offense down, unselfish passing makes it go. And Missouri is in full ‘go’ mode early on this season.

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Big 12 Team Previews: Missouri Tigers

Posted by dnspewak on November 9th, 2011

Predicted finish: 5th

2010-11 Record: 23-11, 8-8 (5th, Big 12)

Head coach: Frank Haith, first season

Key losses: Justin Safford (6.4 PPG), Ricky Kreklow (2.1 PPG), Laurence Bowers- (11.6 PPG, injury)

It’s amazing the Missouri Tigers are still standing. After experiencing one of the roughest offseasons in recent memory, it’s a wonder MU didn’t simply fold its basketball program up and leave it for dead. First, in March, head coach Mike Anderson left for Arkansas, just weeks after telling a local sportswriter he planned to retire in Columbia (Firestorm #1). Then, several reporters erroneously reported this spring that athletic director Mike Alden had hired Purdue’s Matt Painter (Firestorm #2); when that didn’t materialize, Alden announced the hiring of Frank Haith, a coach who had gone 43-69 in ACC play at Miami (Firestorm #3). Later in the summer, a Yahoo! Sports investigation of the Hurricanes’ athletic programs accused Haith’s staff of paying $10,000 to a recruit (Firestorm #4), and there’s still no closure on that case. And, last but not least, starting forward Laurence Bowers tore his ACL this fall (Firestorm #5). He’s out for the season. After all that, Missouri is still ranked #25 in the preseason polls. That’s because the Tigers bring back a veteran group, headlined by terrific guard play and Big 12 Player of the Year candidate Marcus Denmon.

Marcus Denmon Is an Unselfish Star. (AP/M. Schiefelbein)

The Stars: It’s rare to find a star like Denmon. He’s one of the nation’s top three-point shooters and can score almost at will, but he’s sometimes criticized for playing too unselfishly. That’s part of his game, though. Denmon rarely forces a bad shot, but when he does, it usually goes in. He scores within the flow of the offense, he passes well, he plays tough defense, he rebounds in traffic, and he hustles his tail off. It’s almost as if Denmon is a star with a role player’s attitude, and that’s exactly the way Frank Haith would prefer it. This team feeds off Denmon’s work ethic and leadership, and his 16.9 PPG and 44.8% from three-point land doesn’t hurt, either.

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