The Big 12 coaches named Missouri guard Marcus Denmon to the preseason All-Conference team this past week. Denmon is a good player, but Laurence Bowers may actually have been the Tigers’ most valuable. Losing him for the season to a torn ACL is a big blow to Missouri’s chances in 2011/2012.
The waters Frank Haith has to navigate in his first season in Columbia were already choppy. Now he has to find a way to replace his best defender and piece together a front court which was already thin. The Tigers are left with only three players on their roster who are 6’8” or taller in Ricardo Ratliffe, Steve Moore and Kadeem Green.
Bowers potential replacements in the Tigers primary unit would appear to be either Moore or Green, but there are issues with both.
Moore will be a senior and at times contributed solid defense off the bench last season. At this point it is probably safe to say that Moore will never be a plus on offense, but that is okay. Even without Bowers, the talented Missouri guards and an improved post-game from Ratliffe should be able put the ball in the basket enough to keep the Tigers competitive.
Moore and Ratliffe would provide two big body defenders that could muscle way to controlling the paint, something Missouri never had in the Mike Anderson era. Moore flashed some shot-blocking potential last year too (0.9 blocks/game in under 12 minutes/game). So sliding Moore into the primary unit doesn’t seem like a bad idea…initially.
Moore is a foul machine, averaging a foul every four and a half minutes he was on the court last year. Ratliffe too found himself sitting more than he should because of foul trouble. Starting the two together could create the bad situation where both pick up a couple early fouls, and less than ten minutes into the game Haith finds his front court rotation even more limited.
So does Green get the nod then? That doesn’t appear to be the magic answer either. Green will be a redshirt freshman after sitting out all of last year recovering an Achilles injury. He is a big unknown.
He had a three-start ranking from Rivals, and received offers from Wake Forest and New Mexico so he clearly has some potential. But he’s inexperienced and coming off a major injury. Regardless of if he starts or not, which I doubt he will, Green in an odd way becomes one Missouri’s most important players this year because of the large role he is being forced into.
Haith may have to in essence replace Bowers’ with Phil Pressey. If he wants to get his five best players on the court it would be Dixon-Pressey-Denmon-English-Ratliffe. Matchup-wise that would be a nightmare for Missouri fans.
Dixon and Pressey are both solid defenders but small, Denmon is a good rebounder for a guard but only 6’3” and English has some size at 6’6” but his strength would be a major issue when matched up consistently with a forward. The Missouri defense could crumble with this alignment. I’m not sure how much zone Haith ran at Miami (kenpom has their defensive fingerprint listed as “inconcluslive”), but he’d have to cook something complex up to offset the matchup problems.
We’ll look at this more in-depth as the season approaches, but as of now Haith may want to get on the phone with Travis Ford or Jay Wright and ask for some pointers on going with a four-guard lineup.