Well shoot, I might have picked a bad time for my alarm to not go off and have me wake up at noon. That said, at least I woke up to two pieces of great news for both the site and the Mizzou football team, and the basketball team is already getting the pre-season hype that I greatly wanted to avoid.
First off, I’d like to welcome Mr. Jack Nowland to Zoulogy. Nowland, a sophomore at MU, has connections to Bleacher Report and Rock M Nation and is a big Tiger fan who will bring even more great things to this fledgeling site. It’s always nice to have someone here to help me get to the post quota, and don’t be surprised if I get one or two more people to hop on board by the end of the year. I’m sure there are a lot of MU journalism majors who would love to get more of their sportswriting out there, and there’s no better way to get “out there” than the internet itself. Be sure to read Jack’s first post on how he got into the world of Tiger sports. He’s got a lot more experience in terms of Mizzou memories, which definitely helps me out.
Meanwhile, Mizzou has got a commit from Maty Mauk, which Jack also covers here.
Anyways, one thing that caught my eye in Google Reader (and Rock M Nation’s Morning Links) was an article on ESPN.com by Dick Vitale on “teams to watch” next season in college basketball. When I saw the thing on Google Reader, I immediately guessed that Mizzou would make an appearance, and the thought made me sick. If there is one thing I hate about sports, it’s definitely pre-season rankings and hype machines. They didn’t work for Mizzou football in 2008, they didn’t work for Mizzou basketball last year, and they won’t work now. Here’s what Dickie-V had to say about the Tigers, and this is assuming there isn’t just some ghost-writer using Vitale’s name (would they do that? I always question the writing abilities of the TV guys).
New coach Frank Haith takes over for Mike Anderson, who went to Arkansas. Haith will be happy with the returning talent and the Tigers will be heard from in the Big 12 minus two! Ricardo Ratliffe, Kim English, Lawrence Bowers and Marcus Denmon help make up an exciting nucleus in Columbia. Kansas, Texas and Texas A&M will get a lot of hype in league circles, but the Tigers will be very dangerous.
[More ramblings on unwarranted pre-season hype after the jump.]
Never mind the fact that the random exclamation point really annoys me and this “analysis” really reveals how little I should actually care about this article. The fact of the matter is, Missouri currently has one new player in George Goode, and I’m currently forgetting whether or not he’s sitting out this season. I really think he’s sitting out this season due to transfer rules. If so, then Mizzou’s only new guy on the court is Kadeem Green, a guy with proven athleticism but many questions about how much he can contribute on the court, and whether or not he can recover said athleticism after suffering an achilles injury that had him on the bench for all of last season.
What’s more is that, other than Justin Safford being replaced by Green, Missouri is the same team as last year, with different classes and a different coach. Though the new style that Frank Haith is bringing is more inside-then-outside, that doesn’t take away from the fact that Missouri will again be dealing with a smaller frontcourt than the likes of Kansas, Texas A&M, et cetera. Mizzou will also have to of the smallest players in the league, both playing point guard, in Mike Dixon and Phil Pressey. While both put up good numbers and really did more good than bad playing Mike Anderson’s game, there’s still too much doubt for how much they can bring on the defensive end of the court. Last season really gave us a true glimpse of how great JT Tiller and Zaire Taylor were on defense in the form of how much Flip and Dixon struggled with defense. While Marcus Denmon returns with hopes of playing just like the All-Big 12 guy he was last season, Kim English returns from possibly his worst season as a Tiger, not something one would expect from a junior. English obviously realized his setbacks and is hopefully doing all he can to fix them before tip-off next season, but questions will still remain for English until he can prove himself on the court.
In short, Missouri is still pretty much the same team that won 20 games last season and went to the NCAA Tournament. But, they’re also the same team that lost almost all of their road games, all but one of them in conference play. This is the same team that went 1-5 in its final six games and bowed out unceremoniously to Cincinnati in the first round, a game I couldn’t bear to watch after the first half was over. It was frustrating team that was great early on the offensive end but questionable on defense, that suddenly lost its offensive skills to end the season. It was my first truly frustrating experience with Mizzou basketball, seeing as I stuck it out with the team and continued to harbor hope for them as the holes and flaws became more and more apparent.
Now I’m supposed to back this team up as a top-25 talent yet again, despite those same players all suiting up and playing pumpkin-ball. I want to believe, but the bitter Royals fan within won’t let me believe until I see what they can do. I’m going to have to put a lot on things like improvement from season to season, a blank slate with a new coach, and the true value of senior leadership. The last two Tiger teams with more than one senior did some pretty great things, and now Denmon, English, Bowers, Ratliffe, Pressey, Sutton, and Steeeeeeeeve(!) are all the biggest men on campus, and hopefully they’re the wisest when it comes to the game they play.
I think Mizzou will be good next season. I think they can do the things that Mizzou did in their last three years with Mike Anderson. I think they can win 20 games and make the tournament. I think they can beat guys like Kansas, at least at home. I think they can win more road games than last season. I think they could make a run at the Sweet Sixteen, and I dream that they could do more. There’s no reason to think that this team can’t do great things with the players they have. There’s no real reason to not have Faith in Haith. There’s just too many questions and too much doubt from what happened last season, and it will probably lead to some pessimism on my part.
The lesson to learn today is never trust those pesky pre-season rankings, and take everything Dickie-V says with a grain of salt. And take everything he writes with an even bigger grain of salt.