COMMENTARY: Basketball Preview

Sunday, Oct. 14-

“A new era begins.”

Upon announcement of Missouri’s move to the SEC, these words could be seen everywhere on campus. It was these words that provided an extraordinary amount of pride to an already extraordinarily proud student body. With these words, Mizzou fans seemed to share one common thought: regardless of record, this will be a very special football season.

Fast forward to the night of October 6. Mizzou has just lost to a 1-3 Vanderbilt team. The Tiger’s record in Southeastern Conference play reads stands at a shocking 0-3.

The excitement that filled the air before the season is now gone. Leaving the stadium that night, after the reality of losing to Vandy set in, a new hope began to emerge within the minds of the demoralized Tiger fan base, and everyone started asking the same question.

“When’s basketball start?”

It’s a great question. In less than a month, the Mizzou basketball team will kick off the season with a home game against SIU-Edwardsville. In honor of this fact, here’s a preview of what to expect from the Tigers in their first season as a member of the SEC.

Predicted Overall Record: 26-5
Predicted Conference Record: 15-3

This isn’t football, folks. Expectations should be high. This year’s squad is loaded. Along with key returners Phil Pressey, Michael Dixon, and Laurence Bowers, this team features five big-time transfers. Expect all of these athletes to make significant contributions.

The New Faces:

Alex Oriahki, Center (UConn) – An experienced big man with a championship ring, Oriahki is a defensive force that can also score on the block. Look for Oriahki to be involved in plenty of pick-and-roll action with best friend and former AAU teammate Phil Pressey.

Earnest Ross, Forward/Guard (Auburn) – A 6-foot-6 swingman who can do it all, Ross led Auburn in both scoring (13.1 PPG) and rebounding (6.6 RPG), and finished third in assists (2.1 APG). Expect Coach Frank Haith to use Ross as the team’s defensive stopper.

Keion Bell, Guard (Pepperdine) – Bell comes to Mizzou as a fifth year senior. Although he can score, Bell had the ball in his hands all the time at Pepperdine. Look for Bell to be more of a role player, as Coach Haith’s system is predicated on spacing and ball-movement.

Tony Criswell, PF (Independence CC/UAB) – Perhaps the most important of the five transfers, Criswell gives the Tigers something they certainly lacked last year: depth in the frontcourt. Coach Haith has stated that the former JUCO standout will see substantial minutes.

Jabari Brown, Guard (Oregon) – While he’s ineligible until mid-December, Brown will help this this team tremendously. The former High School All-American can really score, and is arguably the purest shooter on the roster.

Key games

Non-conference play: @ UCLA – December 28
After reeling in what many are calling the best recruiting class in the nation, UCLA is relevant again. With the exception of Earnest Ross, the tiger backcourt is noticeably small, and a key to this game will be how Mizzou’s guards match up with high school all-Americans Kyle Anderson and Shabazz Muhammad (6-foot-6 and 6-foot-9). This will be Missouri’s first true test on the road, and an early indicator of just how good this team can be.

Conference: @ Kentucky – February 23
Once again, the Wildcats will be one of the best teams in the country as John Calipari brings in another outstanding recruiting class, headlined by No. 1 overall prospect Nerlens Noel. This could end up being the biggest game of the year, and the decider of the SEC regular season champion.

Missouri has the opportunity to take the SEC by storm this year. If they do, then this “new era” could truly be the beginning of something special.

-Connor McWilliams
23 Sports
Staff Writer