It could be much, much worse, but the Missouri Tigers are sitting pretty at No. 12 in the country, with solid wins over VCU and Stanford, meanwhile their only loss coming at the hands of perhaps the best team in the country in Louisville. Mike Dixon's departure definitely could've wrecked this team, and it still may, but the Tigers look just fine, especially on defense. The addition of Jabari Brown will hopefully add the outside scoring threat this team so desperately needs.
But the Tigers cannot depend on Brown to be their primary outside scoring contributor when he makes his debut next week. It would be really awesome if he did, but for now, I think the Tigers have enough talent on the inside with Bowers and Oriakhi that it won't be much of an issue. Of course, it would be great if Brown made an immediate impact. He was, afterall, ranked higher than Ben McLemore (turncoat) in their recruiting class and look what McLemore has been able to do over in Lawrence early this season. I held back vomit while typing that.
Laurence Bowers. Good god in heaven. He's put forth an All-American type of non-conference schedule, averaging close to 20 (20!!!) points a game and wreaking havoc on teams since adding a deadly accurate mid-range jumper, something the Tigers haven't had from a big since maybe Leo Lyons. Bowers is shooting nearly 60% on the season and has proven to be the Tigers' best player on both ends of the court, outside of Phil Pressey. He and Oriakhi have been hawks around the defensive bucket too, combining for 23 blocks down low. Hell, Bowers is even shooting 58% FROM THREE-POINT RANGE.
There's one more...um...not-very-challenging non-con home game remaining for the Tigers against South Carolina State at Mizzou Arena on Monday, then it's off to St. Louis for the annual Braggin' Rights game against Illinois (Border War > Braggin' Rights). I love this game. It reminds me of a tournament game. I also am probably going to hate this game because it will only make me think about what a Mizzou/Kansas game would be like at Sprint Center. With Illinois ranked one and two spots ahead of Mizzou in both the coaches' and AP polls, the Tigs have an opportunity to validate themselves as contenders, despite the departure of Dixon.
After Braggin' Rights, Mizzou heads to the West Coast to face UCLA in their first true road game of the season, another huge litmus test for how good this team can be. UCLA dropped out of the top 25 after a rocky beginning to their season, but it's still going to be a good enough road game for the Tigers to prepare for the conference season.
A quick bout at Mizzou Arena with everyone's favorite mid-major Bucknell and then SEC play begins with three manageable games against Alabama, at Ole Miss and vs. Georgia. Man, I am licking my chops at the retribution for football season we are going to lay down on these teams.
(Plays "This Is How We Do It" by Montell Jordan)