To say the least, Mizzou Basketball under Mike Anderson should never find itself mired in any kind of lengthy identity crisis. Nearly every bit of marketing created by the athletic department serves as a reminder that Mizzou can't really stray too far from its Fastest 40 Minutes brand.
But when it comes to scoring, Missouri hasn't really funneled its offense through one particular go-to player for most of Anderson's tenure. In that vein, you'd be hard pressed to point out one single player and say "it's his offense." The same can be said for the players quarterbacking the Mizzou offense at the point, where Missouri seemed perfectly comfortable with a growing Michael Dixon seeing the majority of the action at the 1.
Then came the emergence of freshman Phil Pressey over the holiday weekend, and with it, a dilemma at the point guard position. Coaches around the country won't exactly weep and emote empathy for Anderson, who now finds himself in the enviable position of balancing between two capable triggermen for the remainder of the season.
For Mizzou, it's about to become a question of style. After the game, Mike Anderson spoke about the effectiveness of Laurence Bowers off the bench, saying that he thought "he likes playing with Phil." In Pressey's recent two-game explosion (he averaged 1.45 points per shot against Texas A&M and Kansas State), his quick first step on both ends of the floor seemed to create the ever-so-elusive spark for the Tigers, as the Fastest 40 Minutes seems to get even faster when the ball is running through No. 1's hands. A year ago, Mizzou's primary guards -- J.T. Tiller and Zaire Taylor -- were both workmanlike, blue-collar style players. With Pressey, the behind-the-back passes, alley-oops and ridiculous threes bring an element of Showtime to Mizzou Arena, even as he grins while frantically pestering offensive players into retaliation fouls.
This of course takes nothing away from Dixon, who has been one of Missouri's most consistent performers this season. It's been the sophomore Dixon who has been one of Mizzou's most clutch performers not named "Marcus Denmon," especially in second halves when he elects to drive the lane more frequently and lean heavily on the runners that have quickly become his calling card. Anderson's willingness to keep the ball out of Dixon's hands in crunch time in College Station spoke volumes about just how red hot Pressey had been to that point, and just how much Pressey continues to grow halfway into his first collegiate campaign.
It almost came as a grand coincidence that Mizzou continued to unearth its second catalyst in defeating a Kansas State team still desperately looking for one of its own. During the broadcast on Monday, analyst Fran Fraschilla noted the "Batman and Robin" relationship of Kansas State guards Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente a year ago, though no one was sure who was who. Though Pullen remains immensely talented, Kansas State's struggles in 2010-11 have illustrated what Clemente's ball handling meant for Pullen and the rest of the Wildcat offense. If the weekend holds true for the rest of the season, Mizzou will find itself on the opposite end of the spectrum.
Throughout his time in Columbia, Anderson has always believed in a wide distribution of minutes. In that sense, the "whose offense is it" argument is largely semantics. But above all else, he has believed in one thing: the hot hand. The race is on for the rest of the season to see which point guard's hand heats up the most.