The most encouraging observation from Missouri's first two games of the regular season has been the play of Kim English. What is he doing differently this season that can explain the improvement?
The Missouri Tiger basketball team has gotten off to their usual 2-0 start with little fanfare, this time under new head coach Frank Haith. While they have only played two games, it is already quite clear what kind of team this is going to be - a guard-heavy, shooting team.
The first two games have already shown that the focus is not going to be on talented forward Ricardo Ratliffe offensively because of the talent of their guards. Because he is the Tigers' best option in the post by far, Ratliffe will probably get the most focus from opposing defenders, opening up the offense for the five talented guards that Missouri runs out there on a regular basis.
That's not to say Ratliffe won't have a successful senior season offensively, but the pre-season thought that the 6-9 forward would be the most important player on both sides of the ball looks like it could be wrong.
With this fact becoming clear through pre-season and the first two games of the year, the focus shifts to Kim English, who could now be the most important and pivotal player for the Tigers season. After a shaky junior year - one that he admitted was the worst year of basketball in his life - English has seemed to regain his shooting form and confidence needed to be a leader.
English's impressive start to the season could be a great sign for this year's team. The 6-6 senior from Baltimore has started 9-of-15 from 3-point land this season, shooting 50 percent overall from the floor and scoring 18.5 points per game.
It's not the numbers that has been the most impressive from English so far either - it's his attitude. Every time he sinks a three, he is barking out defensive signals to his teammates and getting back quickly. He is giving a ton of effort in boxing out opposing team's power forwards, something that isn't easy for a guy who usually gives three or four inches to the guy he is covering. He has a great attitude toward the new coaching staff. Everything away from the court is in line and going well.
Everything about his off-season coming into the year and his production thus far actually makes it seem like he is a changed player as well a changed person. Every off-season before this one, he talked on Twitter about how he was playing so well in summer ball and improving in all aspects of the game.
This summer, he kept quiet and is now letting his play do the talking.
This team might not end up with a tournament run like the 2009 team had to the Elite Eight, but with senior leadership and play, they could surpass the tempered expectations that were a result of Laurence Bowers' pre-season injury.
We should be careful to not take too much from two 15-point wins over mid-major teams, but analyzing what we have seen from this year's team is all that can be done at this point and what we have seen, especially from English, is encouraging.
We'll learn a lot more about this team next week when they compete in the CBE classic against Notre Dame and either California or Georgia. If they can get great shooting from their guards led by Kim English, the sky is the limit for this extremely experienced team.