Last season’s Missouri team was one of the best we’ve ever seen from the Tiger program. They spent much of the season ranked in the top five, they won the Big 12 tournament and earned themselves a No. 2 seed before getting upset in the first round of the NCAA tournament by Norfolk State.
The way the Tigers won was centered on their ability to spread the floor and shoot the three. With Kim English and Marcus Denmon playing, essentially, the two forward spots, it created matchup problems each and every time Missouri took the court, and it didn’t hurt that it seemed like those two hit every single open three they had all season long.
But with those two graduating, next season’s Missouri team will look quite a bit more traditional, which is why bringing in Alex Oriakhi for one season as a transfer will end up being the most important transfer addition this offseason.
Oriakhi is by no means a potential all-american or a future lottery pick. He’s not a great low post scorer and he’s probably a downgrade from Ricardo Ratliffe offensively. But he is bigger, better defensively and better on the glass than Ratliffe, and that is what the Tigers are going to need from him. With Laurence Bowers starting at the four and some combination of Phil Pressey, Michael Dixon and Jabari Brown/Earnest Ross/Keion Bell on the perimeter at all times, the Tigers will be winning games with their defense. Where Oriakhi is at his best is anchoring a front line. Have we already forgotten the interior presence that he provided UConn during their 2011 national title run?
And playing with a playmaker of Pressey’s ilk, I don’t think it’s out of the question to expect Oriakhi to be a double-digit scorer. When you’re 6-foot-9 and your point guard can consistently get you the ball when you’re alone in front of the rim, it’s not difficult to score. He may not make a shot outside of five feet all season, but would you be surprised to see him get three dunks and four free throws every game?
Missouri, once again, does not have much front court depth. Oriakhi provides them an anchor in the paint to compliment the talent and athleticism already on the roster.
His addition will make Missouri Kentucky’s biggest threat in the SEC.
Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.
Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.
After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.
Video credit: Wyoming Athletics
Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.
Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.
Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.
Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.
Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.
But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.