Who is Missouri’s most important senior?

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As more time passes, the fact that college basketball has become a game for those players that will leave school early is hard to ignore.

But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t seniors that will play a massive role in the way the season plays out each and every year, and 2012-2013 will be no different. As he is wont to do, Andy Glockner of SI.com put together an exhaustive list of the 21 seniors that he believes will have the biggest impact next season, and I have very few quibbles with it.

That doesn’t mean the list is perfect, however. While Glockner correctly mentioned Missouri, he names Michael Dixon as their most important senior. That is, in all actuality, not true.

For starters, it doesn’t take into account the fact that Laurence Bowers — who was probably the team’s best player back in 2010-2011, a group that included all-american Marcus Denmon and all-Big 12 member Kim English — will be back in the lineup. Bowers is an athletic and defensive-minded power forward that averaged double figures as a junior.

But Bowers is coming off of a torn ACL, so it won’t be known whether he has regained his explosiveness and his athleticism.

Which is why Alex Oriakhi, the UConn transfer who will be eligible for his final year of college basketball immediately, will be the team’s most important senior.

Missouri will still have the dynamic back court of Phil Pressey and Dixon and, with the influx of transfers, will have talent on the wings in the form of Jabari Brown, Keion Bell and Earnest Ross. But without English at the four to spread the floor and without the stone-cold-killer shooting ability of Denmon, the Tigers are going to look and play like a different team next season. They won’t be spreading the floor as much and, without that explosive and efficient offense, they will rely so much more on their defense.

Enter Oriakhi.

He struggled mightily last season as he Jim Calhoun tried to find a way to work him into the lineup while keeping Andre Drummond on the floor. The lack of playing time upset Oriakhi, who was a shell of the player that helped lead UConn to the 2011 national title. That version of Oriakhi was an offensive rebounding force and a significant defensive presence in the paint. While his back-to-the-basket game has never been much more than “developing”, with playmakers like Pressey and Dixon in the back court, Oriakhi will average double figures simply by being able to finish the point-black looks that get created for him on a nightly basis.

I love what Dixon and Bowers provide the Tigers, but Oriakhi is the most important senior on that roster. He is the reason they went from a potential top 25 team to one with enough talent to give Kentucky a run at the top of the SEC.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.