For much of the first month of the college basketball season there was a withholding of judgment on the Missouri Tigers. With their returnees and newcomers Frank Haith’s team was seen as a group talented enough to hit the ground running in their first season in the SEC.
With Michael Dixon Jr. and Jabari Brown (transfer from Oregon) out of the lineup the Tigers weren’t considered to be whole, and they were considered to be pieces capable of improving Missouri’s perimeter shooting.
Now that we know Dixon won’t be back the question now is how the Tigers will account for his departure, keeping in mind the fact that Brown will be eligible at the end of the semester.
Dixon’s greatest value outside of scoring was to come in regards to getting starting point guard Phil Pressey some rest, with the All-America candidate averaging 34.3 minutes per contest. With Dixon gone it’s tough to see Pressey getting much rest, and while it’s obviously in Missouri’s best interest to have Pressey on the floor those minutes will begin to add up once the Tigers hit SEC play.
Outside of Pressey who’s the Tiger most capable of handling point guard duties?
That’s a tough question to answer right now. Negus Webster-Chan saw some time at the point during their three games in the Bahamas but didn’t look too comfortable in the face of the Louisville pressure in the semifinals. Both Keion Bell and Earnest Ross are players better suited to operate off the ball, and that also goes for Brown when he makes his debut in mid-December.
The assist numbers tell part of the story, with no player other than Pressey (37 assists; 6.2 apg) having tallied more than eight assists on the year.
While Dixon was also a solid perimeter shooter (47% FG, 37% 3PT last season) the Tigers are still making 37% of their shots from beyond the arc, a number that ranks third in the SEC ad Brown will help in that department. His departure will have the biggest impact at the point, the only position where the Tigers lack depth.
In Dixon’s departure, Phil Pressey became even more important than he already was to the Missouri Tigers. How far Haith’s team can go depends on two things: Pressey’s health (this was known well before Dixon’s decision) and the development of someone who can give their floor general a few moments of rest.
Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.