In: F Ricardo Ratliffe (Jr.), G Phil Pressey (Fr.), Ricky Kreklow (Fr.), Tony Mitchell (Fr.)*
Out: G J.T. Tiller, G Zaire Taylor, F Keith Ramsey
Mike Anderson and his 60 minutes of hell press defense have certainly restored respectability to the Missouri Tigers during these five years.
The Tigers have made the NCAA Tournament, even running to the Elite Eight in 2009. But the next step is breaking back into the elite level of the Big 12.
With Kansas in a bit of an unknown mode and relative newcomers Kansas State and Baylor hovering around the top, this could be as good a time as any for the Tigers.
Most have Missouri in the top half of the race, but with just two of five starters returning there isn't a lot of belief the Tigers can dominate Kansas and Kansas State. This group does return four of its top five scorers from last season, though, so it could be the biggest surprise of the league this season.
Junior guard Kim English proved he is a bonafide star player in his breakout campaign as a sophomore. The 6-foot-6 English can score from almost anywhere on the floor and his range makes him a matchup nightmare for most teams.
Missouri should also be helped by the experience of returning players such as point guard Michael Dixon, guard Marcus Denmon and forwards Laurence Bowers and Justin Safford.
But the real key to the Tigers' success will be how newcomers like guards Phil Pressey and Ricky Kreklow and JC transfer Ricardo Ratliffe adjust to Anderson's demanding defensive style. Top-20 recruit Tony Mitchell could have a huge impact, but that is if he is cleared academically to play this season.
If it all goes as planned, the Tigers could be as talented and deep as any team in the Big 12 this season. They also will be able to build on last season when, after losing four of their last six, they rebounded in the NCAA Tournament by upsetting Clemson in the opening round.
Player to watch: Safford (8.6 points per game, 5.7 rebounds) is coming off a season-ending ACL injury suffered last February. If healthy, the 6-foot-9 Safford and 6-foot-8 Bowers give the Tigers an extremely active and athletic frontcourt that can get plenty of rebounds and points in the paint.
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Best-case scenario: Mitchell gains his eligibility and Safford is healthy and now the Tigers have a lineup that can match the athletic ability of Kansas State, Kansas and Baylor this season. Missouri is a team most teams hate to face because of the all-out press. The Tigers' defense could carry them far this season.
Worst-case scenario: One of the major flaws of the Tigers last season was their inability to score points. Sometimes if English's shot wasn't falling, the points just didn't come. Missouri could be in for another dud of a finish if Anderson can't find other scorers to take advantage of points off turnovers.
FanHouse Prediction: The Tigers will be an exciting bunch to watch, but inconsistent point guard play and uncertainty in the frontcourt puts them a year away from a real breakthrough. Missouri will win 20 games and make it to the NCAA Tournament, but the Tigers are a year away from making some real noise.
*Mitchell has been ruled academically ineligible, though the team is still holding out hope he can join the team at some point this season -- maybe even at semester.