Depth at the forefront of Missouri’s tipoff

The team will start the season against Southern Illinois on Saturday without Mike Dixon.

Missouri men’s basketball coach Frank Haith has a good problem on his hands.

Just one day before MU opens it's regular season schedule against Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, the Tigers don’t have a clear rotation in place.

That might be because in the team’s two preseason games, three different Tigers scored 20 points: senior guards Earnest Ross (22) and Keion Bell (20) against Northwest Missouri State and freshman forward Stefan Jankovic (20) against Missouri Southern. None of the three played on MU’s 2011 Big 12 Conference Tournament championship team.

Junior point guard Phil Pressey didn’t top eight points in either game. Nor did highly-touted Connecticut transfer forward Alex Oriakhi.

Senior guard Mike Dixon did not even play in either game. He is still serving a suspension for an undisclosed violation of team rules.

Senior forward Laurence Bowers, still yet to play a regular season contest since Haith took over at MU, is the only veteran to have scored double digits (14 against NWMS, 11 against MSSU).

“I think it’s a good thing that we do have depth because that’s the motivation, the drive pushing our guys to be good and they’re competing amongst each other,” Haith said.

With the pieces the Tigers have in place and their depth up and down the floor, MU could be a team without a true leading scorer, Bowers contends. He said someone new could be the scoring threat each game.

“That’s always a strength, when you have balanced scoring on a team,” he said. “Personally, I don’t see us having a guy on the team who averages 22, 24 points because we’re so balanced and I think that’s a great thing to have."

In addition to being balanced, the Tigers are also deep.

"Once the starting five come out and you bring another five in and there’s no drop off, that’s always a plus. So it’s great to guys who are versatile and keep the pace of the game going when the starters go out.”

But stringing all this depth together is still proving challenging for the Tigers, who racked up 16 turnovers verses MSSU. The responsibility of corralling the Missouri offensive will fall on Pressey, who, at the point, will be tasked of steering whatever combination Haith plays out of harm’s way.

“Last year I took the back seat to Kimmie (English) and Marcus (Denmon) because they’d been here for four years; they knew the ropes and ins and outs and I just took the backseat and look what they did,” he said. “Hopefully I incorporate that into this year’s team.”

Tiger bites

Haith announced Thursday that Dixon will remain inactive for Saturday’s season tip-off. The contest will mark the 16th day the senior guard has been suspended for a violation of team rules. A time table for his return has still not been announced … Haith remains adamant in his belief that Bowers, though sidelined through 2011, was still a main contributor to MU’s success saying, “His spirit was unbelievable throughout the year.” … Saturday’s start time of the season’s tipoff against SIUE has been pushed from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. The team said the change was made in an attempt to avoid an overlap in the football team’s matinee with Tennessee.

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