Mizzou to debut new fast-paced offense with smaller lineup

After the exit of several key contributors in the frontcourt, the Tigers will send out a faster-paced, positionless lineup this year.
Missouri guard Akira Levy holds the ball at the top of the key as time runs out in the first half of Missouri's 70-48 exhibition win over Missouri Western on Monday, Oct. 30, 2018. Levy, who was a top-70 recruit, is a possible starter for Missouri's 18-19 squad.

The shot caromed off the rim and back towards the right side. Freshman Akira Levy flew for the board and quickly laid it in. It looked like a normal basketball play, but with two notable differences. One was that there was no defense, just a drill in practice. The second difference, one more relevant to the Tigers’ upcoming season, is Levy’s position.

The 5-foot-8-inch point guard wouldn’t be expected to do a lot of rebounding in a typical offense. Missouri is not running a typical offense.

The off-season losses of forwards Kayla Michael, Jordan Frericks and Cierra Porter, all of whom are over six feet tall, forced coach Robin Pingeton to get creative and institute “positionless basketball.”

“We’ll have a post presence but it’s more by screening someone into the post or just trying to take advantage of some mismatches, some back cuts to the basket, coming off of screen action,” Pingeton said. “So it’ll look a little bit different than having a permanent post presence as we have in the past.”

In addition to the lack of a traditional big, the other main aspects of this new offense are spreading the floor and pushing the pace, the latter of which Pingeton emphasized so much that the team played with a 20-second shot clock earlier this year.

While the idea of playing an up-tempo style came from necessity and having the right personnel, one of the inspirations of the specifics of how to run it came from an unlikely source: Florida Gulf Coast, the 12-seed that ended Missouri’s season with a first-round NCAA Tournament upset in March.

Redshirt freshman Haley Troup got a taste of the new system while playing on the scout team in preparation for the FGCU game. She believes the upset, exposing the team’s weaknesses, caused the Tigers to adjust and adopt the new style.

“I think our style might not have even changed [if we had won],” she said. “So it’s kind of beneficial in that way.”

The biggest obstacle of the smaller lineup is that the lack of size could hurt MU on the boards, relying on shorter players like Levy to grab rebounds. But Pingeton has confidence that the team is capable of making up for its lack of size.

“Absolutely, height advantage helps, but I truly believe it’s more of a mentality,” she said. “It’s about having the discipline to get a body, to drive them out, to make that extra effort when you’re set at three or four you gotta get two feet in the paint and be relentless on every single possession.”

Another impact of all the turnover in the offseason is the question of how all the freshmen will gel with the veterans. Regardless of the system, there’s always a chance that the team in whatever lineups they use just won’t have chemistry.

“I think maybe it’ll take a few games to get it underneath our belt but we’ve got the kind of kids to play the way we want to play this year,” senior guard Lauren Aldridge said. “And so I don’t think we’ll see a huge adjustment or have trouble switching things out of the style.”

Edited by Bennett Durando | bdurando@themaneater.com

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