If fans are licking their wounds over what has been a rough journey for the University of Missouri football team during the school's first season as a member of the Southeastern Conference, here's some good news: Basketball season is right around the corner.
Eleven days before his team takes to the court at Mizzou Arena in the season opener against Northwest Missouri State, Mizzou Head Basketball Coach Frank Haith headlined a Tiger Club luncheon at the Marriott West in West St. Louis County Thursday.
In remarks to the crowd of fans, former players, alumni and boosters, Haith played down talk of the Tigers' high preseason rankings--USA Today's Coaches Poll has them at number 17--and reminded the audience that the 2012-2013 team only returns 2 players who have been coached by this staff (Mike Dixon and Phil Pressey).
As with last year's team, which asked players like Dixon and Kim English to "buy in" to the program by taking on unaccustomed roles--Dixon came off the bench and English spent considerable time defending taller players in the frontcourt--the same is true this season.
Keion Bell, who is gaining notoriety for his dunking exhibit at Mizzou Madness when he dunked over seven people last Friday, comes to the team as a scorer from Pepperdine. Here's what Haith told the audience he told Bell: "For us to win, you must buy into being a great defender. We need a lockdown defender. If you do that, it will help us win games."
The team gets Laurence Bowers back from injury this year, and also added Connecticut transfer Alex Oriakhi to the frontcourt. It means a rotation of 8 or 9 players that will also include 2012 Marquette graduate Ryan Rosburg.
Haith said he thinks as many as 7 teams will make the NCAA tournament out of the SEC, which he said is underrated as a basketball conference given the stature of the football programs there. The biggest difference in play? The pressure defense employed by several SEC squads most notably his predecessor at Missouri, Arkanasas Head Coach Mike Anderson.
"I do think we can win a national champtionship at Mizzou. That's a goal, that's what we want to do. We want to cut down nets," Haith said to applause Thursday.
- Haith expects to sign at least four recruits in the early signing period that starts November 14.
- Recent De Smet graduate Eric Moeller, who had agreed to go to Missouri as a preferred walk-on, is no longer with the program but remains enrolled as a student. Haith said Moeller had a good basketball future
- He's dubbed one of the new arrivals, Connecticut transfer Alex Oriakhi, the "Jolly Green Giant."