May 8, 2012, 11:00 AM EDT
Last season’s Missouri team was one of the best we’ve ever seen from the Tiger program. They spent much of the season ranked in the top five, they won the Big 12 tournament and earned themselves a No. 2 seed before getting upset in the first round of the NCAA tournament by Norfolk State.
The way the Tigers won was centered on their ability to spread the floor and shoot the three. With Kim English and Marcus Denmon playing, essentially, the two forward spots, it created matchup problems each and every time Missouri took the court, and it didn’t hurt that it seemed like those two hit every single open three they had all season long.
But with those two graduating, next season’s Missouri team will look quite a bit more traditional, which is why bringing in Alex Oriakhi for one season as a transfer will end up being the most important transfer addition this offseason.
Oriakhi is by no means a potential all-american or a future lottery pick. He’s not a great low post scorer and he’s probably a downgrade from Ricardo Ratliffe offensively. But he is bigger, better defensively and better on the glass than Ratliffe, and that is what the Tigers are going to need from him. With Laurence Bowers starting at the four and some combination of Phil Pressey, Michael Dixon and Jabari Brown/Earnest Ross/Keion Bell on the perimeter at all times, the Tigers will be winning games with their defense. Where Oriakhi is at his best is anchoring a front line. Have we already forgotten the interior presence that he provided UConn during their 2011 national title run?
And playing with a playmaker of Pressey’s ilk, I don’t think it’s out of the question to expect Oriakhi to be a double-digit scorer. When you’re 6-foot-9 and your point guard can consistently get you the ball when you’re alone in front of the rim, it’s not difficult to score. He may not make a shot outside of five feet all season, but would you be surprised to see him get three dunks and four free throws every game?
Missouri, once again, does not have much front court depth. Oriakhi provides them an anchor in the paint to compliment the talent and athleticism already on the roster.
His addition will make Missouri Kentucky’s biggest threat in the SEC.
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