The Missouri Tigers were a team that inspired a good deal of consensus last season, but what's interesting is there was more than one consensus. On the eve of the NCAA tournament many observers were very sure that the Tigers deserved a No. 1 seed. After all, this is a team that compiled a 30-4 record in head coach Frank Haith's first season, an impressive mark that included a Big 12 tournament title.
To those of us who look at other measures in addition to wins and losses, however, Haith's team wasn't quite what it was cracked up to be. Mizzou was self-evidently magnificent on offense, but its defense was average (or even, speaking more precisely, a little worse than the Big 12 average in conference play).
As often happens in these disputes, neither side turned out to be entirely right. The Tigers didn't march to the Final Four like the first group of observers expected, but then again no one in "my" group stepped forward before the fact and said, "I fully expect Missouri to lose to a No. 15 seed from the MEAC." I may have had my reservations regarding this team's ability to defend, but those reservations emphatically did not encompass the possibility of losing to Norfolk State in the round of 64.
Arguably the most surprising outcome in the entire 2012 NCAA tournament, that loss ended the Missouri careers of Marcus Denmon, Ricardo Ratliffe, Kim English and Matt Pressey. That's a lot to lose. But on the plus side Laurence Bowers has returned from the injury that sidelined him all of last season, and the Tigers have also added transfers Alex Oriakhi (Connecticut), Earnest Ross (Auburn) and Keion Bell (Pepperdine). Lastly, Haith of course has 5-foot-11 point guard Phil Pressey, the SEC's Preseason Player of the Year.