Despite playing almost all guards last year, Missouri was a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament. Then three things happened that give Missouri a chance to take a conference title this year.
First, 6-foot-8 Laurence Bowers came back from last year’s ACL tear to give them some size. Then 6-foot-9 Alex Oriakhi transferred in from UConn. And finally, they joined the SEC instead of the best basketball conference in the land, the Big Ten.
Choosing to pursue the SEC over the Big Ten may have led to a tough football season, but in basketball Phil Pressey, Oriakhi and Bowers have a much better chance at all-Conference, and the Tigers have a great shot at a title.
It would have been hard to do either in the Big Ten, which is as far ahead of the SEC in basketball as the SEC has been of everyone else in football.A title still will not be easy, as Missouri will likely be in a three-way battle with Florida and Kentucky for the conference title. However, Kentucky is in between national contenders and are beatable. While Mississippi is a strong fourth team for the conference, three other teams have not lived up to billing and are not currently projected to make the tournament.A look at the ratings at www.kenpom.com show that eight Big Ten teams rank in the top 50, and Missouri would currently rank as only the seventh best team in the Big Ten. Indiana ranks #1, Michigan at #7 etc.
|Rnk||Big Ten Rank||Rnk||SEC Rank|
Pressey, who dealt out 13 assists Saturday night in a double digit win over Alabama on Tuesday, and Oriakhi rank just behind the Top 10 players in the SEC – meaning they could be All-Conference by moving up just a couple of spots. Bowers is already the 82nd best player in the country in Value Add (www.valueaddbasketball.com) and would be an easy All-SEC pick and is in a virtual tie with LSU’s Anthony Hickey (ranked 80th in the country) to be a First Team All-SEC player as one of the top five players in the conference.However, the Big Ten now has 10 of the top 77 players in the country, so Bowers would not even be a second team All-Big Ten player. Here are the Top Ten players in each conference with their national ranks.
|80||Hickey, Anthony||Louisiana St.||2.43||-2.81||1.5||6.74|
|69||Thomas, Deshaun||Ohio St.||6.6||-0.39||0||6.99|
|73||Scott, Shannon||Ohio St.||3.38||-2.93||0.5||6.81|
|Predicted All-Star Game 76-72 Big Ten|
Overall, the SEC is now behind the other BCS Conferences as well as the Mountain West to rank as only the seventh best basketball conference, while the Big Ten is Number 1. The Value Add calculations indicate that if the 20 players above played against each other the Big Ten team would win 76-72, and the margin between the two conferences top to bottom is even more in favor of the Big Ten despite some superstars like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.