COLUMBIA — After Phil Pressey narrowly missed a shot at the buzzer in Missouri's 86-84 loss to Norfolk State in the Tigers' first game in the NCAA Tournament, he sat on the ground in shock at how the season had ended.
Michael Dixon shook hands with Norfolk State coaches and players, then ran over to Pressey and put his arm around him. While the Spartans celebrated at midcourt, the two walked toward the locker room. Pressey yelled something inaudible among the cheers from the Omaha, Neb. crowd that had just witnessed one of the biggest upsets in an NCAA Tournament.
Players who redshirted 2011-12 season
Laurence Bowers (senior- medical redshirt)
Keion Bell (senior- transfer from Pepperdine)
Earnest Ross (junior- transfer from Auburn)
Danny Feldmann (sophomore- transfer from Columbia University)
Jabari Brown (sophomore- transfer from Oregon)
Tony Criswell (Independence Community College)
Dominique Bull (Tilton School in Tilton, N.H.)
Stefan Jankovic (Huntington Prep in Huntington, W. Va.)
Ryan Rosburg (Marquette High School in Chesterfield, Mo.)
Negus Webster-Chan (Huntington Prep in Huntington, W. Va.)
As they neared the locker room, Missouri assistant coach Ernie Nestor walked over to them and put his hand on Dixon's arm. What he said to them was also lost in the noise from the crowd.
The team had been caught by something Tigers head coach Frank Haith often cautioned against. Throughout the season Haith used the phrase, "proud peacock today, feather duster tomorrow." Missouri was one of the country's proudest teams after winning the Big 12 Tournament, but its season came to an abrupt end in Omaha.
The loss ended the careers of eight Tigers seniors. Dixon and Pressey will be back next season, though, and they will be joined by a slew of talent.
It starts with senior forward Laurence Bowers, who sat out the 2011-12 season after tearing his ACL in October. Bowers was one of the Tigers' best players during his junior season, when he averaged 11.6 points and 6.1 rebounds.
Four transfers also sat out because of NCAA rules. Keion Bell, an incoming senior from Pepperdine, and Earnest Ross, an incoming junior from Auburn, both led their teams in scoring in 2010-11. Freshman Jabari Brown played two games for Oregon this season before transferring to Missouri. That trio of guards will replace seniors Kim English, Marcus Denmon and Matt Pressey.
The other transfer is Danny Feldmann, a Helias High School graduate who will walk on to the team next season. In January, Haith said that Feldmann would have been seeing playing time for the Tigers if he was eligible.
Bowers said in February that he expects next year's team to be more talented than the last. During practices, the transfers would often play scrimmages against the active players, and Haith said those were always competitive games.
Bowers also said he expects next year's team to be deeper. That isn't saying much considering last year's team only had seven scholarship players, but there are several incoming recruits that could see playing time.
Tony Criswell, a 6-foot, 9-inch forward, will bring some much-needed height to the Tigers. Criswell played for Alabama-Birmingham during the 2010-11 season and spent this past season at Independence Community College in Kansas City. Departing seniors Ricardo Ratliffe and Matt Pressey both played junior college ball before transferring to Missouri.
The Tigers also have four recruits coming out of high school. Two of them — Ryan Rosburg and Stefan Janckovic — are also 6 feet 9 inches. Rosburg is the younger brother of Andy Rosburg, who was a walk-on for Missouri this past season.
With the return of Bowers and a wealth of new talent, Missouri has the potential to be successful again next season. The Tigers will be playing their first season in the Southeastern Conference, and will likely face an easier schedule than they did in 2011. Only four of 12 SEC teams qualified for the 2011 NCAA Tournament, while six of 10 Big 12 teams qualified.