Missouri coach Mike Anderson addressed the media for the first time this season and made one fact clear: little is clear.
With leading scorer Thomas Gardner gone to professional basketball and seniors Jimmy McKinney and Kevin Young lost to graduation, the Tigers must fill three openings in their starting lineup. Who will fill those spots is yet to be determined.
But in Anderson’s mind, he has five spots open, not just three.
“When I came in day one, I made the statement to these guys everyone starts in the same place,” Anderson said. “That’s the beauty of all of it.
“That’s what I’m all about — opportunity. You got an opportunity to show me what you’re capable of. That’s something that helps our basketball team.”
Not only is the starting lineup unknown, the team’s rotation is also in flux. Anderson was reluctant to say which players would play significant minutes, but he stressed that his fast-paced style of play will force him to go deep into his bench, giving most players a chance to contribute.
That style of play will also help overcome the team’s apparent lack of size. Grimes is the only player on Missouri’s roster listed at center and, along with Leo Lyons, is one of two who is 6-foot-9. Anderson said he is not concerned that his team is undersized, choosing to recall the success of guard-oriented teams such as Villanova last year, Illinois in 2005 and even his own UAB Blazers last season.
“I called them the ‘Little Midgets,’” Anderson said of the team he coached last year. “We got some bigger bodies here, and we’re going to utilize that.
“We’re not an overly big team. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how big the dog is; it’s how much bite is in the dog.”
How Anderson will adjust, though, remains to be seen. While Anderson said he has the option of using many of his guards at the same time, he is yet to decide if that is the strategy he will prefer.
Further complicating his decisions is the high level of change in the head coach positions across the Big 12 Conference. Anderson is one of six new coaches in the conference, joining Bob Huggins (Kansas State), Doc Sadler (Nebraska), Greg McDermott (Iowa State), Jeff Capel (Oklahoma) and Sean Sutton (Oklahoma State).
“You’re talking about six new coaches. To me, it’s kind of neat for the league in that there’s a lot of uncertainty,” Anderson said. “There are a lot of unknowns, styles of play. People are going to have to make adjustments.
“It’s not your typical, let’s say your going to go play Nebraska, Barry Collier’s team, you know what they’re capable of. Now you got a new coach. Kelvin Sampson and Oklahoma, you know this team’s going to be hard-nosed, you know they’re going to be physical. Now you don’t know.”
FEEL THE MADNESS: Officially, Missouri’s season gets under way tonight at 9 with Mizzou Madness. The year’s first practice is open to the public and will include events such as a fans teaming up with players in a three-point contest. The night also includes scrimmages and introductions for both Missouri’s men’s and women’s teams.
The team’s first formal practice is 9 a.m. Saturday.