COLUMBIA — The MU basketball team is lacking in height.
The Tigers are the only team in the Big 12 Conference that does not have a player 6 feet 10 inches or taller on the roster, but they will try to make up for this perceived disadvantage by using their quickness and ability at the forward positions.
“The Big 12 usually has got big, huge centers that can’t really move,” forward Leo Lyons said. “By us (forwards) being out there, us having it spread, we are just going to get easy baskets.”
Lyons is the biggest player on MU’s roster at 6 feet 9 inches tall and 225 pounds. Three other Tiger forwards — DeMarre Carroll, Justin Safford and Vaidotas Volkus — are 6-8, and Marshall Brown is 6-6.
These players are being asked about which of them will cover players like Nebraska’s Aleks Maric (6-11, 275 pounds), the conference’s leading returning scorer and a preseason All-Big 12 selection. Also worth mentioning are Oklahoma’s Longar Longar (6-11, 232) and Texas A&M freshman DeAndre Jordan (7-0, 240), the eighth-ranked recruit in the country, according to rivals.com.
But a better question might involve who these big men will cover when they line up against Missouri.
During the Tigers’ exhibition victory against the University of Missouri-St. Louis on Saturday, flashes of these matchup problems were shown. Carroll routinely caught the ball outside the three-point line and drove to the basket for easy points. The opposing big men could not move quick enough laterally to keep pace.
Lyons and Safford both displayed their perimeter skills by knocking down three-pointers, showing that opposing defenses will have to cover those players at that range.
And perhaps the most problematic matchup for opposing teams could be the sight of Carroll and Brown leading fast breaks in coach Mike Anderson’s high-octane style of play.
“I feel like that’s a great part of what I do,” Carroll said to a reporter, describing his transition game. “I’m glad you noticed it.”
The goal is to leave these larger opponents in the wake of the Tigers’ speedboat pace. Anderson said he encourages his forwards to attack and play as a guard would on offense because it creates mismatches for opponents.
“I give credit to my uncle,” Carroll said of Anderson’s offense. “I love his offense, I love his style. As long as you don’t turn it over, he gives you the freedom to do whatever you want to do.”
That freedom comes from what is known as the motion offense. Players have the ability to set screens and make cuts at will. There are very few set plays, and the offense goes as the players dictate.
“We set a lot of screens, so we cause a lot of switches,” Lyons said. “So if it’s a big guy on a small guy, we post them up. And if it’s a big guy (covering a big guy) we take them outside.”
The addition of Carroll, who sat out last year after transferring from Vanderbilt University, should only help the Tigers create these mismatches.
“I’m a slashing forward,” Carroll said. “I’m not a sit-down, post forward like I was at Vanderbilt. I’m a slashing forward, I can do a lot, I can create a lot.”