Each Wednesday, PowerMizzou.com publisher Gabe DeArmond and recruiting editor Pete Scantlebury will answer questions from subscribers in our Tiger Mailbag. This feature will allow for longer, more in-depth answers than you may get on the message board on a daily basis. To have your question in next week's mailbag, send an email to Gabe at email@example.com. On to this week's inquiries:
minxcat asks: How much credit do you give Coach Haith for the season this team is having? Do you think that Coach Anderson would have had the same or similar results?
The answers are really independent of each other. There is NO DOUBT that Frank Haith deserves an immense amount of credit. He has a team that collapsed down the stretch last season that lost its second-best player and is now unbeaten and in the top ten, leading the country in scoring margin. It's the same kids as last year, minus Bowers, Kreklow and Safford. Sure, the kids have gotten better, but Haith deserves a lot of credit for that.
As far as Anderson, who knows what would have happened if he was still here? Nobody. There's no way to answer it. It's popular to heap on the guy and discredit everything he did and thank him for leaving so Missouri could get Frank Haith right now. Well, sorry, but you can't do that. He recruited every player on this team right now. He did a lot of good things for Missouri basketball. Hate him for how he left, but that doesn't change the fact that his five years here had far more ups than downs.
cmizzou asks: This year's teams is very senior heavy and that has resulted in a lot of success on the court. Comments from the team about being unselfish are heard a lot. With that being said next year looks like a team made up of players who left their other teams. From a chemistry standpoint do you think we take a step back next year while everyone jells or does the leadership of Phlip and Dixon keep us on track?
First off, all of the seniors should have given people who thought Missouri would have to fight and claw to make the tournament (like me) a clue. You just don't see many teams with that kind of experience and maturity. And I do think it is a big-time underrated factor in Missouri's start. As far as next year, it's impossible to project, especially because I've never even so much as spoken to Jabari Brown and can't profess to know much about Keion Bell, Ernest Ross or any of the incoming recruits off the court. Chemistry is important. Is it as important as talent? Probably not. But it is a big deal. Bottom line, at this point, I think Frank Haith has earned from the fans the right to decide who fits in his program and who doesn't. We'll see.
bleedblack/gold asks: Can you give us early predictions on who the starters wil be next year at each position and your assessment of next year's team?
I'm not sure which sport you're talking about, but since I have time, I'll give you both. I'll start with basketball because it will take less time.
Phil Pressey will start. I would think Mike Dixon will too, but maybe he stays in the role he's currently got. If he stays as the sixth man, that means two out of the three of Ross, Bell and Brown will be in the lineup (at least). Bowers is going to start at the four. If the Tigers would get Khem Birch, he'd have a great shot to be a starter during SEC play, but Tony Criswell could be a factor as well there. You could see the four guard look, but I think if you get Birch, it gives you the ability to play a more traditional lineup with two big men and Ross at the three. I think the team certainly has a shot to be pretty good again next year, perhaps the second-best team in the SEC.
Now, for football, I'll just run down my projected starters on each side of the ball.
TB: K. Lawrence
WR: Moe, Lucas, Washington
TE: Unsure. Depends on if they sign a certain kid out of Springfield
OL: Britt, Hill, Morse, Ruth, Meiners (I don't think Fisher is coming back)
DL: Madison, Richardson, Vincent, Sam
LB: Gooden, Ebner, Wilson
DB: Gaines, Edwards, Walker, Webb
As for how that Tiger team will do, it's largely dependent on Franklin. Does he get better? Is he more consistent? If he is, and depending on the schedule, Missouri can be in contention for the SEC East title. If he's not, they'll be about like they were this year, a seven-win team.
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