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November 24, 2012

Atlantis: What We Learned



PARADISE ISLAND, BAHAMAS--Missouri wrapped up three days in Paradise (literally) with a 68-65 win over VCU in the third-place game of the Battle4Atlantis. After sitting courtside for all three games, here are four things we learned about the Tigers...and one we didn't.

The Tigers will be tested: Frank Haith praised his team for a win against a scrappy VCU game saying it "felt like March." A year ago, many thought the Tigers were penalized a seed by the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee for a soft non-conference schedule. That shouldn't be the case this year after three days in a tournament that very well may feature eight tournament teams.



As Pressey goes...: Missouri has a lot of guys who can be good on any given night. But there is only one they are certain will be good nearly every night. The Tigers are inconsistent right now, but Phil Pressey cannot be. When Pressey struggles, as he did with foul trouble and turnovers against Louisville, Mizzou will look very ordinary.

A freshman will contribute: But it may not be the one many thought coming into the season. Negus Webster-Chan is solidly in the rotation and even got his first start on Saturday. He responded with 12 points, five rebounds and just one turnover against VCU's pressure defense. The other freshmen look to be a bit away, but Webster-Chan will have an impact this season.

Another leader is emerging: This team will be led by Pressey and Laurence Bowers. But the presence of Alex Oriakhi should not be ignored. It takes some guts to say what Oriakhi said after the loss to Louisville when you have played exactly five games with a team: "I honestly think we beat ourselves and I honestly think maybe this was what we needed. It shows we're not as good as we think we are and we've got a lot of work to do." But Oriakhi has been around the block and he's got plenty of credibility to call out his teammates.

And now, for what we still don't know:

When will Dixon be back?: Haith opened his post-game press conference by letting the media know Michael Dixon Jr. was still suspended for a violation of team rules and that he would have no further comment.

Haith acknowledged that there were plenty of rumors and allegations out there. And they won't stop anytime soon. The Tigers played three games in a big-time national tournament, but the biggest topic of conversation was the guy that sat on the bench in sweatsuits for three games. The rumors and speculation will continue...particularly if those parties directly involved choose to make this a public spat via social media.

When will Dixon return? Will Dixon return? Nobody knows and nobody even wants to talk about exactly why he is out or who gets to decide when he can come back. So, until further notice, the only addition to this team as it now stands that can be counted upon with certainty is that of Jabari Brown.

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