posted on December 01, 2012 12:18
The departure of Michael Dixon from Missouri is a sad, sorry end to what was supposed to be a transcendent senior season.
This column isn't meant to shed light on the two rape allegations that ultimately forced Dixon out of Columbia. Instead, two days removed from the chaos of the final allegation going public, this is about what Dixon's absence means for the basketball team as a whole.
Unlike the 2011-2012 Tigers, this year's incarnation has no shortage of depth. However, Dixon's absence leaves Missouri short at point guard. Phil Pressey is without his running mate, his vice president at the top of Missouri's absence. Now, freshman Negus Webster-Chan becomes the de factor second point guard, as the options behind Pressey are limited. Pepperdine transfer Keion Bell has the dribbling skills to man the point, but his erratic play early in the season, as well as a tendency to stall the offense when the ball reaches him, doesn't make him a likely candidate.
Another potential option would be utilizing a point-forward in some situations. Auburn transfer Earnest Ross could take that role to spell Pressey, as Missouri would go with two shooting guards, two forwards and Ross as the swingman/ point-forward. Still, it's a tough situation to install such a change-of-pace in the offense during the season.
But there's another concern that this Dixon situation seemed to make people ignore. The biggest question out there concerns Phil Pressey himself:
Can he handle the load without Dixon?
Pressey had a great year as a sophomore, becoming one of the best distributors in the nation. He was able to do that because Dixon could handle most of the scoring off the bench. This season, with no Dixon, Pressey has taken on the role of a scorer. He's averaging 15 points per game, nearly five more than a year ago, while shooting the same rate on field goals. His scoring output increased because he's taking more shots (exactly four more a game), and he's shooting better from three and from the free-throw line.
Yet there's a tradeoff with Pressey assuming more of a scoring role. His assists are a tad lower than last year, and he's turning the ball over 3.8 times per game, after averaging 2.4 a year ago. At the same time, he's averaging more minutes per game, and played a full 40 against VCU. That will continue in every close game the Tigers play this season.
Last year, Pressey could mainly focus on one thing -- passing -- as Dixon was the Robin to his Batman. Now, with no Dixon, Pressey is trying to do a little bit of everything. Because of that, Missouri's offense isn't nearly as smooth as it was a year ago.
There are no other options, however. Unless Webster-Chan matures exponentially quicker, Pressey is the only viable option at point in close games this season.
Pressey is the pre-season SEC player of the year for a reason. But Dixon made his life easier. Now, the burden of proof is on Pressey, to prove he's deserving all of the accolades he's received prior to the season.