Mizzou basketball season unofficially tips off Friday night when the Tigers host Harris-Stowe in an exhibition game at Mizzou Arena. Leading up to tip off, KBIA Sports Extra reporters Ross Taylor and JJ Stankevitz will be discussing what they expect from each of the members on Missouri’s roster this season.
Ross: The Missouri faithful had been lusting for an athletic big man to replace the duo they had in Leo Lyons and DeMarre Carroll. Kim English had been looking for his “ox” in the post. They all got their wish when Ricardo Ratliffe announced his intention to play for Mizzou. And with Tony Mitchell not qualified for the early part of the season, are the highest expectations of any newcomer placed on Ratliffe’s shoulders?
JJ: Most people who have yet to see this team play probably place the highest expectations on Phil Pressey, but anyone who’s seen Ratliffe play likely has some lofty expectations for the junior college transfer forward. While Lyons and Carroll were athletic big men, neither were the go-to low-post scorer that Ratliffe appears to be. He showed a great ability to get to the free throw line in the Black & Gold game last Thursday, and he has good touch around the rim. He’s fast—Mike Anderson said he frequently beat guards in sprints during pre-season practice—and has pretty good defensive ability, too. But maybe the best aspect of Ratliffe’s game for Mizzou is that he’s a fantastic complement to Laurence Bowers and Justin Safford. Do you see Ratliffe’s style of play leading to better production from Bowers and Safford?
Ross: How are we defining “better production” in this instance? I think Ratliffe will probably take opportunities away from Bowers and Safford, but what it’ll do is open up better looks for them and give them a chance to be more efficient. Fair guess is that Ratliffe could become Missouri’s primary low post threat, with Bowers and Safford playing somewhat complimentary roles. And, to speak generally, that’s what Ratliffe brings. If he lives up to expectations, he “completes” Missouri’s game. Is that too much pressure?
JJ: Not really. Mizzou is, for better or for worse, still a team that predicates a lot of its offense on jump shots. Having a real low-post presence like Ratliffe can suck defenders into the paint away from Mizzou’s guards and forwards, leading to more open jump shots for players like Marcus Denmon, Kim English, Bowers, and Safford. But Ratliffe doesn’t have to pass the ball every time he gets it in the post—he has the offensive skills to hit a shot or draw a foul. Mizzou had a lot of problems with zone defense last year, as Bowers/Safford and Keith Ramsey weren’t true low-post scoring threats. If they got the ball in the low post, often they would look to pass first, which meant defenses could easily guard the wings or perimeter to take away good looks for Mizzou’s guards. With Ratliffe, defense will have to respect his low-post scoring ability, which, like I mentioned earlier, should lead to more open looks for Mizzou’s shooters. So, yes, if all goes well for Mizzou, Ratliffe will “complete” the team’s offensive game.