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Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Bowers injury another blow to Mizzou

By Eamonn Brennan

It has been a rough offseason at Missouri. Former coach Mike Anderson left the program to return to Arkansas. Matt Painter excited fans by flirting with the Tigers before deciding to stay put at Purdue.

So MU athletic director Mike Alden turned to Miami coach Frank Haith, whose hiring was met with a tepid response. A few months later, in the wake of Haith's alleged involvement in the massive Miami scandal uncovered by Yahoo! Sports, that hiring looked even worse.

And now ... this. Just two weeks before the official start of practice, Eric Blomberg of KOMU-TV reported via Twitter that Mizzou forward Laurence Bowers would miss the 2011-12 season after tearing his ACL.

As far as actual basketball news goes, it doesn't get much worse for the Tigers. Bowers was one of two relevant frontcourt players returning, with Louisville transfer George Goode deciding not to come to Columbia after all and eventually landing at Fairleigh Dickinson. Ricardo Ratliffe is the only non-Bowers player that logged considerable time at the forward spot last season.

That means Missouri's guard-heavy lineup will have to adjust on both ends of the floor. On offense, the Tigers will probably have to play a hybrid four-guard lineup, with small forward Kim English sliding to the "power forward" spot in name only.

On defense -- well, it's hard to say what the Tigers will do on defense, especially when faced with sizable opponents. None of Mizzou's capable guards have the size or athleticism to compete consistently on the low block. Unless an unexpected solution emerges, Ratliffe is going to be on an island in the paint.

Making matters worse? Bowers was Missouri's best and most versatile defensive player -- he creates a high percentage of his team's blocks and steals -- and, for that matter, one of the best in the Big 12. Without him, an already suspect defensive team could truly struggle. It's just bad news all around.

This spring, when we learned that all five of Missouri's starters would return to the team, it seemed as though the Big 12 would be the Tigers' for the taking. They were talented, experienced and deep. Anderson's depature and Haith's arrival threatened that continuity, first stylistically (would Haith be able to mold this Anderson-bred group of players successfully?) and then situationally (what if Haith's Miami issues threw his season into question?).

With Kansas reloading, Baylor talented but young and Texas in rebuilding mode, this was supposed to be Missouri's season. But the hits just keep on coming.