The Big Three Needs to Become The Funky Four Plus One More
The trip to Vegas signified the end of the official cream puff portion of the schedule. Victories over the likes of Gardner-Webb are better than losses, but we are definitely in the more diagnostic portion of the schedule, for better or worse.
The past two games in Vegas have shown us that this team has a high ceiling, but a LOT of work ahead if it is to play to its potential.
1. The Big Three
I have no fundamental problem with a "Big Three" concept. We have seen successful college teams field a Big Three. Think back to St. Joseph's deep tournament run, fueled by Matt Carroll, Jameer Nelson, and Delonte West. I was in graduate school at Arizona during the title run with Mike Bibby, Miles Simon, and Michael Dickerson. The key is the players' versatility and complementarity. Mizzou has three wings in Jabari Brown, Jordan Clarkson, and Earnest Ross, all with versatility and complementary skill sets. So this thing can definitely work. If I have a critique of the group so far, it is that none are natural passers. Not selfish or bad. Just station-to-station. They don't really create easy opportunities for the other guys. Additionally, one of them--I would think Ross--must step into Keion Bell's defensive stopper role. Without looking this up, it sure seems like the best perimeter scorer for practically each opponent to date has had a pretty good game. The way to have a Big Three go up in flames is to have three guys that don't defend, but jack up all the shots.
2. The Little Two and the Bench
The "Little Two" has to fill out the box score with efficient (if low volume) shooting, rebounds, and good defense. I don't mind if Johnathan Williams III and Ryan Rosburg specifically don't score, but they cannot play over 35 combined minutes and contribute only eight boards. If rebounding is your one trick then that's gotta be there every night. For the most part it has been, but last night was disturbing. Nevada is not a big team, but kept our bigs off the boards. Their ability to hold us to one shot fueled their second half run. The bench is a problem that could really hold the team back. With no threat of instant offense from Jankovich, there are not a lot of options for points. I like our freshmen PGs, but both bring "orchestration" to the floor rather than scoring. I wonder if eventually, Haith does not gravitate toward a more traditional lineup, with Wes Clark, Clarkson, Brown as the three guards, with JW3 and Rosburg in the frontcourt. Bring in Ross to anchor the second unit while playing starter's minutes. Unless Tony Criswell improves markedly, I don't see how else Missouri gets any offense from the second unit.
If you want to improve offensive flow in the college game, calling more perimeter fouls seems like a particularly ineffective way of achieving that outcome. You may or may not get more points, depending on the vagaries of free throw shooting. At the same time, I have serious doubts about how flow is likely to improve (rather than just more teams playing zones). Although I agree with critics that say play has gotten too physical, that is primarily in the post. Yet most of the "new emphasis" whistles I see are on the perimeter or on the block/charge call. I thought Bruce Pearl struck the right tone in last night's broadcast (except when he tried to argue that Wes Clark committed a flagrant foul). A better solution is to shrink the play clock to :30, and I would add, institute a defensive three seconds violation. That addresses the fundamental problems, which are too much time and not enough space.
College offenses waste so much time it strikes me as obvious that they have too much of it. Five fewer seconds could get teams moving, maybe even running the ball up the floor after makes to initiate offense, without turning every offense into Loyola Marymount. Too much time wrecks flow and leads to quagmires in the post. Teams walk it up the floor and casually swing it around the perimeter while defenders are allowed to camp out underneath the rim. It's no surprise that games have no flow. Calling a thousand hand checks adds to the problem rather than addresses it.