As the Missouri Tigers begin their 2011 campaign under new coach Frank Haith, let’s break down the team by position.  In this edition, the focus will be on the Mizzou guards, who will form the backbone of the squad.  Without senior forward Laurence Bowers, who tore his ACL in an off-season pick up game, the Tigers will employ a four-guard lineup this season and will need production from each one in order to compete for a Big 12 title.  The guards this year include Kim English, Marcus Denmon, Matt Pressey, Phil Pressey, Michael Dixon, and Jarrett Sutton.  New acquisitions Earnest Ross (From Auburn) and Keion Bell (From Pepperdine) will sit out this season based on the NCAA Transfer Rules.  In addition, freshman Tony Lester was suspended indefinitely earlier in the preseason for violating team policies.

Kim English: 6 foot 6, 200 pound senior from Baltimore, MD

Last Season: 10.0 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 2.0 APG

Without a doubt, English took a step backwards last season, as his scoring dropped from 14 to 10 points per game.  However, the stat sheet wasn’t the only indicator of English’s struggles.  In many conference games last year, he appeared to be sloppy with the ball, had poor shot selection, and never established a rhythm.  As a sophomore, he was a key component to a Tiger team that advanced to the Elite 8, as he presented a mismatch for many teams.  Despite being 6 foot 6, English is a pure shooter with beautiful form, and when he gets into the flow of games, he is as dangerous as any player in the Big 12.  He admitted last year that part of his struggles might have been due to his developing of bad habits over the previous summer while working with NBA players in his hometown.  Regardless, he is a classic gym rat who is hungry for a successful senior season and is a natural leader, coaching other players whether he is in the game or not.  English knows that he must be better this year, but expect coach Frank Haith to help him utilize his size more to his advantage in the team’s new offense, which should result in better production.

Marcus Denmon: 6 foot 3, 185 pound senior from Kansas City, MO

Last Season: 16.9 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 1.8 APG, which earned him a spot on the All-Big 12 First Team

Denmon has the most talent of anyone on the Tigers, and for being only 6 foot 3, is about as close to being a complete shooting guard as possible.  His accomplishments haven’t gone unnoticed either, as he was named to the preseason All-Big 12 Team, and was one of 50 players nationwide named to the preseason Naismith Award list.  He is the one player who the Tigers will look to isolate on nearly every offensive possession, as he is deadly from beyond the three-point line (44.8 % last year) and doesn’t take bad shots or force in tight passes.  In an offensive system that seemed out of control last season, Denmon was the one guy who could slow things down and take control of a game.  His only weakness is that he struggles to hit shots off the dribble–his lack of height forces him to alter his shot when he gets near the lane, which results in more misses.  His consistency will be imperative for the Tigers this year, but based on the few games so far, he seems to be in mid-season form already.

Matt Pressey: 6 foot 2, 195 pound senior from Dallas, TX

Last Season: 5.7 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 1.6 APG

Pressey was on the “second line” last year in former coach Mike Anderson’s fast-paced attack and is a solid defensive player who is best offensively when he serves as a distributor.  The biggest knock on Pressey from last year was that he took too many three pointers, many of which were ill-advised and early in the shot clock.  Among Mizzou’s guards last season, Pressey had the lowest percentage from behind the arc (A paltry 26.1 %).  In Mike Anderson’s so-called system of “organized chaos”, Pressey struggled to find an identity on the court, and it seemed as if he was just another guy sprinting up and down the court.  After transferring from the Ju-Co ranks after his sophomore year, he now has a year of experience with the Tigers, and should improve on both sides of the ball.  Because Mizzou is now using a four-guard lineup, Frank Haith will count on Pressey as his fourth starting guard.  If he can play smarter this season and stay active on defense, he can be a difference maker for the team.

Phil Pressey: 5 foot 10, 175 pound sophomore from Dallas, TX

Last Season: 6.5 PPG, 3.9 APG, 2.2 RPG

Much excitement surrounded last year’s arrival of Matt Pressey’s younger brother, Phil, who chose Mizzou based on close relationships with not only his older brother, but also Mike Anderson.  Luckily, the younger Pressey did not follow Anderson to Arkansas, and returns for his second season as the team’s starting point guard.  With blazing speed, ankle-breaking moves, and the ability to score from long-distance, Pressey seemed to be a perfect fit for Anderson’s system when he arrived on campus.  But as any freshman will experience, Pressey had his share of growing pains upon being handed the reigns as the starting point guard.  Like others, he was out of control many times on fast break situations and forced the ball way too much.  However, these mistakes are expected out of freshman, no matter how highly touted they are coming out of high school.  Haith’s system will allow Pressey to think and distribute the ball more offensively, while at the same time will let him use his greatest weapon on the defensive side of the ball and on fast breaks.  With a year of college basketball experience behind him, look for Pressey to show better discipline and decision-making in his sophomore campaign.

Michael Dixon: 6 foot 1, 185 pound junior from Kansas City, MO

Last Season: 10.2 PPG, 3.6 APG, 2.6 RPG

At the press conference following the exhibition victory over Central Missouri, Haith said that Dixon hates being called a sparkplug.  However, that’s exactly the type of player he is: Short, aggressive, quick, and passionate when on the court.  However, his biggest struggle last season was the inability to stay under control.  Similar to the Presseys, Dixon will benefit from having a more structured offense that will slow things down and allow him to make better decisions.  Unlike last year, when Dixon was on the second line, he will be featured as the Tigers’ 6th man, frequently subbing in and out with Matt Pressey.  Haith believes that this role will bring out the best in Dixon, and all indications point to both Pressey and Dixon receiving the same amount of minutes.  If Dixon can improve on his ball handling skills and shot selection, he will help the starting guards (who won’t be used to playing heavy minutes at first) stay fresh.

Jarrett Sutton: 6 foot 4, 190 pound senior from Kansas City, MO

Last Season: 0.7 PPG, 0.3 RPG, 0.1 APG

A fan favorite, Sutton only sees action late in blow out wins.  His biggest asset to the team is his hard work in practice to simulate the tendencies of opposing offenses.