Key Losses: G Jason Conley (10.2 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 2.0 apg). F Linas Kleiza (16.1 ppg, 7.6 rpg)
Postseason:NIT: Lost to DePaul 75–70 in the first round
Kansas City, KS/Coastal Christian (VA) Academy
Detroit, MI/Schoolcraft (MI) College
St. Louis, MO/Lafayette
Charlotte, NC/Transfer from Texas A&M
Criswell is long, lanky and versatile enough to play away from the paint. Douglas, a junior college transfer, gives the Tigers the backup point guard they've desperately needed. Watkins, a transfer from Texas A&M, will provide defense and depth in the backcourt. Lawrence, a recruited walk-on, also has a chance to contribute because of his outside shooting.
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Quin Snyder's once-lofty reputation has taken a big hit the past two seasons. Not only has a well-publicized NCAA investigation into recruiting violations tarnished the image of Missouri basketball, but Snyder has also failed to guide the Tigers to the NCAA tournament each of the past two years.
This season could be NCAA tournament or bust for the once-rising coaching star with the Duke pedigree. He's already heard calls for his ouster.
Snyder's climb back to the field of 65 became steeper when power forward Linas Kleiza surrendered his final two collegiate seasons by declaring for the NBA Draft. Now the team's leading scorer and rebounder will be wearing Denver Nuggets' blue instead of Missouri black and gold.
Add the loss of swingman Jason Conley to graduation, and the Tigers must replace more than 40 percent of their offense. "It puts even more emphasis on the other guys to come together," Snyder says of replacing Kleiza and Conley.
The Tigers must play more cohesively than they did a season ago; they don't have anyone as individually gifted as Kleiza to lean on.
Snyder thought he added depth along the frontline when he signed lanky 6-foot-9 forward Leo Criswell in the early signing period. But Criswell will be asked to take on a larger role right away because of Kleiza's departure. Criswell was a highly regarded high school player, but it will be awhile before Snyder knows if he is ready to contribute against Big 12 competition.
If he can't, 6-7 sophomore Marshall Brown, the team's most explosive athlete, will likely step into the power forward position. He backed up Kleiza last season and emerged as the team's top post defender. But Brown needs to improve on the offensive end, and his game may be better suited to playing small forward than in the post. He was Missouri's most successful 3-point shooter a season ago, making 37.9 percent from beyond the arc.
The bulk of the frontcourt points will have to come from the power forward position, because starting center Kevin Young has a limited offensive repertoire. He does give the Tigers steady defense and is a tough rebounder. He'll be backed up by burly sophomore Kalen Grimes.
Athletic guards Thomas Gardner and Jimmy McKinney have the potential to be impact players, but both appeared to be pressing throughout last season as they tried to fill Rickey Paulding's shoes as the team's top perimeter threat.
Gardner managed 10.4 points per game but shot a horrific 27 percent from 3-point range despite launching 196 shots. McKinney was even worse, scoring 7.2 points per game and making 25.7 percent of his 74 3-point attempts.
"Both of those guys have had flashes. They've had great games," Snyder says. "Either one of them, you can look at and see he's capable of being a first-line Big 12 player. But then over the period of games, do we get that level of consistency?"
It will be up to sophomore point guard Jason Horton to put Gardner and McKinney in positions to excel. Horton could be the team's best floor leader since Keyon Dooling manned the position in Snyder's first season, but he must improve his decision-making and become a more consistent perimeter shooter.
Horton will be pushed by junior college transfer James Douglas, who began his college career at Eastern Michigan and averaged 5.5 points and 2.3 assists in his only season in the MAC.
Sophomore Glen Dandridge gives Missouri a strong shooter off the bench, but he must improve his ball-handling and defense to see more consistent minutes.
With Kleiza, the Tigers had a chance to move into the upper echelon of the Big 12 Conference, particularly with Kansas and Oklahoma State enduring significant losses. Without him, it's just as likely the Tigers will fall in the conference standings.
McKinney, Gardner and Brown all seem better equipped to fill supporting roles than starring ones. Horton remains unproven as a point guard, and too much too soon may be asked of Criswell.
It will take Snyder's best coaching job to get the Tigers to the postseason for the seventh time in his tenure, and even then an NCAA tournament berth seems an unlikely achievement.