SE Missouri-Missouri Preview

Frank Haith wasn’t the first choice to take over as coach at

Missouri, and he’s had to deal with plenty of adversity before his

team has even played a game.

Haith and the 25th-ranked Tigers will be without one of their

top players when they open the season at home against Southeast

Missouri State on Friday night.

After Mike Anderson left Missouri to join Arkansas at the end of

last season, the resulting coaching vacancy seemed an attractive

one. The Tigers were coming off a 23-win season and a third

straight NCAA tournament appearance, and set to return the bulk of

their scoring.

Missouri failed to get its top choice in Purdue’s Matt Painter,

then settled for Haith, who went 129-101 in seven seasons with

Miami including 21-15 in 2010-11. The Hurricanes reached one NCAA

tournament during his tenure.

The hiring became a more unpopular one when Haith was linked to

booster Nevin Shapiro in a Yahoo Sports investigation into alleged

corruption in Miami’s athletics program.

While the Tigers are standing by him, it remains to be seen how

Haith will deal with the absence of senior forward Laurence Bowers,

who tore his ACL in October.

Bowers averaged 11.6 points and 6.1 rebounds as a junior last

season, and finished second in the Big 12 with 62 blocked

shots.

“Losing Laurence Bowers obviously hurts our team,” Haith said.

“But I will tell you that our guys have handled that very

well.”

Missouri was the 10th-highest scoring team in the nation last

season, averaging 80.8 points. Haith plans to play up-tempo ball

again, but may need to rely on a guard-heavy lineup in Bowers’

absence.

Fortunately, the Tigers have a lot of talent in the backcourt,

led by senior Marcus Denmon. Denmon averaged a team-high 16.9

points in 2010-11, shooting 50.0 percent from the field overall and

making 82 3-pointers.

Missouri is also hoping Kim English can contribute more after he

averaged 10.0 points last season – down from the 14.0 he averaged

as a sophomore.

“He had a couple good players at Miami, but he has never had an

allotment of really talented guys like what is here,” English said

of Haith.

Southeast Missouri returns its top three scorers from last

season’s squad, which finished 10-22.

Forward Leon Powell led the Redhawks with 14.1 points per game

last season, led the nation with a 63.0 field-goal percentage and

averaged 7.7 rebounds, but his status is uncertain after he injured

his knee in an exhibition game Monday. An MRI showed no structural

damage.

After losing its first 10 games last season, Southeast Missouri

recovered to make the Ohio Valley Conference tournament for the

first time in four years.

“We were able to take that momentum in our summer,” coach Dickey

Nutt said. “That tournament gave us the momentum and taste in our

mouth.”

This is the first meeting between the programs since Missouri’s

65-64 victory in 1997. The Tigers lead the all-time series 5-0.

Missouri is seeking its 58th straight non-conference home

win.

The Redhawks haven’t faced a ranked opponent since Dec. 28,

2005, when they lost 89-64 at then-No. 6 Illinois.