ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- Phil Pressey has, for the most part, silenced any concerns about his ability to handle national recognition and astronomical expectations- my own included.
The Dallas junior has led the Tigers through tough tests against Illinois, VCU, and Bucknell, and did everything humanly possible (including breaking assists records at Pauly Pavilion) to overcome UCLA.
Flip has played himself into the final 20 candidates for the Cousy Award, and his company is elite. However, his defining moment as a point guard and leader may come in the next two games.
With senior big man Laurence Bowers out of commission for a couple weeks, Pressey has another hurdle in his long road to march. The Tiger forward led the team in scoring, and was second in minutes. He was the Tiger finisher, a presence down low that spent every minute with last year's team, studying absorbing the flow of Pressey on the floor.
Beyond that, Bowers has been the rock the Tiger offense was built upon. He has been a steady-handed leader on the floor, remaining even tempered during slow starts and continuing to pour in points when the offense struggled to find rhythm.
As a point guard, Pressey has been free to play the position purely, solely focusing on creating points through his own shots or finding open teammates. Bowers has been the captain, while Flip has manned the guns.
That's not to say Pressey doesn't play with confidence while on the floor, but has not had to go it alone yet. This will be the first time Flip takes the floor without Bowers to help steady the ship. He will not only be the team's point guard, but it's leader as well.
If scoring dries up - and you can bet that it will- all eyes will turn to the undersized number 1. Pressey will have to recalibrate his game in Bowers' absence to ensure he thinks holistically, not just as a assist specialist.
Several top guards are facing similar challenges, and how each one responds will not only determine the fate of their teams, but their lasting legacy. It's easy to win when the pieces are in place. How do you respond when you lose a piece?
All the achievements and awards certainly indicate Flip is capable of bearing the new responsibility. If he continues to elevate his team without their stalwart big man, it would put him in a class of guard that the Mizzou fans haven't seen in decades.