Friday, February 05, 2016

Game Preview - Missouri

Alabama returns to Coleman Coliseum for a 2-game home stand, beginning tomorrow at 2:00 with a match-up against the Missouri Tigers. The game has been announced as a sellout, but will also be televised on the SEC Network for those unable to attend. Both teams currently occupy a place among the bottom four teams in the conference standings, but, while there is energy and optimism within the Alabama program in year one under Avery Johnson, the feeling around the Missouri program is decidedly more dire as the program is undergoing a second year of rebuilding under head coach Kim Anderson. That rebuilding process has been made even more difficult by a self-imposed postseason ban that is related to an NCAA investigation into the program during the Frank Haith tenure.



67.4 PPG 67.1
67.7 OPP 70.5
.427 FG% .418
.402 OPP .419
49.9 EFG% 46.7
46.1 OPP 48.4
.334 3PT% .306
.329 OPP .349
.653 FT% .709
.675 OPP .699
40.0 FTRATE 40.0
38.3 OPP 38.8
35.3 RPG 34.8
38.0 OPP 36.7
28.2 OREB% 26.3
33.6 OPP 30.1
14.3 TOPG 12.4
13.0 OPP 12.0
21.0 TO% 18.0
19.2 OPP 17.5

There isn't one player on this Missouri team that will dominate the scouting report, but that doesn't mean they're a well-oiled, balanced scoring machine either; they are 8-14 (1-8) in league play for a reason. Not a great shooting team, they routinely go through scoring droughts that make them vulnerable to runs by their opponent and, as a result, find themselves frequently playing from behind (gee, where have we heard that before?), while lacking the defensive efficiency (currently ranked 150 by KenPom) to fight their way back into position to have a chance to win.

One player that has impressed me when watching Missouri is freshman Terrence Phillips (5'11, 175). Phillips is 4th on the team in scoring (8.3), but he leads the team in assists (3.0), and is the 2nd best 3-point shooter on the team (.359%). But it is the consistent energy and toughness he displays that impresses me most, and leads me to believe he will be a really good player for this Missouri program if he sticks around.

Phillips will likely be tasked with trying to slow down the "Belgian Bulldozer" along with Wes Clark (Jr. 6'0, 180 lbs), the leader of this Missouri team. Clark, a former 4 star recruit, has loyally toughed it out with the Mizzou program through this difficult time. Injuries have plagued Clark during his time in Columbia, but he's having a solid junior campaign (10.6 ppg, 2.9 apg, 39% 3-pt, 82% FT) and could present some problems for Alabama if his shot is falling. Other notable players for Mizzou include Kevin Puryear (10.9 ppg, 4.4 rpg) and Namon Wright (8.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg).

I don't believe in this day and age of parity in college basketball that one should take any game for granted, particularly in conference play. But there is simply no excuse should Alabama lose this game tomorrow to a Missouri team with one conference win, in the confines of Coleman Coliseum, in front of an expected sellout crowd. What small postseason hopes remain for Bama would likely be dashed should they lose this game so they need to approach it with a continued sense of urgency. Alabama will have the best player on the floor (Retin), a size advantage (only one Mizzou player available for tomorrow's game is 6'8 or taller) that should allow them to attack the rim at will, and better efficiency numbers on both ends of the court.

The major concern for Alabama entering this game is the health of the roster. Justin Coleman is expected to play despite struggling with turf toe, but Avery said today in his press conference that they were preparing as if they won't have Mike and Shannon available. Assuming both guys are not available tomorrow, that puts pressure on other guys (Justin, Riley, Art and Brandon) to step up as they did in Starkville. Jimmie and Donta also need to play well in this game. Their size advantage will present opportunities for each on both ends of the floor, but they must play smart and avoid foul trouble. Donta, in particular is primed for a massive game if he can just stay out of foul trouble. It's simple: if Alabama plays their usual A game on defense, and can find a way to limit turnovers, they should enjoy back-to-back wins for the first time in league play.

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