Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Sleeping with the enemy-Mizzou

Our friend Josh Matejka from Rock M Nation kindly provided us with some insight into tonight's opponent below.  If you visit Rock M Nation, please abide by their site's rules and be a good representative of our University.  

It's been a turbulent year for Mizzou hoops, and much of it stems from a player who's not even on the floor. 

Jontay Porter - by all accounts, a first round NBA draft pick - returned to school for his sophomore year, but went down with an ACL tear during one of the Tigers' preseason exhibitions. It's the second time in two years Mizzou has lost its best player before the season can get started, and Jontay's loss might have been more impactful than his brother, Michael Porter, Jr.'s. Jontay checked a lot of boxes for Cuonzo Martin's team - he was the most consistent scorer, rebounder and passer from last year's team - so his loss left a lot of holes to fill.

The team has been about as good as Mizzou fans had expected, though. Jordan Geist has stepped up and become a solid SEC-caliber point guard. Mark Smith - a transfer from Illinois - has shot the lights out as a sophomore. Freshmen Javon Pickett, Torrence Watson and Xavier Pinson have all had their strong moments, especially Pickett, who has started all season.

It's been a tough start to SEC play though, mostly due to turnover and foul troubles. Missouri is a young team - their experience ranks 283rd in the country by KenPom - and is prone to long scoring droughts and unforced errors, leading to easy buckets for capable teams. It hasn't helped that the team's most talented player, center Jeremiah Tilmon, has his struggles with fouling. When he's on the floor, he's a terror - as evidenced by his streak of double-doubles in the non-conference slate - but that has been a lot to ask of him in the past 3 games.

The Alabama game represents the most appealing match up for Missouri in the early conference schedule. The Tide does a lot of its damage on the boards, but Missouri has the size to potentially even things out. And while Alabama does get to the free throw line a lot, which is not a good omen for Missouri, they don't force a lot of turnovers or guard the three-point line particularly well. If Missouri can do anything, it's shoot the long ball (15th in the country by KP), and that keeps them in a lot of games in which they are otherwise outmatched.

Ultimately, I wouldn't be shocked to see this game go either way. Alabama is the better overall team at this point, but Missouri has some good wins at home and will be motivated to prevent a three-game losing streak. I would probably predict a Missouri win, but it's closer to a coin flip than a sure thing.

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