No. 4 seed Mizzou picked up one of the program’s biggest wins since joining the SEC in 2012 by beating No. 5 seed Tennessee in the conference tournament quarterfinals on Friday, 79-71. Now, the Tigers are entering uncharted territory as they will play in their first ever SEC semifinal.
They drew No. 1 seed Alabama, a team that destroyed them in their first game on Jan. 21 at Mizzou Arena, 85-64. Coincidentally, both teams have lost three games since then, with the Crimson Tide losing to Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas A&M — all coming on the road. Alabama looked like the reigning regular season champion on Friday in its tournament opener against No. 8 seed Mississippi State, defeating the Bulldogs 72-49.
Head coach of MU Dennis Gates said he’ll be up all Friday night watching every Crimson Tide game since the last time the Tigers played them to prepare for Saturday’s showdown. It should be an entertaining style matchup, with both teams looking to pick up points in a hurry, and each ranked in the top 100 in KenPom’s Adjusted Pace Rating and in the top 20 in KenPom’s Adjusted Offensive Efficiency Rating. Missouri will look a lot different to Alabama than it did last time, since the senior forward Kobe Brown missed the last match due to an ankle injury. The team will hope that the limited time to prepare will work in its favor.
“It’s a quick turnaround. It reminds me a little bit of AAU-style events,” senior player Nick Honor He said. “It’s going to be a fast-paced game. They want a goal, we want a goal. And we’re both tough defensive teams. So it’s going to be a shootout and a battle, so it should be exciting.”
TIP TIME INFORMATION
Missouri (24-8, 11-7 SEC) vs. Alabama (27-5, 16-2)
WHEN: 12 noon CT
WHERE: Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, Tennessee
SERIES: Alabama leads 13-7
LINE: Alabama -9.0
KENPOM PREDICTION: Alabama 86, Missouri 77
BY THE NUMBERS
BEST LINEUP OF LAST 5 OUTINGS (according to CBB Analytics)
Sean East II-D’Moi Hodge-DeAndre Gholston-Noah Carter-Kobe Brown
Minutes played: 12
Attack Rating: 156.5
Defense rating: 71.1
Net rating: +85.3
1. Win traffic margin. Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas A&M did something in common in their wins against Alabama: They forced the Crimson Tide to cough up the ball at a high rate. Alabama had 50 turnovers in those three games combined. For the season, the team has been slightly below average in taking care of the ball, giving it up on 18.8% possessions according to KenPom, which ranks 232nd in the country. The Crimson Tide coughed up the ball just seven times in its dominant win over Mississippi State on Friday. And in Mizzou’s game earlier this year, the Tigers scored just six points off 10 forced turnovers. In order to overcome Alabama, Missouri will need to get better pressure.
2. Run the Crimson Tide beyond the 3-point line. Alabama relies heavily on shooting and shooting from the outside to fuel the offense. According to KenPom, 47.6% of the team’s field goal attempts come from beyond the arc, which ranks ninth in the nation. The Crimson Tide are not a shooting team, connecting on 33.9% of their threes, but threes still account for 36.6% of their points this year, which ranks 33rd in the NCAA. Freshman forward and SEC player of the year Brandon Miller leads Alabama, making 40.5% of his 3-pointers this season. Against Mississippi State on Friday, Miller went 4-9 from deep as the Crimson Tide went 13-37 overall. The Tigers cannot afford to let their opponent get hot.
3. Get to the free throw line. Both the Volunteers and Aggies were able to wear down Alabama by taking more bad shots than the Crimson Tide. Tennessee went 16-25 while Texas A&M went 27-28. Alabama was 26-31 in the two games combined. When Mizzou went up against the Crimson Tide earlier this year, they surrendered 32 free throw attempts to the visitors, who made 25 of them. The Tigers went just 15-19. Alabama doesn’t do a great job of preventing opponents from getting to the stripe, committing 33.3 fouls per 100 field goal attempts. Missouri should try to use that to their advantage, especially going into what they expect to be a shootout game.
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