PowerMizzou – Tiger Tip-Off Preview: Alabama
No. 4-seeded Mizzou picked up one of the program’s biggest wins since joining the SEC in 2012 by defeating No. 5-seeded Tennessee 79-71 in Friday’s quarterfinals of the conference tournament. Now the Tigers are breaking new ground as they play in their first-ever SEC semifinals.
They draw No. 1 Alabama, a team they destroyed 85-64 in their first matchup on Jan. 21 at Mizzou Arena. Coincidentally, both teams have lost three games since then, with the Crimson Tide falling to Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas A&M – all hitting the road. However, Alabama looked like the reigning regular-season champion in their tournament opener against No. 8 Mississippi State on Friday, beating the Bulldogs 72-49.
MU head coach Dennis Gates said he would be up all Friday night watching each of the Crimson Tide games since the last time the Tigers played them in preparation for Saturday’s showdown. It should be a fun stylistic duel with both teams looking to earn points quickly, with each finishing in the top 100 of KenPom’s Adjusted Pace Rating and in the top 20 of KenPom’s Adjusted Offensive Efficiency Rating. Missouri will look very different after Alabama from the last time since the senior forward Kobe Brown missed the last meeting due to an ankle injury. The team hopes the limited lead time will work in their favour.
“It’s a quick transaction. It reminds me a bit of AAU-style events,” senior point guard Nick honor called. “It’s going to be a fast-paced game. You want to score, we want to score. And we’re both solid defensive teams too. So it’s going to be a shootout and a fight so it should be exciting.”
TIP TIME INFORMATION
Missouri (24-8, 11-7 SEC) vs. Alabama (27-5, 16-2)
IF: 12 p.m. CT
WHERE: Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, Tennessee
SERIES: Alabama leads, 13-7
LINE: Alabama -9.0
KENPOM PREDICTION: Alabama 86, Missouri 77
BEST LINEUP OF THE LAST 5 EXITS (according to CBB Analytics)
Sean East II-D’Moi Hodge-DeAndre Gholston-Noah Carter-Kobe Brown
Playing minutes: 12
Offense rating: 156.5
Defensive rating: 71.1
Net rating: +85.3
KEY TO THE GAME
1. Gain the sales margin. Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas A&M all have something in common in their respective victories over Alabama: They forced the Crimson Tide to spit the ball out at high speed. Alabama had 50 turnovers combined in those three games. This season, the team has slightly underperformed at ball care, giving away on 18.8% of ball possession, according to KenPom, ranked 232nd in the nation. The Crimson Tide coughed up the ball just seven times in their dominant win over Mississippi State on Friday. And in Mizzou’s matchup earlier this year, the Tigers picked up just six points from 10 forced turnovers. To beat Alabama, Missouri needs to push better.
2. Run the Crimson Tide from the 3-point line. Alabama relies heavily on taking and making outside shots to fuel its offense. According to KenPom, 47.6% of the team’s field goal attempts come from beyond the arc, which ranks ninth in the country. The Crimson Tide aren’t a knock-down shooter team, tying 33.9% of their 3’s, but the triples still account for 36.6% of the points they’ve scored this year, ranking 33rd in occupied by the NCAA. Freshman Forward and SEC Player of the Year Brandon Miller leads Alabama making 40.5% of his 3 points this season. Against Mississippi State on Friday, Miller went 4-9 from the Deep while the Crimson Tide went 13-37 overall. The Tigers can’t afford to let their opponent get hot.
3. Go to the free throw line. The Volunteers and Aggies were both able to wear Alabama down by firing 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 faced the Crimson Tide earlier this year, they gave up 32 free throw attempts to the visitors, who made 25 of them. The Tigers only went 15-19. Alabama doesn’t do a good job of stopping opponents from getting to the streak, giving up 33.3 foul shots per 100 field goal attempts. Missouri should try to use that to their advantage, especially going into a game expected to be a penalty shootout.
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