Missouri scored a much-needed win over No. 25 Arkansas at home on Wednesday to end a two-game slack, the team’s longest of the season. The Tigers will look to capitalize on the momentum this weekend when they host the SEC’s first-seeded team at No. 4 Alabama.
The Crimson Tide were ranked fifth in the conference preseason poll but have outperformed more than half the season. The team’s only losses that year came against No. 20 UConn and No. 15 Gonzaga. Their seven-game winning streak is currently the eighth-longest still active in the country.
Alabama head coach Nate Hafer will be looking to get his first win in Columbia, Mo., where he defeated Mizzou 3-0 during his tenure. Even when the Crimson Tide won the 2020-21 regular-season conference championship, the Tigers were one of their two losses in league play.
“We just have to change the narrative about Missouri, to be honest,” Oats said The Tuscaloosa News on Friday. “We just have to go out there, play hard, the first four minutes have to be really good.”
Missouri head coach Dennis Gates has said multiple times this week that he considers Alabama the No. 1 team in the nation. He will need his team at their best to get to the top.
“They’re weathered, these guys have experience,” Gates said. “They have a natural talent, they can take shots. They don’t just rely on one source of attack, they can get to the foul line. You can defend yourself. You can play different styles and different speeds. And finally, if you look at what they’ve done, there’s a tremendous amount of respect that we have for our program for theirs, just in terms of their playstyle.
TIP TIME INFORMATION
Missouri (14-4, 3-3 SEC) vs. No. 4 Alabama (16-2, 6-0)
WHEN: 5 p.m. CT
WHERE: Mizzou Arena, Columbia, Missouri
Television: SEC Network
SERIES: Alabama leads, 12-7
KENPOM PREDICTION: Alabama 87, Missouri 80
KEY TO THE GAME
1. Win the sales battle. Alabama is good at almost everything, but the team has a glaring crack in their armor: The Crimson Tide have a -3.0 revenue margin per game. Alabama coughs the ball back to 19.9% of its offensive possessions, which ranks 273 nationally, and levers the ball back to just 16.1% of its defensive possessions, which ranks 320, a bottom 50 mark in the NCAA. Four different players on the roster average two or more turnovers. Mizzou is bound to get caught up in a fast-paced chase in Saturday’s matchup, with both teams operating at high speeds. However, Alabama is an elite defensive team, allowing opponents to shoot just 41.4 percent with 2-pointers and 27.3 percent with 3-pointers. As the nation’s leading stealer, forced turnovers and scoring in the fast break for the Tigers will go a long way toward scoring.
2. Keep an eye on Brandon Miller. The Crimson Tide newcomer has changed the team’s evolution from a possible SEC title contender to one of the favorites in the league. Miller is one of 21 players in the country who accumulate 20 points a night. In his most recent NBA mock draft last week, The Athletic Miller’s Sam Vecenie entered the race with the fifth overall win. The majority of Miller’s points come from beyond the arc, where he starts 7.2 triples per game and knocks them down at a 46.2% clip — at 6-foot-9, he’s often able to get over the top of defenders to shoot those who come towards him. While he’s able to handle the ball in space, Miller isn’t as effective as a goalscorer in the arc, where he has scored 47.4% of his 2’s. To slow the rookie, Mizzou Miller has to run off the line.
“He’s a great player but at the end of the day he’s human,” said Mizzou, senior forward Kobe Brown said. “Everyone has a weakness somewhere, you just have to find it.”
3. Don’t miss out on free throws. Gates felt that one of his team’s greatest accomplishments in the 79-76 win over No. 25 Arkansas was making more free throws than the Razorbacks attempted. It will be a challenge to pull off the same feat against Alabama. The Crimson Tide takes 40.4 foul shots for every 100 field goals they attempt and makes 71.6% of them. More than a fifth of the team’s points this season have come from the charity strip. Four different players on the roster are in the nation’s top 500 for fouls drawn every 40 minutes. When facing another team with a notable size advantage, the Tigers must be careful not to get into trouble and give up easy baskets.
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