The Tiger War: Who Wins Out

The 10th seeded Missouri Tigers meet up in Buffalo to face the 7th seeded Clemson Tigers.  The teams play similar styles with different ways of pressing.  Both rely on a fast-paced game, good shot selection, and using the full court to lead the way to victory.  In fact some might even say Clemson is the Missouri of the ACC. 

These similar styles will work in Mizzou's benefit and work against Mizzou as well.  First of all, Mizzou runs more smoothly and effectively when the other team isn't trying to create a half-court offense.  Essentially, Mizzou won't even have to try and run the game they want to play, because the other team is willing to concede.

Another positive is Mizzou plays faster and has more depth than the Clemson Tigers.  While Mizzou does not rely on any one player (except maybe Keith Ramsey/Laurence Bowers to fill big man hole), Clemson heavily depends on Trevor Booker.  Which leads me to the weaknesses.

Booker is not a real good matchup, and you've probably already had this sucked out of you if you've read anything ESPN puts out.  But he's tall, can shoot long range, and can dominate a game.  In fact, the only real problem with Booker is that sometimes he's not totally into the game.  Its like he doesn't care.  I'm pretty sure Clemson won't have that problem tomorrow. 

What is Mizzou to do?  Well, my strategy would be to stop everyone else.  Sure you have to stop Booker, but at some point just allow Booker to do what he'll do, and stop everyone else.  He can't score 80 points alone for Clemson, but if Mizzou were to focus on Booker, I'm sure he'd still do what he does, but some other scorer will free up.

Another weakness is Clemson plays much the same as Mizzou - they aim to play a fullcourt offense and if they manage to stay out of halfcourt offense, they usually succeed.  Well, tomorrow Mizzou isn't even going to attempt to stop them, otherwise it would be counterintuitive, effectively eliminating Mizzou's offense. 

Which leads me to the X Factor, stats-wise, in this game.  Whoever makes the highest percentage of shots will likely win.  Now Clemson doesn't force as many turnovers as Mizzou so I'm assuming a 5% differential will be sustainable, but if Mizzou is able to win the percentage battle on shots, they'll win.  Plain and simple. 

The X-Factor is Marcus Denmon.  When he makes shots, Mizzou wins.  Almost every time.  He didn't shoot well against Kansas (either time), Kansas State (in fact awful), and not Iowa State (although noone really did).

And for those who think Mizzou is a different team without Justin Safford, let me retort.  The Tigers (Mizzou that is) are grabbing more rebounds, because - SURPRISE - the 6'7 forward in a guard's body is actually a nuisance on the boards.  Offensively, we are scoring less per game without him.  But then again we did play Kansas and Kansas State in two of the four games without him.

Not to mention, Kim English, Zaire Taylor, and Marcus Denmon have not played well in his absence.  You could argue its his missing presence, but I seriously doubt it.  These guys need to step up. 

I'll leave you with one last stat.  Mizzou's trio of shooters shoots 28% against defenses ranked #1-100 in three point shooting.  Clemson is #12.  Richmond is #10, who we lost to, and Old Dominion is #18, who we very nearly lost to.  We won't get away with it against Clemson though so its important for them to make their shots.  They did shoot 50% against #63 ranked Illinois in that category so things can change.

My Final Prediction - Mizzou by 4

Stat to Remember - Clemson, #12 ranked three point defense - Mizzou's trio shoots 28% against #1-100
X Factor (Stat) - Shooting Percentage
X Factor (Player) - Marcus Denmon

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