Rock M Nation: Mizzou is woefully thin in the front court, but nobody has been able to take advantage of it yet. Mouphtaou Yarou seems like he's probably the best big man Mizzou has faced in 2011-12 -- can you describe his game a bit?
The Nova Blog: Mouph has been a big of an enigma so far in his career. He hails from Africa and has only been playing basketball since his latter years in high school. He's a big body with pretty good touch around the rim and is usually a pretty big force on the glass.
This season he has developed the 'Dante Cunningham' patented 12-foot jumper from pretty much anywhere. It's become a real weapon for him, but sometimes he falls in love with it a little too much.
He's a pretty good FT shooter for a big man, but the common thought with him is he out-thinks himself when he gets the ball on the low block. I'm excited to see him match up with Ratliffe. Mouph hasn't been challenged much this year, which has led to his strong start.
RMN: Villanova plays no seniors and a ton of freshmen. Are they showing typical "this is a really young team" symptoms so far in 2011-12?
TNB: Are they ever. Makes me want to bang my head against my desk. It's not even just the freshman, either. The juniors have never led a team before and it is showing (especially in the meltdown loss vs. Santa Clara). The freshman have actually performed admirably, though they'll need to step up if they want to hang with Missouri. Darrun Hilliard has played like a vet for most of the season, and the fanbase is pretty excited about him since he wasn't a guy a lot of people were after coming out of high school.
RMN: How good is VU's perimeter defense? The stats suggest they aren't forcing nearly enough turnovers this season -- do the eyeballs agree?
TNB: Why, do you like shooting 3's? If so, this game is for you. Our perimeter defense has been horrifying all year. Horrifying. I'm not overstating that at all. While some (myself included) have pointed to most teams shooting a ridiculous % from the outside against us that won't happen every night, it's fairly easy to do that when you're getting wide-open looks every other shot.
In the Big East, games are typically won in the paint. We're not used to teams bombing away from 3 (why we never play well against ND), and it feels like the 'Nova team is coached to protect and collapse the paint at all costs. This leads to wide open 3's. Which leads to me pulling out my hair.
RMN: Mizzou's four-guard look reminds me a LOT of the Reynolds-Fisher-Stokes 'Nova teams from a few years ago. How has the team's identity changed as Jay Wright has (evidently) focused more on depth of size?
TNB: It's gotten worse. The guard-first mentality is still there, except now we don't have 4 guys on the court who can both bury a jump shot and take you to the tin. Now we've got 1 guy who can do both (Maalik Wayns), one guy who is MJ one night and a ghost the next (Dominic Cheek), a 3rd guy who isn't seasoned enough yet to realize how much talent he has (James Bell), a 4th guy who is coming off a year away from the game (JayVaughn Pinkston) and your prototypical center (Yarou). And a bench full of mostly freshmen.
Wright needs to decide what his philosophy is going to be going forward. He doesn't have the guard talent right now to play like those teams from 3-4 years ago, and he isn't installing the system to allow his current group to take advantage of the skills they possess. He's got a real decision to make in the years to come. What kind of program will this be? Right now it's confusing as we transition from a guard-heavy team to a more balanced one.
RMN: Your turn: what's your prediction?
TNB: I'm always optimistic when it comes to 'Nova basketball, and we should have pretty good crowd support at MSG, but having watched Mizzou blow the doors off of Notre Dame, I'm admittedly scared shitless. I think this stays close for most of the 1st half, before y'all run away with this one. Wayns vs. Denmon will be a fun matchup though.
Missouri wins 86-73
Good luck (after tonight), Chris and TNB!