Missouri at Alabama preview: Wounded Tide could be dangerous if the 3s fall

Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

Alabama is probably without its best rebounder, and the Tide have fallen into a miserable shooting slump. But they take a lot of 3s regardless, and if the long balls go in, they could pull an upset.

Last Time

From Study Hall:

Bama's best scorers had nine fouls, and Clarkson and Ross went 17-for-20 from the line. This worked out as Mizzou hoped despite Rosburg and Criswell each fouling out in 38 combined minutes (and Jones and Post combining for three fouls in six minutes). [...]

This was a fun game to watch, especially in the second half. Missouri started well (starting up 7-0 is better than starting down 7-0 in my humble opinion), handled a couple of poor first-half stretches, handled unneeded adversity when Clarkson sat with two fouls, and put together a nearly perfect second half when Clarkson was back on the court. The Tigers had nine steals and played inspired ball for the first time in 2014. It was a nice reminder of the ceiling this team still has; now Mizzou just has to go out and remind us of its ceiling more often. Once every five games is, to put it conservatively, not quite enough.

9, 9, 6, 1, 4, 10, 6, 2, 3, 21, 6, 8, 4, 5, 10, 3, 1, 5, 3. In Missouri's last 19 games, only one has been decided by more than 10 points: its 68-47 pasting of Alabama on January 18. The Tide have been incredibly disappointing in 2013-14, but they've still been just fiery enough at home for Mizzou to be a little paranoid about this one.

Alabama Crimson Tide (10-16, 4-9)

Since last time...


Bama Opp.
Pace (No. of Possessions)
61.2
Points Per Possession (PPP)
1.00 1.15
Points Per Shot (PPS)
1.21 1.31
2-PT FG% 45% 50%
3-PT FG% 30% 34%
FT% 70% 75%
True Shooting % 50.6% 55.5%




Bama Opp.
Assists/Gm 10.4 13.0
Steals/Gm 5.1 5.1
Turnovers/Gm 12.0 10.2
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO
1.29 1.77




Bama Opp.
Expected Off. Rebounds/Gm 10.8 10.5
Offensive Rebounds/Gm 12.9 10.9
Difference +2.1 +0.4

Alabama is getting outshot and outhandled, but rebounding has saved the Tide at times. The problem: the Tide's only offensive rebounder is on "indefinite leave of absence." Without Nick Jacobs yesterday at Texas A&M, Alabama's offensive rebounding rate was 19%, far below its (mediocre) season average of 30%.

Ken Pomeroy Stats (Conference Play Only)

UA Offense vs MU Defense Ranks

UA Offense MU Defense Advantage
Efficiency 12 14 push
Effective FG% 11 10 push
Turnover % 7 12 UA big
Off. Reb. % 12 9 MU
FTA/FGA 8 10 UA
MU Offense vs UA Defense Ranks

MU Offense UA Defense Advantage
Efficiency 3 12 MU big
Effective FG% 3 11 MU big
Turnover % 4 8 MU
Off. Reb. % 7 8 push
FTA/FGA 2 7 MU big

Where the Tide have struggled of late

Is "everywhere" an option? They can't shoot (ninth in the conference in 2PT%, 10th in FT%, 12th in 3PT%), and especially without Nick Jacobs, they can't grab many second-chance opportunities. They're at least decent in terms of ball control and drawing fouls, but if you can't put the ball in the basket, that might be a problem.

Defensively, it's kind of the same story. Bama's not bad at everything, but they're really not good at anything. And their opponents tend to shoot a lot better than them -- their defense is ninth in 3PT%, 11th in 2PT%, and 14th in FT%. They try to stay aggressive on the perimeter, which means they foul guards; meanwhile, they're not big enough on the interior to be too aggressive.

Where they have been best

Again, this is a decent ball-handling team. And for what it's worth, Bama is fifth in the conference in 3PA/FGA, which means the Tide take a lot of 3-pointers. They don't make a ton, but we know the story with 3s -- they could just randomly start falling. (Case in point: Vanderbilt in Nashville.)

On defense, they prevent you from getting too many good looks from deep (fifth in 3PA/FGA), and they're decent on the defensive glass. That's about it.

Bama's Season Since Last Time

  • Wins (Team Rank is from KenPom.com)
    No. 76 LSU (82-80)
    No. 82 Ole Miss (67-64)
  • Losses
    No. 4 Florida (62-68)
    at No. 4 Florida (69-78)
    No. 25 Tennessee (59-76)
    at No. 46 Missouri (47-68)
    at No. 52 Arkansas (58-65)
    at No. 113 Auburn (55-74)
    at No. 126 South Carolina (66-67)
    at No. 139 Texas A&M (48-63)

Bama has won just twice since we last discussed the Tide, but those wins were semi-impressive. In Tuscaloosa, they took down two teams that have beaten Missouri. Against Ole Miss, Nick Jacobs went crazy (18 points on 9-13 FG with five offensive rebounds), and Retin Obasohan's defense (three steals, three blocks) helped to hold Marshall Henderson in check. And against LSU, Bama experienced one of those random "can't miss from long range" games. Rodney Cooper and Shannon Hale, 30% 3-point shooters on the year, combined to make eight of 12 from deep. A quick start and a ball-handling advantage gave the Tide the upset. The Ole Miss script will be tough to follow without Jacobs; the LSU script, on the other hand, is certainly replicable.

Bama Player Stats Since Last Time

Player AdjGS*/Gm GmSc/Min Line
Trevor Releford (6'0, 190, Sr.) 19.7 0.55 36.3 MPG, 19.3 PPG (54% 2PT, 39% 3PT, 87% FT), 3.4 RPG, 2.8 APG, 1.6 SPG, 2.6 TOPG, 2.7 PFPG
Nick Jacobs (6'8, 245, Jr.) 9.6 0.59 16.3 MPG, 7.2 PPG (63% 2PT, 50% FT), 6.0 RPG, 2.4 PFPG
Shannon Hale (6'8, 220, Fr.) 8.5 0.31 27.4 MPG, 10.4 PPG (38% 2PT, 27% 3PT, 65% FT), 4.1 RPG, 1.8 APG, 2.1 TOPG, 2.4 PFPG
Rodney Cooper (6'6, 215, Jr.) 7.8 0.26 30.5 MPG, 8.7 PPG (46% 2PT, 27% 3PT, 75% FT), 5.6 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.4 TOPG, 3.0 PFPG
Jimmie Taylor (6'10, 240, Fr.) 4.8 0.26 18.7 MPG, 3.0 PPG (65% 2PT, 33% FT), 3.0 RPG, 1.7 BPG
Levi Randolph (6'5, 205, Jr.) 3.5 0.14 24.4 MPG, 5.9 PPG (35% 2PT, 27% 3PT, 65% FT), 2.8 RPG
Retin Obasohan (6'1, 205, So.) 3.1 0.12 26.6 MPG, 5.3 PPG (23% 2PT, 11% 3PT, 70% FT), 2.3 RPG, 1.3 APG, 1.4 TOPG, 2.6 PFPG
Algie Key (6'4, 195, Jr.) 2.1 0.12 16.8 MPG, 2.3 PPG (30% 2PT, 50% FT), 2.8 RPG, 1.9 APG, 1.3 TOPG
Carl Engstrom (7'1, 265, Jr.) 1.5 0.14 10.7 MPG, 1.1 PPG, 2.0 RPG

* AdjGS = a take-off of the Game Score metric (definition here) accepted by a lot of basketball stat nerds. It redistributes a team's points based not only on points scored, but also by giving credit for assists, rebounds (offensive & defensive), steals, blocks, turnovers and fouls. It is a stat intended to determine who had the biggest overall impact on the game itself, instead of just how many balls a player put through a basket.

  • Highest Usage%: Releford (27%), Hale (27%), Jacobs (23%), Cooper (20%)
  • Highest Floor%: Jacobs (48%), Taylor (45%), Releford (43%), Cooper (34%)
  • Highest %Pass: Key (69%), Cooper (48%), Releford (45%)
  • Highest %Shoot: Jacobs (63%), Engstrom (59%), Randolph (43%), Cooper (40%)
  • Highest %Fouled: Taylor (19%), Obasohan (19%), Hale (18%)
  • Highest %T/O: Engstrom (22%), Randolph (12%), Jacobs (11%), Taylor (10%)
  • Highest OR%: Jacobs (28%), Key (7%), Hale (6%), Cooper (6%)
  • Highest DR%: Engstrom (18%), Cooper (16%), Jacobs (13%), Taylor (13%)

  • You almost have to feel bad for Trevor Releford, who continues to play quite well overall despite almost no help. He takes (and makes) good shots, he's one of the country's better ball thieves, he's a decent passer ... and it just hasn't really mattered. Bama has disappointed regardless. Still, he could catch fire and help Alabama make this a game.

  • I still listed Jacobs above, simply because his "indefinite" leave of absence could end tomorrow or next year. I highly doubt he plays tomorrow, but you never know. Without him, Missouri has absolutely no excuse for not winning the rebounding battle. Reserve guard Algie Key is now Bama's best offensive rebounder.

  • When we last previewed Alabama, Retin Obasohan was second on the team with 12.7 Adj. PPG. He has averaged 3.1 since. He still plays aggressive defense and could do some damage in that regard (depending on how the whistles are blowing), but his shooting percentages have been almost unrealistically bad: 8-for-35 on 2-pointers, 1-for-9 on 3-pointers. Massive slump. Hopefully it doesn't end tomorrow.

Keys to the Game

  1. The 3-pointer. Always, right? Alabama takes a lot of them and rarely makes them, but the Tide beat LSU because the 3s fell. If Bama doesn't get bailed out by the long ball, or if Mizzou matches Alabama's output here, it's going to be very hard for the Tide to get the win. But ... sometimes they all go in...

  2. The first two rounds. Via 3-pointer or some other method, one figures Alabama absolutely has to get off to a fast start here. The Tide were just embarrassed by a bad team in College Station, and they're probably going to come out swinging; if the semi-desperate haymakers land, Missouri could be in trouble. Alabama is certainly a "whole is less than sum of parts" team this year, and it could be a pretty dangerous team when desperate. Give Bama an early lead, and this could be a miserable game to watch.

  3. The glass. If Nick Jacobs indeed doesn't play, Bama has no proven entities on the offensive glass. We know Missouri's rebounding game has come and gone, but there are just no excuses here. If the Tigers get beaten on the glass by a Jacobs-less squad, it's almost certainly a pure effort thing. But prevent Bama from getting second chances, and you force them to get hot from the field. (See Key #1.)

Prediction

Wounded animals can be pretty dangerous, and there's a chance Alabama comes out pissed off and on fire from the field. I absolutely think there's a possibility for one of those annoying "home team gets hot early, takes double-digit lead in first 10 minutes, milks it for all it's worth and wins by three" scenarios here. But the odds are still in favor of a Mizzou win. The 21-point win in Columbia was misleading -- Mizzou's not that much better than Alabama -- but while the Pomeroy projection says Mizzou 69-68, without Jacobs I say it's more like Mizzou 72-62. But a one-point win would be fine, too.

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