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Alabama at Missouri: Matchup advantages abound for both teams

Yeah, this one's pretty much make-or-break.

Kelly Lambert-USA TODAY Sports


I said this morning that all goals should be taken off of the table until Mizzou rights the ship. If or when that happens, we can assess the damage and figure out what's still possible. That said, if you want to believe/assume that the NCAA Tournament is still a reasonable goal, this game is as close to a must-win as you can get on January 18. If Mizzou falls to 1-3 in conference play (0-2 at home) before its toughest six-game stretch, then it's difficult to see a rebound happening both quickly and vigorously enough to get the Tigers into the tournament for the sixth straight year.

Alabama (8-8)

Pace (No. of Possessions)
Points Per Possession (PPP)
1.09 1.01
Points Per Shot (PPS)
1.33 1.21
2-PT FG% 52% 47%
3-PT FG% 34% 30%
FT% 70% 74%
True Shooting % 56.0% 51.7%

Bama Opp.
Assists/Gm 11.3 11.1
Steals/Gm 8.1 6.0
Turnovers/Gm 12.3 14.3
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO
1.58 1.20

Bama Opp.
Expected Off. Rebounds/Gm 10.3 11.3
Offensive Rebounds/Gm 10.5 11.8
Difference +0.2 +0.5

Unlike a lot of the SEC, Alabama actually played a pretty rugged non-conference slate. (The problem is that the Tide didn't actually win any of the tough games, as we'll see below.) But when you look at these raw stats, realize that they have come against a solid batch of teams. Alabama in no way plays quickly, but Anthony Grant's squad does force a ton of turnovers and prevent you from getting good looks on the perimeter. Their guards are ultra-aggressive on defense, which pays off at home but (in Mike Anderson fashion) does not play well on the road. In playing aggressive man defense, Alabama is vulnerable to solid offensive rebounding, and Mizzou could punish that ... if the Tigers can get an initial shot off, anyway.

Ken Pomeroy Stats

UA Offense vs MU Defense Ranks

UA Offense MU Defense Advantage
Efficiency 135 105 MU
Effective FG% 112 32 MU
Turnover % 164 313 UA big
Off. Reb. % 182 63 MU big
FTA/FGA 146 73 MU
MU Offense vs UA Defense Ranks

MU Offense UA Defense Advantage
Efficiency 54 58 push
Effective FG% 58 68 push
Turnover % 220 58 UA big
Off. Reb. % 39 242 MU big
FTA/FGA 23 192 MU big

Where the Crimson Tide are weakest

First, like Missouri, they are thin (229th in Bench Minutes) and not incredibly experienced (190th in Experience). On offense, they're a one-on-one team, ranking 301st in Assists Per FG Made. But despite that, they don't get to the line an incredible amount (146th in FTA/FGA), and they don't make a ton of the free throws they get (181st in FT%). They neither take nor make a ton of 3-pointers either.

On defense, they foul the ever-living hell out of guards. They rank 342nd in FT% allowed, which means they're sending good shooters to the line. And they rank 192nd in FTA/FGA, which means they're sending good shooters to the line a lot. And as mentioned above, they are quite often out of position on the glass, and they give up a lot of second-chance opportunities. The gamble, of course, is that they'll create enough zero-chance opportunities to balance it out. (Again, we know this style well from the Mike Anderson days. It's just in slow motion.)

Where they are best

They're a pretty long team (50th in Effective Height), and they really do create enough zero-chance opportunities to get by (18th in Steal %, 58th in TO%), at least at home. On the road, they just get called for fouls a lot. But beyond the turnovers, they also stick to you on the perimeter in that you don't get 3-point looks -- they're 24th in 3PT% Allowed, and they're 49th in 3-Point Attempts Per FG Attempt.

On offense ... they shoot 2s pretty well (96th). But really, that's about it. This is kind of a one-man show on offense. Or maybe one and a half.

Bama's Season to Date

  • Wins (Team Rank is from
    No. 90 Texas Tech (76-64)
    No. 98 Georgia State (75-58)
    No. 102 Vanderbilt (68-63)
    No. 172 Robert Morris (64-56)
    No. 187 Charleston Southern (59-45)
    No. 205 Mississippi State (80-61)
    No. 248 North Florida (76-48)
  • Losses
    No. 14 Wichita State (67-72)
    vs. No. 20 Duke (64-74)
    at No. 26 UCLA (67-75)
    No. 27 Xavier (74-77)
    vs. No. 46 Oklahoma (73-82)
    vs. No. 134 Drexel (83-85, 3OT)
    at No. 148 Georgia (58-66)
    at No. 181 South Florida (64-66)

Alabama played five top-50 teams in non-conference play but went 0-5. That they lost all five of those games by 10 or fewer points is encouraging, but they balanced that out by also losing to Drexel, Georgia, and USF (all away from home) and toying with the thought of losing to Robert Morris at home. This team has an incredibly strong identity, and it allows the Tide to stay close most of the time, but away from home, the key whistles go the other way. (And they better again tomorrow.)

Bama Player Stats

Player AdjGS*/Gm GmSc/Min Line
Trevor Releford (6'0, 190, Sr.) 19.6 0.58 32.5 MPG, 18.9 PPG (65% 2PT, 41% 3PT, 93% FT), 3.5 RPG, 2.9 APG, 2.5 SPG, 2.6 TOPG, 2.9 PFPG
Retin Obasohan (6'1, 205, So.) 12.7 0.39 32.3 MPG, 12.3 PPG (47% 2PT, 26% 3PT, 72% FT), 3.5 RPG, 2.6 SPG, 1.9 APG, 1.3 BPG, 2.2 TOPG, 3.0 PFPG
Levi Randolph (6'5, 205, Jr.) 8.1 0.26 31.4 MPG, 9.3 PPG (49% 2PT, 33% 3PT, 69% FT), 4.4 RPG, 1.8 SPG, 1.8 TOPG
Nick Jacobs (6'8, 245, Jr.) 7.0 0.32 22.1 MPG, 9.1 PPG (49% 2PT, 59% FT), 3.8 RPG, 1.1 TOPG
Rodney Cooper (6'6, 215, Jr.) 6.8 0.25 27.1 MPG, 7.4 PPG (43% 2PT, 29% 3PT, 74% FT), 4.5 RPG, 1.9 APG, 1.3 TOPG, 2.6 PFPG
Algie Key (6'4, 195, Jr.) 5.8 0.34 16.9 MPG, 5.3 PPG (52% 2PT, 71% FT), 2.3 RPG, 1.3 APG
Shannon Hale (6'8, 220, Fr.) 5.0 0.30 16.8 MPG, 6.3 PPG (62% 2PT, 35% 3PT, 41% FT), 3.1 RPG, 1.3 TOPG
Jimmie Taylor (6'10, 240, Fr.) 3.2 0.23 14.0 MPG, 2.1 PPG, 3.3 RPG
Carl Engstrom (7'1, 265, Jr.) 2.5 0.25 12.4 MPG, 2.2 PPG, 2.6 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 (26%), Jacobs (25%), Obasohan (23%)
  • Highest Floor%: Releford (46%), Key (44%), Engstrom (41%)
  • Highest %Pass: Key (54%), Cooper (53%), Engstrom (53%)
  • Highest %Shoot: Jacobs (64%), Hale (42%), Taylor (36%)
  • Highest %Fouled: Taylor (31%), Obasohan (20%), Key (16%)
  • Highest %T/O: Taylor (13%), Engstrom (13%), Hale (11%)
  • Highest OR%: Taylor (13%), Engstrom (10%), Jacobs (7%)
  • Highest DR%: Hale (17%), Taylor (15%), Engstrom (15%)
  • This is Trevor Releford's show. He and Retin Obasohan combine to average 31 points, seven rebounds, 5.5 assists, and five steals per game. They also average 5.9 fouls, which, again, can bite them outside of the home gym. But if Releford's on the court and not in foul trouble, he's probably the best guard on the court, at least unless Jabari Brown is knocking down a ton of 3-pointers or Jordan Clarkson is re-discovering his mid-December form.

  • When Bama is getting something out of the Hale-Taylor-Engstrom trio, the Tide are pretty tough to stop. These three bigs (well, Hale's big in size, though he hangs out on the perimeter a lot) are aggressive and are decent rebounders, but if the production's not there (and it's not always there), Bama gets really roughed up on the glass.

Keys to the Game

You're going to recognize these three. They're basically always the key for Missouri.

  1. The whistles. Alabama guards are pretty easily the most aggressive defenders Missouri has faced this year. If that means steals and sloppy turnovers for Mizzou, the Tigers are in trouble. But it could just as likely mean fouls and fouls and free throws for Jordan Clarkson and Earnest Ross (not to mention foul trouble for Bama's best scorers). How fouls are called will be incredibly important here ... as always.

  2. The 3-ball. This one doesn't need much explanation. Bama really only has one good 3-point shooter (Releford) and one decent one (Hale), but Vandy's general lack of overall 3-point success didn't prevent the Commodores from destroying Mizzou in this regard in the first half on Thursday. Mizzou needs to keep Alabama under about 35%, and on the other end, Mizzou needs to avoid forcing 3s. Alabama doesn't give you good looks, and the Tigers might be able to draw contact while driving; if Mizzou is settling for long 3s, the outlook gets pretty shaky.

  3. The glass. Mizzou has a huge advantage here, at least on paper. The Tigers had an advantage against Georgia, too, and it didn't really do much for them. But if Mizzou is getting shots off and avoiding a plethora of turnovers, the second-chance opportunities will be there. Regardless, with Mizzou's extensive ball-handling disadvantages -- I'm not even making that a key to the game because it's simply going to be a Mizzou disadvantage, no two ways around it -- it is imperative that the Tigers win the rebounding battle by a solid margin.


Because of home court advantage, Pomeroy projects a 68-64 Mizzou win. While I would prefer some sort of "We're back" statement win by a 75-58 margin or something, this team has given me no reason to think being greedy will pay off. So yeah, guys, just win. By any means necessary.