After a 13-0 start to the season against some fairly soft competition (schedule rated 275th per Sagarin), the Tigers take a major step up in competition as SEC play begins tonight when Tennessee comes to visit. While the guys at Rocky Top Talk predicting between a 6 and 12 point victory for the Vols, the Sagarin ratings say Mizzou by 7 including the home court advantage.
Before we delve more into tonight's game, let's take a look at how Mizzou got here. Mizzou's best wins are St. Mary's, Missouri State, and Colorado. These are the only current Sagarin top 150 teams the Tigers have played.
Leading the way for the Tigers as been all-everything freshman Sophie Cunningham, who leads the team in scoring and is second in rebounding and assists from her 2 guard slot. Jordan Frericks is second in scoring and has grabbed 108 boards to lead the team despite being only 6'1". She does an excellent job of reading shots and positioning herself.
One interesting thing to note is the depth of Missouri's bench. Look how evenly the minutes are distributed between the first seven bench players. This depth provides flexibility if someone is having an off night and against the competition to date, has provided the Tigers with a freshness edge in the fourth quarter.
Not surprisingly, the trifecta standings mirror the season-long stats:
By class, that's juniors 37, freshman 34, sophomores 6, and seniors 1.
So what does this mean as the Tigers face the Vols this evening? Tennessee stands at 9-3 on the year against the 24th toughest schedule so far per Sagarin, with losses against #7 Stanford, #8 Texas, and #43 Virginia Tech (all Sagarin rankings). The Vols best wins are over #9 Oregon State and #18 Syracuse.
The one common opponent the teams faced is Wichita State. Both teams went on the road for the matchup, with the Tigers notching a 57-31 win and the Vols winning 58-51. I don't know how much weight Sagarin puts on this common opponent or Mizzou's typically large margins of victory, but that might provide some insight into why those ratings favor the Tigers despite the soft schedule.
Tennessee is big, including a 6'6" player, and per RTT focuses on the inside game. Having watched about five minutes of them this year and considering that there are no stats to be found on the UT web site, we will have to leave the analysis to that.
Mizzou loves to play inside-out. While the Tigers will shoot the three, this is not last year's team. It will be interesting to see if the Tigers can have success inside against the bigger Vols. You all know that I'm not big on predictions, but I'm expecting a close game that could go either way. We will certainly learn something about Mizzou tonight either way.