The doldrums get here soon enough.
The non-conference schedule was somewhat front-loaded for Mizzou, which makes a return to Orlando tonight for a meeting with UCF. The Knights are pegged as a likely bubble team for the NCAA tournament, but, as the KenPom data shows below, it’s been a bumpy start for coach Johnny Dawkins’ program on the offensive end.
Injuries are partly to blame. Point Guard B.J. Taylor went down with a fracture in his foot, while 7-foot-6 center Tacko Fall is rounding back into shape after tweaking a hip. At the same time, transfer guards in Terrell Allen (Drexel) and Dayon Griffin (Louisiana Tech) haven’t been able to deliver the kind of efficient production to carry UCF in Taylor’s absence. In the paint, A.J. Davis is a veteran but he’s not been quite the complementary piece Fall needs alongside him.
While Mizzou’s wings have been flaky early, Kassius Robertson and Jordan Barnett are coming off breakouts last weekend and, assuming the trend continues will be better than any wing UCF puts on the floor. Down low, Tacko Fall’s size is imposing. With Fall as a rim protector, the Knights are letting opponents shoot just 42.5 percent on shots at the rim, ranking third nationally. That being said, Mizzou has enough depth and diversity to stack up well.
A healthy and clicking UCF would normally pose a test on their home floor. Yet the group coach Cuonzo Martin and the Tigers will see tonight is one in flux. That’s not to say Mizzou can’t rejoin the bricklayers guild. And ballhandling remains a sore spot. However, Mizzou’s halfcourt defense has typically been sound and given the Tigers a chance.
Notching a road win would, frankly, bring MU to the same place many of us expected they’d be by the end of November. A road loss at Utah wasn’t shocking. Nor was a neutral floor defeat at the hands of West Virginia. But it’s how those losses unfolded—a cold-shooting blow-out and an eight-minute collapse—sandwiched around MPJ’s injury that’s rattled the collective conscious of the fanbase.
Heading into December at 6-2, though, would keep the program on schedule. The next three weeks feature four buy games and a date with a scuffling Illinois program in the Braggin’ Rights game. On Thursday, bracket guru Joe Lunardi still projected Mizzou as a No. 11 seed in March, which is where MU was slotted before Porter was announced as out for the year.
Halfway through non-conference play, every goal is still well within grasp. Getting a win tonight would be another positive sign that after some early turbulence, the Tigers have steadied themselves.
I doubt anyone is too keen on reliving this one—if you’re a masochist, click here—but we at Rock M Nation offer you the chance to do so.
- Study Hall: West Virginia 83, Mizzou 79
- Three Thoughts: Don’t count your chickens before they’ve hatched
- Missouri’s calculus at point guard isn’t simple
- Mizzou-UCF Notebook
On the latest episode of Dive Cuts, Sam Snelling and I tried to put a bow on the three games we saw at the Advocare Invitational and took a look at what Mizzou faces tonight.
Opponent: UCF Knights (4-2)
Time: 8 p.m. CT
Where: CFE Arena, Orlando, Fla.
IS MIZZOU RECEIVING TOP 25 VOTES? Not at all.
WHAT DOES VEGAS SAY? Missouri -4.0.
WHAT DOES KenPom SAY? UCF, 68-67
WHERE TO WATCH/LISTEN:
- TV: ESPN2, Kevin Brown, John Thompson III
- Radio: Tiger Radio Network // Sirius/XM -119/199
Facebook: Mizzou Men’s Basketball
Live Stats: StatBroadcast
- You can pick one center to build around. Is it Tacko Fall, Shawn Bradley or Gheroge Muresan or Yi Jianlian?
- Will you attend any home games before Braggin’ Rights?
- How many times does Mizzou turn it over tonight?
- Predict the final score?
- Who is your trifecta?