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What to watch: Mizzou vs. Miami (Ohio)

This isn’t the kind of opponent you need to spend a lot of time previewing, because Mizzou should win big.

NCAA Basketball: Iowa State at Missouri Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

In lieu of a preview for the next few games, I think we’ll take a different approach for the pre-game piece, instead focusing more on Missouri.

Basically, Miami of Ohio is in a full-on rebuild. They’re 5-3, with no wins against a team rated higher than 209 in KenPom and losses to Hartford (330), Austin Peay (284), and Tulane (134). Their losses to Austin Peay (by 25) and Tulane (by 21) were pretty ugly. And against Mizzou, it should get ugly as well.

We’ve seen Missouri slog through a couple games before, so very easily it’s possible for this to be another Emporia State where nothing goes right... but even then Mizzou should still win. Here’s the picture via KenPom:

kenpom mizzou miami

So yeah, Miami is awful offensively, Mizzou has the length defensively to make it even tougher. Missouri is also pretty good offensively and the Redhawks... welp, aren’t. Miami has one player who has an offensive rating over 100. Missouri only has one player in their rotation below 100, and he’s at 98.

When their is a mismatch, you hope your team comes out and plays well and gets separation early so they can work on some other things. So what are we looking for when this game tips off tonight?

Getting Blake some consistent run

NCAA Basketball: Missouri at West Virginia Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Games against inferior opponents are opportunities for younger players to get the minutes they’ve missed so far in the season. Probably the guy you’re most counting on to figure things out is Blake Harris.

You can see right now when Harris plays his confidence is somewhat shaky, and part of that is Cuonzo’s reasonably quick hook on the freshman. If Harris was allowed to play through a few more mistakes he might actually begin to become the player Mizzou wants and needs.

He’s shown some growth at times but his freshman mistakes and lack of consistent playing time have limited him and what we could see from him. Ultimately this is a game where you’d like to see about getting him closer to 20-25 minutes of time at the point, and putting him in lineups with Jordan Barnett, Kassius Robertson and Jeremiah Tilmon on the inside. Surround him with your talent and see what the kid can do and hope to be surprised.

This next stretch of games leading up to the Bragging Rights game is the perfect time for Cuonzo and his staff to let Harris go a little bit and hope they get the needed returns.

Do what you do well

  • 18th in Eff FG%
  • 25th in ORB%
  • 38th in FTA/FGA

All of those with a top 20 strength of schedule will do you a lot of good. We know Mizzou is good in these areas offensively after eight games. To win going forward, as the schedule picks up, Mizzou is going to have to be consistent in these areas. The turnovers aren’t pretty, sure... but the Tigers are capable of overcoming poor ball handling results with efficiency elsewhere, and they do by getting to the free throw line, rebounding missed shots and robust 58% eFG.

If they want to keep shooting 40+% from behind the three point arc that would be just fine too.

Finesse your weaknesses

This isn’t fix, it’s not cover up, it’s finesse.

We’re close to being 13 of the way through the season. This team isn’t suddenly going to become Virginia or Princeton with their ball control. They don’t need to be.

Cuonzo Martin has had some good ball handling teams in the past, but this team isn’t going to be one of those teams. A true freshman is his most talented point guard, and Terrence Phillips 19.8% TORate is the lowest of his career. Jordan Geist has gotten a bunch of minutes at the point so far (along with Robertson) but he’s no lead guard.

Right now Mizzou is turning the ball over on 21.5% of their possessions. If they want to be a consistent top 40 team, or even a top 30 team (it’s possible!) that number needs to get down under 20%.

Not 14%, not even 18%, just a small fraction less than what you’re currently on pace for and things are good.

This version of the Tigers is clearly a work in progress but the improvement over last season is stark. They’ve been pegged as being on the bubble right now by ESPN’s Joe Lunardi.

Missouri still has a lot of work to do if they want to be a “solidly in” NCAA team. It starts with not screwing up against teams you should beat by a lot. One of those teams is Miami of Ohio tonight.