After a big home win against Georgia, the Missouri Tigers are sitting at a respectable 12-4 with a 2-1 record in conference. They’ve done what they have needed to do so far in order to stay on the high side of the bubble, despite a few hiccups.
But their tough conference slate continues with a trip to the famed Bud Walton Arena on the campus of the University of Arkansas. Let’s get to previewin’!
Previewing your Shelter Insurance Sponsored Rival, the Arkansas Razorbacks
Mizzou fans should understand quite well the very Jekyll and Hyde nature of some Mike Anderson teams. In some ways this season’s Razorbacks might be the most Jekyll and Hyde of all of Mike Anderson’s teams.
They peaked in KenPom at 22 after their SEC opening win against Tennessee and in quick fashion have fallen to 36 after road losses to Mississippi State and Auburn, and getting trounced at home by LSU.
Arkansas’ losses have come against some good teams, but their non-conference losses to North Carolina and Houston were non-competitive. They lost by 21 to UNC, 26 to Houston, and most recently endured a 21 point loss on their home court to LSU, a team many picked to occupy the basement of the SEC this season.
So who are the Razorbacks this season? Are they the team who blitzed Oklahoma and Minnesota? Or are they the team who’ve lost three in a row including getting run off their home floor?
The Razorbacks entered SEC play looking better than I expected. I picked them 10th but having them at 8-10 in league play was really just a couple plays away from being 10-8. And it wouldn’t surprise me to see this team go either way.
They’re currently 11-5 after losing three in a row. And their losing streak means they’re just 1-3 in league play and in need of a win.
The Hogs are led by two senior guards and a freshman big. We probably should’ve known Arkansas was going to at least be decent because Daryl Macon and Jaylen Barford are terrific. They’ve been joined by a 4-star freshman Daniel Gafford who decided he was more than ready to answer any questions about their front court.
The high usage rates of those three causes a bit of an issue because the Hogs are not as deep as they’ve been in the past and are over-reliant on the big three playing well. If one or two of the trio of Macon, Barford and Gafford have an off night... it’s incredibly difficult for Arkansas to pull out wins.
Case in point:
- Loss to UNC: Barford 21 points, Macon 7 points, Gafford 5 points
- Loss to Houston: Barford 13, Macon 10, Gafford 5
- Loss to MSU: Barford 11, Macon 24, Gafford 17
- Loss to Auburn: Barford 10, Macon 21, Gafford 8
- Loss to LSU: Barford 17, Macon 9, Gafford 8
For context, Barford is averaging 18.8, Macon is 16.3 and Gafford is 11.8. Only one other Razorback player averages more than 10 points and that’s Anton Beard who is a little more of a consistent level player than the other three who are capable of so much.
Arky: Stats ‘N Stuff
What I said above holds pretty well when you look at the numbers. Mike Anderson has a consistent point guard and the rest of the offense relies heavily on the production of two elite guards and a high ceiling big.
When the Razorbacks get those three (or four) rolling AND they get contributions from guys like C.J. Jones, Trey Thompson, Dustin Thomas or Adrio Bailey they get dangerous quick. In a way those players are a little bit of an X-factor. If they play well, particularly at home it can get ugly for the opposition in a hurry.
- PG: Anton Beard v Jordan Geist
- CG: Daryl Macon v Kassius Robertson
- WING: Jaylen Barford v Jordan Barnett
- CF: Dustin Thomas v Jontay Porter
- POST: Daniel Gafford v Jeremiah Tilmon
I guess it remains to be seen if Jontay Porter sticks in the starting lineup after the Georgia game. That move could have been as much to try to get Kevin Puryear going as it was a move to matchup against the bigger more physical Bulldogs.
With Jontay in the lineup the Tigers advantages inside become more than prevalent. With Kevin Puryear the matchups are a little more lined up, although the Hogs will have a slight advantage at guard either way.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see Puryear head back into the starters role, but as long as Jontay is finding tons of minutes I’m happy. Plus I’m really looking forward to seeing the Jeremiah Tilmon and Daniel Gafford matchup. Hopefully the officials let them play a little bit so we get to see the two young and talented post guys who are still realizing their potential.
The matchup that worries me a bit is the Barford v Barnett. Jordan hasn’t been a consistent enough defender, and with Thomas in the lineup you could add another ball handler into the lineup and push Barnett to the four in order to hide him a bit and force tougher matchups for him offensively by forcing Thomas to guard him.
These are two high powered offenses going head to head. Defensively they’re both ok but not great, but the goal of their defenses are completely different. Traditionally people know Mike Anderson and the Razorbacks for the Fastest 40 minutes in basketball. The last few years Anderson has adapted this style a bit and they don’t press as heavily as they used to.
They still gear it up for runs and they’re unafraid to make you inbound against pressure after made baskets. But the pressure falls off pretty quickly.
It’s like they want to make you get the ball in cleanly, then they’ll just settle back and play defense. Mizzou’s ball handling has been suspect all season long and being on the road it would make sense for Arky to gear up and press as much as possible. But they also aren’t as deep which affects how much they CAN press.
Right now I think Arkansas needs this game more than Missouri does which could be the difference. I don’t expect this to get away from the Tigers though because of how poorly they shot against Georgia. Mizzou doesn’t seem to have multiple bad shooting nights in a row so you hope they shoot much better than they did on Wednesday and force Arkansas guards to keep hitting as well.
It’s easy to see this as a high octane game and despite Mizzou’s want to play at a slower pace than Arkansas preferred mid-to-high 70 possession pace, I can see this getting well into the 80s for both teams. But I’ll take the team who’s at home and needs the win, I’ll say Arkansas 88 - Mizzou 84.