Since letting a lead slip from its grasp against West Virginia, chances for Missouri to boost its NCAA tournament profile have been scant.
Just look at the current KenPom ratings for its last seven opponents:
- UCF: 74th
- Miami (Ohio): 257th
- Green Bay: 295th
- North Florida: 285th
- Stephen F. Austin: 137th
- Illinois: 89rd
- South Carolina: 74th
Assuming Illinois and South Carolina slip to the back of their respective high-major packs, the strength they bring to the slate will also dip. UCF knocked off Alabama last month, but the Knights’ candidacy for an at-large bid remains thin. Dominating the Southland Conference offers Stephen F. Austin a navigable path to an automatic bid but not enough juice to help Mizzou.
Reaching the halfway mark of its season, MU doesn’t own a win over on a KenPom top-50 opponent. While it’s not a metric the selection committee recognizes, it’s a good proxy measurement. Still, ESPN resident bracketologoist Joe Lunardi predicts Mizzou slips into the 68-team field, one of eight SEC teams projected to snag a ticket.
Meanwhile, CBS Sports’ Jerry Palm slotted the Tigers one seed line higher in his Friday projections.
So everything is hunky dory, right? For now. Conference play kicked off a week ago, and with it the mutation of resumes around the country. If St. John’s, Utah and UCF can’t find a way to push their way up the standings in their respective leagues, Missouri’s left showcasing a bland non-conference profile.
A deeper SEC, which Sam and I wrote about this week, offers more booster shots. That starts today when Florida visits Columbia. The Gators slumped a bit in December, but Mike White’s crew resembles Mizzou in one critical way: as jump-shooting goes, so goes Florida. And over UF’s last two outings, bombing away at a 53.6-percent clip from the 3-point stripe should tell you the Gators are just fine.
If you’re an avid follower of our musings, you’ve likely read our takes on Florida. But I’ll give a condensed version. The Gators are perimeter oriented, pairing vets in Chris Chiozza and KeVaughn Allen with a pair of transfers in Jalen Hudson and Egor Koulechov. Inside, UF struggled at times with center John Egbunu still recovering from a knee injury, while Kevarrius Hayes, Gjorak Gak and Keith Stone hold down the fort. Defensively, Florida is a tad more porous this season, slipping to 44th in adjusted efficiency from its lofty fifth-place spot a year ago.
You can take a look at KenPom’s break down below, but Missouri’s edge may come along the front line. Jeremiah Tilmon and Jontay Porter bring size, rebounding and rim protection, but a great scoring day—like Porter’s phenomenal outing on Wednesday—would go a long way. UF has struggled at times at protecting the paint and on the backboards. Limiting second possessions, creating more on the other end and generating high-quality looks at the rim, whether it’s Tilmon on a dump-off or Jordan Barnett on rip-and-go will matter.
Blake Harris’ departure on Friday, however, came at a poor time. We all know Missouri struggles to value the ball at times. Florida takes it away on 21.3 percent of its opponents possessions, ranking 66th in KenPom and residing in the same neighborhood as South Carolina. The key difference: Florida has the guard depth to punish Mizzou for being loose with the ball. Oh, and Chiozza is one of the better defensive point guards in the country.
While Harris struggled at times with giveaways, they could be the byproduct of trying to create offensively. Meanwhile, MU’s veteran guards in Terrence Phillips and Jordan Geist have struggled at times in the face on traps or teams whose defense uses deny concepts to apply steady on-ball pressure. Taking a hit at point guard isn’t exactly optimal.
Setting that discussion aside, Saturday offers Mizzou a chance a quality win and an opponent with enough chinks in the armor to be felled in Columbia.
- What does Blake Harris’ transfer mean for Missouri’s roster moving forward?
- Robertson and Porter were all Missouri needed at South Carolina
- SEC Non-Con Review: Part 1, Part 2
- The Watch: A tight SEC race
- MPJ: Still isn’t playing
- What we want to see from MizzouHoops in 2018
- PODCAST: Dive Cuts Ep 14
OPPONENT: Florida Gators (10-4, 2-0 SEC)
TIME: Noon, CT
WHERE: Columbia, Mo.
IS MIZZOU RECEIVING TOP 25 VOTES? No
WHAT DOES VEGAS SAY? Missouri -10, O/U 147.5.
WHAT DOES KenPom SAY? Mizzou 74, Florida 73 (Win expectancy: 54 percent)
WHERE TO WATCH/LISTEN:
- TV: CBS, Spero Dedes, Clark Kellog
- Radio: Tiger Radio Network // Sirius/XM -119/199
Facebook: Mizzou Men’s Basketball
Live Stats: StatBroadcast
- What percentage does Missouri shoot behind the 3-point line?
- Who has a better outing: Jontay Porter or Jeremiah Tilmon?
- Who sees the most time at point guard?
- (not a question but...) Predict the score!
- Who is your trifecta?