clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Hoops Preview: Missouri matches up well with Oral Roberts

The Tigers will look to claim their last “gimme” win of the season before holiday matchups against Xavier and Illinois.

NCAA Basketball: Oral Roberts at Arkansas Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Before the season started — even before we knew this year’s Missouri Tigers would be without their best player for a second straight year — we knew the non-conference schedule would allow the Tigers something of an on-ramp to the more difficult portion of its season.

Now it hasn’t exactly been a cake walk to get to this point. After all, any team sitting at 5-3 eight games into the season doesn’t have much room to talk in that regard. However, coming off a two-game stretch where the Tigers had to grab at least one win, they beat the third best team they’ve played this year (at least by KenPom’s standards.) They followed up that win with a thorough polishing of UT Arlington, leaving one game sitting between them and the latter two-thirds of their schedule. There will be time to preview those games. For now, there’s still one game to go.

Coming into Friday’s matchup against the Golden Eagles out of Tulsa, we’ve seen a lot of encouraging signs that the Tigers may be hitting their stride, or at least whatever the best version of this team will look like. Jeremiah Tilmon has played three of his best games of the season against Temple, UCF and UT Arlington, scoring in triple digits in all three outings and not once surpassing three fouls per game. Jordan Geist has played through an injury and still managed to rediscover his outside stroke and carry more than three-fourths of team’s minutes. And while Mark Smith has regressed slightly, freshmen Javon Pickett and Torrence Watson have begun to carve out niches for themselves in the rotation as a dependable two-way starter and bench scorer, respectively.

What makes Friday’s tilt against ORU especially interesting is the reintroduction of a much-anticipated transfer that Tiger fans have yet to see take the court in any fashion.

The introduction of Santos to the lineup — while in small doses at first — will seemingly fit right in to the Tigers 3-and-D lifestyle, as the transfer wing was billed as a potential lockdown defender and above-average shooter from the jump. Santos could make Jeremiah Tilmon’s life a little easier if he’s able to effectively find cutting lanes and knock down some spot-up jumpers. We saw against UCF how the Tiger offense is much more potent when it works inside-out, and Santos’ size and athleticism should attract defenders who wouldn’t otherwise have to worry about getting bullied by Pickett or Watson.

It’ll also be interesting to see how Martin continues to use Mitchell Smith with the return of Santos. Smith has slowly been sapping minutes from Reed Nikko as he’s discovered his outside stroke, and the potential to roll out a big lineup with Santos, Smith and Tilmon has to be tantalizing for Martin, especially with capable shooters like Mark Smith and Jordan Geist — and at least average ones like Pickett, Watson and Pinson — patrolling the perimeter. Nikko has been everything you could have wanted and more, but he’s probably in his best fitting role now as a minutes eater and break-in-case-of-emergency post presence.

Truthfully, Santos’ return allows Martin the freedom of having his “full” team back together, meaning some of the offseason work and strategy can now be fully implemented.

(I’m also hoping we can get some sweet dunks out of him in the near future.)

The Scout

NCAA Basketball: Oral Roberts at Penn State Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports


Position Missouri (5-3) Oral Roberts (3-8)
Position Missouri (5-3) Oral Roberts (3-8)
PG Jordan Geist (Sr., 6-2, 180) Kaelen Malone (Sr., 6-1, 180)
CG Mark Smith (So., 6-4, 220) Sam Kearns (Jr., 6-0, 190)
WING Javon Pickett (Fr., 6-4, 207) Aidan Saunders (Jr., 6-4, 185)
CF Kevin Puryear (Sr., 6-7, 238) Emmanuel Nzekwesi (Jr., 6-8, 240)
POST Jeremiah Tilmon (So., 6-10, 250) Kerwin Smith (Sr., 6-10, 225)

Note: These starting lineups are projected.

When Missouri has the ball...

Missouri Offense | Missouri won’t have the same height advantage - at least in the starting they did against UT Arlington, but it shouldn’t stop the Tigers from finding success on the offensive glass. Tilmon will have some size advantage on Kerwin Smith, but the real advantage will come for Kevin Puryear, Javon Pickett and Mitchell Smith, who have proven themselves at least moderately successful at creating second chances. This should help the Tigers cover for their two-point shooting woes against a team that isn’t adept at defending either.

ORU Defense | Nothing about the Golden Eagles’ defense stands out as especially dangerous to the Tigers. The three-point defense is especially concerning for Oral Roberts, who will face a Missouri offense that recently found its stroke. Oral Roberts should also give Missouri a reprieve from hard-nosed, ballhawking teams as they’re especially poor at creating turnovers. Usually, this is where I’d include a, “But...,” indicating something hidden under the surface. But there’s nothing to find: Oral Roberts defense is pretty much just bad.

Missouri Offense vs. ORU Defense

Team Adj. Eff. Poss Length eFG% TO% OR% FTA/FGA 3P% 2P% FT% Blk% Stl%
Team Adj. Eff. Poss Length eFG% TO% OR% FTA/FGA 3P% 2P% FT% Blk% Stl%
Missouri 106.1 (113) 19.2 (330) 49.9 (205) 21.2 (271) 31.9 (89) 33.6 (194) 37.9 (60) 45.1 (295) 66.7 (248) 9.4 (189) 9.5 (241)
ORU 111 (330) 17.7 (268) 54.1 (276) 15.5 (323) 30.6 (328) 35.1 (200) 38.0 (303) 52.5 (234) 78.9 (347) 8.7 (182) 6.1 (327)

When ORU has the ball...

ORU Offense | Production, thy name is Nzekwesi! The 6-foot-8-inch junior combo forward is the Eagles’ meal ticket when he has the ball, taking 30.3 percent of his team’s shots at a 52.4 effective Field Goal percentage. He’s not much of a threat from outside — 21.4 percent from three — but draws more than 4 fouls for every 40 minutes on the court, where he shoots about 77 percent. It’s the same formula that teammate Aidan Saunders uses — compensate for a less than ideal shooting line (32 eFG%) by drawing lots of fouls (5 per every 40 minutes.) Apart from working the charity stripe, the Golden Eagles feature two above-average shooters — starting guard Sam Kearns (41.9 percent) and freshman DJ Weaver (41.7 percent) are both dangerous from behind the arc.

Missouri Defense | The Tigers have cleaned up their foul troubles in recent games — looking at you, Mr. Tilmon — but they’d do well to not give up lots of free looks to players like Nzewski and Saunders. Much like on offense, the Tigers hold substantial advantages — or at least draw even — in every statistical category, and should be able to smother Oral Roberts early if they can avoid getting into foul trouble and leaving their depth players to defend some of the Golden Eagles’ better shooters. I’d look for Martin to emphasize crashing the glass and creating points in transition and on turnovers, where the Tigers may also be able to take advantage of a team that’s even worse than the at taking care of the ball.

Missouri Defense vs. ORU Offense

Team Adj. Eff. Poss Length eFG% TO% OR% FTA/FGA 3P% 2P% FT% Blk% Stl%
Team Adj. Eff. Poss Length eFG% TO% OR% FTA/FGA 3P% 2P% FT% Blk% Stl%
Missouri 98.4 (75) 18.3 (325) 50.2 (166) 19.4 (160) 24.8 (54) 30.4 (113) 34.9 (228) 48.8 (126) 64.6 (51) 4.7 (332) 8.0 (226)
ORU 99.5 (248) 16.8 (148) 49.1 (220) 21.7 (294) 26.8 (239) 30.3 (250) 32.1 (224) 49.7 (196) 66.0 (259) 8.7 (149) 11.2 (322)

KenPom predicts...

Missouri 77, ORU 61 | This will likely be the last gimme game on the Tigers 2018-2019 schedule, so look for Martin to firmly establish his substitution cycles while also allowing players like Torrence Watson and Javon Pickett to build on encouraging performances. I’d also expect we’ll see KJ Santos slowly get worked back into the mix, though it’ll likely be a few weeks until he’s occupying regular minutes. On a personal note, I’d love to see the Tigers get off to an early lead and hand the majority of the point minutes to Xavier Pinson. It will let Geist rest his aching back, and provide a safer space for Pinson to work out some of his more erratic tendencies without getting into too much trouble.