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Live Thread: Missouri vs. Vanderbilt

For the reeling Tigers, a win in Nashville can ease some growing anxiety about their postseason fate.

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NCAA Basketball: Missouri at Kentucky Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

A week ago, we were talking about Mizzou sewing up an at-large bid. Tonight, they’re clawing to stay off the wrong side of the NCAA tournament bubble.

On paper, this is a game Mizzou should win. If we moved the venue to a neutral floor or played it in Columbia, the Tigers would be better than a five-point favorite. But Vegas and KenPom both have it rated as close to a toss-up as possible. That’s life on the road in the SEC this season, where leaving your own building is a perilous adventure.

We can debate the root causes of MU’s recent plight, but one number sums it up: 330. That’s Mizzou’s ranking in performance consistency, per Haslam Metrics. Simply put, Mizzou is erratic. If you read Bill C. and Study Hall, that much is clear. Poor ball-handling and a reliance on outside shooting create lots of volatility — man, we’ve beat that word to death this year — night in and night out.

Jordan Barnett can dominate one half and disappear into the ether after halftime. Jeremiah Tilmon’s foul woes can limit his availability and rob MU of a post asset whose touches generate back line defensive rotations that Mizzou’s wings can’t create off the dribble. A handy signpost is Jontay Porter’s stat line. If he fills up the box score, Mizzou typically has a good night.

By now, we know this team’s flaws. The question is whether the body of work they’ve put together can withstand them down the stretch. This week, The Athletic’s Seth Davis published anonymous scouting reports ($) from coaches inside various conferences. Here’s how an SEC coach described MU.

Yeah. Sounds about right.

During the preseason, we talked about how Cuonzo Martin was trying to evolve, playing with more pace and fluidity. Obviously, circumstances forced him to revert — at least in terms of pace — to what’s familiar. That’s defense. It’s rebounding. At times, it’s doing just enough to keep the game winnable. This season, the byproduct has been a ton of nailbiters, often decided by whether Missouri can hold on to the ball and sink its free throws.

And at this point, it’s unlikely to change, barring Michael Porter Jr. rapidly acclimating to game speed down the stretch.

February has encapsulated this team perfectly. The only question is whether it can overcome its flaws for one more week and secure a pair of vital wins. That starts tonight in Nashville.

The Review

The Details

Opponent: Vanderbilt Commodores (11-18, 5-11 SEC)

Time: 6 p.m. CT

Where: Memorial Gymnasium; Nashville, Tenn.

Is Mizzou Receiving Top 25 Votes? Nope.

What Does Vegas Say? Vanderbilt -1.5, O/U 142.5

What Does KenPom Say? Mizzou 73, Vanderbilt 72 (Win expectancy: 53 percent)

Where To Watch: ESPN2/Watch ESPN app

Radio: Tiger Radio Network // Sirius/XM -119/199

Twitter: @MizzouHoops

Facebook: Mizzou Men’s Basketball

Live Stats: StatBroadcast

Five Questions

  1. Do we see Michael Porter Jr. tonight? If so, for how many minutes?
  2. Which will be higher: Mizzou’s turnover count or the number of made Vandy 3-pointers?
  3. On a scale of 1 to 10, how nervous are you?
  4. (not a question but...) Predict the score!
  5. Who is your trifecta?

MPJ Blotter

No Porter in the starting five. Not a shock. But until he plays, the mundane is worthy of an update.

Welp. False Alarm.