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Hoops Preview: Missouri can get right against an experienced, but flawed, Wofford

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Wofford returns a lot of players from last year’s NCAA Tournament team, but has struggled against upper-tier opponents so far.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Second Round-Wofford vs Kentucky Matt Stamey-USA TODAY Sports

In last week’s Xavier preview, we noted that Missouri would use the Musketeers as a sort of early measuring stick. How they performed in Cincinnati would show us where Missouri stands in the national ladder and what they still have to do to climb higher.

After nearly upsetting Xavier on their home court, it’s clear Missouri is much better than the team national analysts hastily dismissed this offseason. However, there’s still some work to be done before the Tigers get into the real meat of their non-conference schedule. Much like Northern Kentucky, the Wofford Terriers offer Missouri the chance to play a team that shouldn’t offer too much of a challenge, but won’t roll over and play dead either.

Wofford comes to Columbia on a two-game losing streak and in still trying to find their identity. The Terriers were one of the nation’s best unknowns last year, ending the year at 18 in KenPom and only missing the Sweet 16 by six points. However, they said goodbye to Fletcher Magee, their two-time Southern Conference Player of the Year, and Cameron Jackson, both of whom have continued their basketball careers in Europe.

While Wofford might not be the threat they were last year, first year head coach Jay McAuley still has a roster full of experience. Four of the five starters are upperclassmen and only one freshman has gotten any run so far. The Terriers traveled to Hinkle Fieldhouse to get whacked by Butler last week, so Mizzou Arena won’t be the first hostile environment they’ve seen this year.


The Scout

Starters

Position Missouri (2-1) Wofford (2-2)
Position Missouri (2-1) Wofford (2-2)
PG Dru Smith (Rs. Jr., 6'3", 203) Nathan Hoover (Sr., 6'4", 185)
CG Mark Smith (Jr., 6'5", 220) Storm Murphy (Jr., 6'0", 180)
WING Javon Pickett (So., 6'5", 220) Ryan Larson (So., 6'1", 175)
PF Kobe Brown (Fr., 6'7", 240) Trevor Stumpe (Sr. 6'5", 215)
POST Jeremiah Tilmon (Jr., 6'10", 260) Chevez Goodwin (Jr., 6'9", 215)

Note: These starting lineups are projected.

Wofford is just about the smallest lineup Missouri has faced on the young season, so it’s hard to consider where each of these players might be slotted to start. There is one thing for certain, though: the offense will run through Nathan Hoover. The senior has a 29.1 usage rate after four games and takes about 30 percent of the teams shots while sporting a lowly 3.9 assist rate. Fortunately for Missouri, Hoover hasn’t exactly been efficient — his offensive rating is only 83.7 percent. Storm Murphy and Chevez Goodwin are the other threats amongst the starters — Murphy is shooting over 60 percent from three so far, while Goodwin is the only real threat the Terriers have down low. Senior Trevor Stumpe has only shot nine threes so far, but has hit four of them, while Ryan Larson has been largely a non-factor in the offense.

When Missouri has the ball...

Missouri Offense vs. Wofford 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 102.8 (81) 17.2 (194) 46.3 (235) 20.6 (210) 25.9 (230) 34.3 (134) 25.3 (306) 52.4 (105) 75.4 (64) 2.9 (16) 7.1 (72)
Wofford 102.1 (256) 20.2 (352) 57.4 (327) 16.3 (295) 26.5 (125) 33.5 (219) 42.1 (333) 54.1 (270) 82.7 (348) 11.2 (105) 8.1 (222)

While we were all optimistic that Missouri’s turnover-prone ways were a thing of the past, last week’s tussle with Xavier proved the Tigers still have a ways to go. The Tigers were able to settle into a better rhythm in the second half, but Tilmon’s early foul troubles seemed to throw the Tigers off their game plan quite a bit. A discouraging early mark is the amount of unforced errors — after three games, Missouri ranks 288th in the country in non-steal turnovers.

Fortunately, Wofford’s defense isn’t much to worry about. The Terriers are at a severe size disadvantage against Missouri, with only Nathan Hoover matching up well with his counterpart. Chevez Goodwin has been strong on the defensive glass early on, but his match up with Tilmon should still be considered a disadvantage. If Missouri can get the ball down low, Tilmon should be able to cook early and open up cutting lanes for Missouri’s bigger guards, who shouldn’t have too much of an issue finding good looks over their much shorter defenders.

NCAA Basketball: Missouri at Xavier
Torrence Watson is looking to break out of an early offensive slump, and a lax Wofford defense could allow him some choice looks.
Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

What to Watch | Can Missouri break out of their three-point funk?

Missouri still hasn’t broken out as a three-point shooting team yet, but Wofford might be the cure to what ails the Tigers’ shooters. Wofford has been abysmal at guarding the arc this season, giving up a 42 percent mark. That deficiency, combined with the Tigers noted size advantage, should allow Missouri some open looks from deep, especially if they’re able to get Tilmon the ball down low for distribution. I’d imagine Cuonzo Martin would really like to see Torrence Watson break out of his early cold streak, so don’t be surprised if the sophomore gets a lot of looks from deep.

When Opponent has the ball...

Wofford Offense vs. Missouri 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%
Wofford 105.1 (58) 17 (170) 52.5 (79) 10.2 (2) 23.4 (298) 29.4 (206) 34.5 (120) 53.3 (82) 82.7 (8) 10 (222) 4.1 (4)
Missouri 86.5 (8) 16.3 (99) 36.1 (7) 21.4 (113) 19.8 (22) 29.5 (153) 21 (9) 38.6 (19) 65.4 (106) 13.2 (64) 10.3 (126)

As noted above, the Terriers are at a distinct (to put it kindly) size disadvantage, and that should work to Missouri’s favor on defense. Wofford gets more than 50 percent of its offense on two-pointers, but the Tigers size down low should force them outside for more contested jumpers and three-pointers. Aside from a lightning strike, Missouri shouldn’t have too much trouble avoiding disaster there — Wofford isn’t necessarily adept at hitting threes, whereas Missouri is one of the nation’s elite three-point defenses. The only big threat to watch is Storm Murphy, who has hit from deep at an unsustainable rate of 61.1 percent.

It seems like an oversimplification to say that Missouri’s size should be enough to cover them here, but Missouri’s size should be enough to cover them here.

NCAA Basketball: Wofford at Butler
Storm Murphy has been the Terrier’s most dangerous weapon so far, hitting more than 60 percent of his threes.
Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

What to Watch | Will the charity stripe be an equalizer?

Like the three ball, Wofford doesn’t get too much of its offense from the free throw line. But when you put them there, you can be assured they’ll make you pay as they hit nearly 83 percent of their free throws. Missouri has done a fine job of staying out of too much foul trouble this season, but a bad night from Jeremiah Tilmon or Xavier Pinson could be enough to keep the game close.


KenPom predicts...

Missouri 75, Wofford 63 | There are two versions of this game that could potentially play out. Version One: Missouri struggles to find their footing after a disappointing loss and ends up ceding a lot of ground to Wofford in what turns out to be a very tight game. Version Two: Missouri responds to Xavier’s loss by taking out their frustration by a physically overmatched team, and the game is essentially over by half.

Fortunately, it’s hard to see Missouri losing in either of these scenarios. The team has looked good enough — and has enough in the way of talent disparity — to keep our anxiety low.