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Hoops Preview: Missouri wraps up non-conference play against Chicago State

The Tigers are riding high off of Braggin’ Rights, but will need to avoid another bad home upset to keep their momentum.

NCAA Basketball: Missouri at Illinois Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The end of the year — and the end of the decade — comes in less than 48 hours.

When you look back at the decade in Missouri basketball — much like we are currently doing with all sports here at Rock M Nation, boom, nice plug — what are the games that stand out to you? Maybe it’s the Denmon-fueled comeback against Kansas in 2012. Maybe it’s the home opener against Iowa State in 2017.

Or maybe, and this is where I tend to fall, you have a hard time shaking memories of the games that didn’t go well.

Norfolk State. UMKC. Charleston Southern. Cursed games, truly.

Tonight, the Missouri Tigers will wrap up their decade. They’ll have played 329 basketball games, including postseason tournaments. Regardless if they win or lose against Chicago State, currently ranked 351st in KenPom, they will leave the 2010s with a 55 percent winning percentage.

The chances of Missouri leaving tonight’s match up with another memorable game for the books is low — unless the Tigers hung 200 points it wouldn’t be a memorable win and KP only gives the Cougars a .2 percent chance of winning.

That being said... there’s always time for another one! Let’s hope we don’t leave the decade on a sour note, yeah?

The Scout

The Starters

Position Missouri (7-4) Chicago State (4-10)
Position Missouri (7-4) Chicago State (4-10)
PG Dru Smith (Rs. Jr., 6'3", 203) Xavier Johnson (Jr., 5'11", 160)
CG Mark Smith (Jr., 6'5", 220) Isaiah Lewis (Fr., 6'1", 155)
WING Kobe Brown (Fr., 6'7", 240) Rajeir Jones (Fr., 6'3", 190)
PF Mitchell Smith (Jr., 6'10", 221) Jace Colley (Jr., 6'7", 200)
POST Jeremiah Tilmon (Jr., 6'10", 260) Solmon Hunt (Jr., 6'9" 272)

Note: These starting lineups are projected.

I don’t remember the last time I saw this, but the entirety of Chicago State’s roster — with the exception of senior Christian Jacob, who plays 2.7 percent of the team’s minutes — is composed of juniors and freshman. Totally unimportant note, but I wanted to throw it out there.

The Cougars offense begins and ends with junior Xavier Johnson. The point guard from Dallas plays nearly 85 percent of the team’s minutes, gets a whopping 29.3 percent usage rate and takes over 29 percent of the available shots. He’s not incredibly efficient (52.8 true shooting percentage), but it’ll be hard to stop him from getting his points. This is especially true if he gets to the free throw line. More on that later.

Of course, there are other shooting threats to be wary of. Junior Ke’Sean Davis and freshman Isaiah Lewis both shoot over 40 percent from three, though Davis has only taken 11 shots on the year. Lewis, on the other hand, averages around two attempts per game, so his presence around the arc should be noted. Andrew Lewis, Amir Gholizadeh and Rajeir Jones are also willing shooters, though none of them are shooting about 31 percent.

Like Illinois, all of Chicago State’s players have turnover rates higher than their assist rates, and only Johnson and Isaiah Lewis are getting over 20 percent in the latter.

We’ll look at this a little more below, but the biggest strength the Cougars have going for them is their free throw shooting. Johnson and Andrew Lewis both draw more than five fouls per 40 minutes and are both just a touch under 90 percent from the line. A handful of other players are shooting above 70 percent and a few others are at 65 or lower. However, those two have shot nearly as many free throws combined as the rest of the roster.

When Missouri has the ball...

Missouri Offense vs. Chicago State 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 102.7 (116) 18.1 (269) 48.3 (213) 22.3 (303) 30.9 (95) 32.4 (156) 27.1 (339) 53.7 (53) 73.8 (71) 7.3 (72) 8.6 (129)
Chicago State 113.5 (351) 16.5 (49) 56.4 (334) 16.8 (316) 33.3 (323) 45.1 (336) 36.6 (298) 57.4 (336) 73.6 (305) 7.4 (224) 7.4 (295)
NCAA Basketball: Missouri at Illinois
Javon Pickett has been on a tear since coming off the bench. His offense will be key in avoiding another home upset.
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

What to Watch | Stick to the game plan, take care of the ball, avoid disaster

At this point we know what Missouri is. It’s a team that wins by hard-nosed defense, aggressive rebounding and juuuuuust enough offense to get by. When Missouri lost to Charleston Southern, they allowed the Buccaneers to shoot over 45 percent from three and lost the turnover battle by an immense margin. Yes, Cuonzo Martin should be looking to iron out the final kinks headed into conference play. But realistically Missouri just needs to avoid another Quadrant 4 loss to keep the momentum rolling.

When Chicago State has the ball...

Chicago State 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%
Chicago State 87.6 (347) 16.7 (112) 46.1 (284) 26.6 (351) 22.7 (316) 38.2 (56) 31.4 (235) 45.5 (287) 73.4 (80) 7.9 (121) 12.1 (337)
Missouri 89.2 (21) 17.8 (285) 42.2 (8) 22.1 (62) 24.1 (40) 36.7 (272) 27.1 (14) 43.3 (35) 75 (325) 9.1 (122) 10.4 (95)
NCAA Basketball: Missouri at Illinois
Jeremiah Tilmon’s foul woes haven’t subsided in his junior year. Can he avoid gifting Chicago State some free points?
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

What to Watch | Can Missouri avoid foul trouble?

When you look at KenPom match up grids, you see a lot of two colors: green and red. Green notes efficiency while red shows inefficiency. When you look at the grid for Missouri’s defense, only two things stand against them — free throw attempts to field goal attempts and free throw percentage. The Cougars don’t do much well with the ball, but they can get to the line. Assuming Missouri’s three-point defense holds (assuming doing a lot of heavy lifting there) the one way Chicago State can stay in this game is to have the Tigers gift them free points.

KenPom predicts...

Missouri 85, Chicago State 53 | There’s a 99.8 percent chance of victory here.

Should be pretty cut and dry...