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Hoops Preview: Temple is tough, experienced and Missouri’s last shot at a non-conference road win

If the Tigers want to keep any realistic hope of the NCAA Tournament alive, they’ll need to upset an experienced Temple team in their own building.

Temple V Belmont Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

What a week, huh? To put it more succinctly, what a week and a half.

The Missouri football coaching search — as we’ve covered extensively — is a downright dumpster fire. Recruits are decommitting faster than you can say “bag man,” and fans are openly questioning if we could soon be in 2017 Tennessee coaching search territory.

There’s also the fact that the Mizzou hoops season has verged into disaster territory over the span of three games.

Were the two games in Kansas City great? Of course not. Missouri looked overmatched against two of the better teams it has faced all year, and left itself with little wiggle room in the non-conference slate. But you could also see it as a moment of growing pains, one which would lead to some hard-learned lessons and sustained success moving forward.

Then... Charleston Southern. We’ll spare you any relitigation of that nightmare.

So here we sit, less than three weeks from Christmas, and Cuonzo Martin’s Tigers are looking very likely to be left off the nice list. They can’t shoot, they foul too much, their defense has turned into a remedy for cold shooting teams — it’s pretty much as bad as you can get right now.

At the beginning of the year, Missouri fans and media were the ones holding the torch for the Tigers. They professed, unlike their national counterparts, that Missouri was ready to take a step forward in the SEC, to assert itself as one of the conference’s upper-middle tier programs under Martin. A return to the NCAA Tournament was almost an assumed thing.

But Saturday’s trip to Philadelphia, once viewed as a luxury opportunity for a good road win, now represents a sort of seminal moment in Missouri’s season. If Missouri wants to keep any hope alive for the NCAA Tournament this year, they have to bag a W against the Owls. It shouldn’t be an impossible task, but it will be if Missouri looks anything like it has the past two weeks.

The Scout

The Starters

Position Missouri (4-4) Temple (6-1)
Position Missouri (4-4) Temple (6-1)
PG Dru Smith (Rs. Jr., 6'3", 203) Nate Pierre-Louis (Jr., 6'4", 205)
CG Mark Smith (Jr., 6'5", 220) Alani Moore II (Sr., 5'10", 170)
WING Javon Pickett (So., 6'5", 220) Quinton Rose (Sr., 6'8", 185)
PF Kobe Brown (Fr., 6'7", 240) J.P. Moorman II (Jr., 6'7", 205)
POST Jeremiah Tilmon (Jr., 6'10", 260) Justyn Hamilton (Jr., 6'10", 190)

Note: These starting lineups are projected.

Temple is deeper than an initial glance at the stats may have you believe.

Four of the Owl starters — Pierre-Louis, Moore, Rose and Moorman — all play upwards of 70 percent of available minutes, and all add valuable pieces to the Temple attack. Moore is the efficient shooter; Rose is the playmaking distributor; Pierre-Louis attacks the rim; and Moorman is the everyman who rebounds, distributes and will knock down an open shot if you let him. Hamilton only plays about a third of his available minutes and will get in foul trouble at times, but is more than just a warm body.

Off the bench, junior De’Vondre Perry is the sharp-shooter, hitting over 44 percent of his threes on the season. Junior Monty Scott is also a willing shooter, though he’s not nearly as efficient. Both will play more than 40 percent of available minutes.

Freshmen Josh Pierre-Louis and Arashma Parks will also get about 20 percent of the run, though neither presents a uniquely menacing threat. Parks’ height (6’9”) explains his ridiculous 27 percent offense rebounding rate. Pierre-Louis seems to be a bit of a usage magnet when he’s on the floor — he has the team’s highest rate at 29.7

When Missouri has the ball...

Missouri Offense vs. Temple 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 102.9 (112) 17.8 (234) 48.2 (204) 21.5 (274) 28.5 (162) 33.8 (136) 25.4 (338) 55.3 (36) 75.7 (45) 6.6 (58) 8.4 (118)
Temple 90.1 (26) 18.4 (327) 42.3 (17) 21.5 (88) 25.9 (101) 25.2 (60) 28.2 (44) 42.4 (34) 68 (124) 11.3 (79) 13.3 (17)
NCAA Basketball: Oklahoma at Missouri
The Tigers offense has been at its best when Jeremiah Tilmon succeeds down low.
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

What to Watch | How will the Tigers generate offense?

In almost every game preview, we’ve noted how the Tigers were an elite shooting team last year that was just looking for its bearings in the early goings of 2019. But until the Tigers show us differently, it’s no longer prudent to expect them to flip the switch. For whatever reason, the jump-shooting has gone in the toilet. So how else do the Tigers generate offense against a stout Temple front? Does Jeremiah Tilmon succeed in operating out of the low post? Do the Smiths find ways to get to the rim? Do Torrence Watson and Javon Pickett find cutting lanes? Do Kobe Brown and Tray Jackson finally break out? I’m asking so many questions because I genuinely don’t know. It’s not the most analytical approach, but the Tigers really just need to find ways to score other than putting up 30 deep balls and hoping they hit some.

When Temple has the ball...

Temple 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%
Temple 102 (132) 15.8 (43) 45.5 (284) 16.1 (28) 28 (178) 30.3 (207) 31.8 (203) 44 (299) 69.5 (186) 14 (343) 7.4 (49)
Missouri 91.3 (39) 17.9 (279) 43.8 (38) 20.5 (128) 23.6 (41) 30.6 (158) 30.1 (82) 42.9 (41) 72.9 (276) 9.7 (127) 9.5 (148)
NCAA Basketball: Missouri at Xavier
Mark Smith needs to lead the Missouri defense back to its early season self by cutting down on Temple’s three-point chances.
Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

What to Watch | Can the Tigers hold the (three-point) line?

The Tigers’ defense, once a Top 10 unit by KenPom, has become a sieve in the past three games, and it starts at the three-point line. Missouri’s last three opponents have shot just over 38 percent from the arc, including hot starts from Butler and Oklahoma. Charleston Southern, one of the country’s worst deep-range teams, shot just under 50 percent. Temple isn’t an elite shooting team, but our very own Matt Harris has called Missouri a salve for cold teams lately. If the defense can get back to early season levels of stinginess, Missouri should be able to keep things close against a relatively ordinary Owl offense.

KenPom predicts...

Temple 65, Missouri 61 | Two good defenses, two questionable offenses, they seem to offset and Temple gets the home court advantage bump of four points. But until Missouri can prove they can finish a game against a Top 60 opponent, it’s hard to pick them with any real confidence.