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Game Thread: Missouri faces Georgia to open SEC tournament

Seven days after winning in Athens, will the Tigers put another hurting on the Bulldogs?

NCAA Basketball: Missouri at Georgia Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

How much has changed since Missouri put Georgia in a sleeperhold last week?

The day after the Tigers left Athens, Bulldogs combo forward Rayshaun Hammonds underwent surgery to repair a fracture in his right foot, squelching any hopes that an anemic offense would get a booster shot. That prognosis was confirmed on Saturday, when South Carolina treated Tom Crean’s squad as a pinata.

While there’s no guarantee MU will inflict a similar flogging today, the SEC tournament opener for both teams doesn’t offer conditions ripe for the Bulldogs to change the ending to this redux.

No, Mizzou isn’t going to pass on an opportunity inch closer to .500 overall, but its reward isn’t one that leaves you feeling giddy: a rematch with Auburn. You know, the other set of Tigers that laid a 34-point beating — the worst of Cuonzo Martin’s short tenure — on MU in late January. Now maybe another blowout of UGA is enough to stir some momentum that carries over into Thursday, but as it stands, there’s decent likelihood that the offseason arrives early tomorrow evening.

Over the past couple of weeks, Sam Snelling and I have tried to drum the message into heads that the latter stages of this season are about pushing young players as far down the developmental curve as possible. To a degree, that’s panned out. Torrence Watson is shooting the cover off the ball. Xavier Pinson tried to be a catalyst in a loss to Ole Miss. And while Javon Pickett’s back has been bothersome, he’s still a reliable presence in the rotation.

This week, Martin told reporters he also expects Mark Smith, who is recovering from his own season-ending surgery, to be back in fighting shape by the time MU starts offseason conditioning.

Exiting this season with a quartet of underclassmen fusing into a core counts as progress — regardless of what transpires in Nashville. No one would be opposed to them learning how to cope with a short turnaround and cause some mischief at Bridgestone Arena, but it’s not going to radically alter our assessment of this season.

We can fixate on four leads squandered and the resulting opportunities missed, but it’s also worth mentioning that Mizzou’s largely met expectations without Jontay Porter in the fold. Once the sophomore was lost, for example, KenPom’s model adjusted and projected the Tigers to go 15-15 overall and post a 6-12 mark in conference play.

They just missed.

So the expectations (and excitement) are modest tonight: take care of business and keep whatever momentum exists rolling along.

The Details

Opponent: Georgia Bulldogs (11-20, 2-16 SEC)

Time: 5 p.m. CT

Where: Bridgestone Arena; Nashville, Tenn.

Is Mizzou Receiving Top 25 Votes? Nope.

What Does Vegas Say? Missouri, -3

What Does KenPom Say? Missouri 68, Georgia 65

Where To Watch: SEC Network

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

Twitter: @MizzouHoops

Facebook: Mizzou Men’s Basketball

The Review

Recap | Missouri cant’ hang on against Ole Miss

Study Hall | Ole Miss 73, Missouri 68

Dive Cuts | Mizzou basketball turns its eye to the future

Five Questions

  1. Which Missouri freshmen will have the highest point tally?
  2. After Nicolas Claxton, who will be Georgia’s next best scoring option?
  3. Over/Under: Georgia scoring 29 points in the first half?
  4. (not a question but...) Predict the score!
  5. Who is your trifecta?