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Hoops Preview: Can Missouri exact revenge on Ole Miss?

Two weeks ago, Ole Miss dismantled the Tigers and sent them reeling to three straight losses. Can Missouri get payback in Columbia?

NCAA Basketball: Missouri at Mississippi Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

Two weeks ago, everything was going swimmingly for Missouri. They’d just handed Alabama its first SEC loss (albeit in unnecessarily dramatic fashion), they were ranked in the top 10 and were angling for a 2 or 3 seed in March.

Then they went to Mississippi. And if the last few years of Mizzou Athletics have tought us anything, it’s that you don’t go to Mississippi. Nothing good can come of it.

Ole Miss smacked Missouri 80-59 on Feb. 10, and the Tigers went reeling for the next 10 days. With Jeremiah Tilmon out for the following two games, the Tigers narrowly missed sweeping the Arkansas series and then dropped another clunker in Georgia. Three losses in a week and it seemed as if the Tigers were in danger of dropping out of the Top 25 altogether.

Fortunately, Jeremiah Tilmon came back, and guess what? It turns out Missouri is better with him! The Tigers restored normality with an easy win at South Carolina and retained their Top 25 status, if only barely.

However, the Tilmon absence doesn’t explain away the Ole Miss debacle — he was playing, after all. It’s hard to imagine he was referencing Tilmon, who reportedly had recently learned of his grandmother’s passing, but Cuonzo Martin spoke vocally about players not showing up in the post-game. It was a mess that took 10 days to fix, and Missouri can fully put it all behind them on Tuesday night.

Ole Miss, in the meantime, also went on the road and knocked off South Carolina for its fourth straight win. But in the process of positioning itself for a run at the bubble, the Rebels experienced a humbling of their own. Ben Howland’s Mississippi State showed up at their cross-state rival’s doorstep and promptly kicked the door in, leaving Oxford with a 66-56 win. Ole Miss’ momentum, it would appear, has come to a halt.

The last month has taught us a lot about Missouri, namely that they’re probably closer to the top 25 borderline than the consensus top 10. If the Tigers want to prove us all wrong, Tuesday is the place where it starts. Ole Miss put them in a hole and Missouri is fighting to crawl back up. What better way to complete the process than to turn around and shove the Rebels back?

The Scout

The Starters

Position Missouri (14-6) Ole Miss (12-9)
Position Missouri (14-6) Ole Miss (12-9)
PG Xavier Pinson (Jr., 6'2", 170) Devontae Shuler (Sr., 6'2", 185)
CG Dru Smith (Rs. Sr., 6'3", 203) Jarkel Joiner (Jr., 6'1", 180)
WING Mark Smith (Sr., 6'5", 220) Luis Rodriguez (So., 6'6", 210)
PF Kobe Brown (So., 6'7", 240) Romello White (Sr., 6'8", 235)
POST Jeremiah Tilmon (Sr., 6'10", 260) Robert Allen (Jr., 6'8", 230)

Note: These starting lineups are projected.

For a full scout of the Ole Miss Rebels, see our previous preview from the teams’ game in early February.

When Missouri has the ball...

Missouri Offense vs. Ole Miss 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 112.9 (36) 16.8 (121) 51.8 (91) 18.7 (150) 28.2 (164) 38.6 (31) 31.6 (267) 54.4 (39) 70 (198) 12.1 (339) 8.9 (154)
Ole Miss 92.1 (23) 17.1 (142) 49.3 (148) 24.4 (6) 27.4 (156) 33 (210) 36.8 (302) 45.8 (47) 69.8 (116) 11.7 (43) 12.2 (14)
NCAA Basketball: Missouri at Mississippi Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

What to Watch | Generate second chances

Mississippi’s defense is predicated on forcing turnovers, which will always be a problem for Missouri. However, the Tigers actually mitigated that damage in the two teams’ last meeting, turning the ball over only 12 times. They also didn’t shoot the ball that poorly, save from the free throw line.

What killed the Tigers, though, was its lack of rebounding prowess — Ole Miss dominated the defensive glass, only allowing the Tigers to snag 5 offensive boards. Cuonzo Martin’s teams have always prided themselves on defense and rebounding, and the last game against the Rebels featured neither. Be it put-backs, swats or better positioning, Missouri has to find a way to get more looks, especially if Ole Miss shoots as well as it did last time.

When Ole Miss has the ball...

Ole Miss 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%
Ole Miss 106.6 (111) 17.8 (243) 49.1 (214) 20.4 (248) 33.8 (31) 34.2 (111) 28.5 (333) 52.1 (86) 69 (230) 8.1 (126) 9.9 (247)
Missouri 96.5 (62) 16.8 (96) 47.8 (80) 17.5 (264) 28.9 (215) 36.3 (278) 32.3 (106) 47.5 (96) 70.4 (150) 9.2 (140) 9 (174)
NCAA Basketball: Missouri at Mississippi Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

What to Watch | Shore up the interior

Ole Miss is not a good offensive team, but you wouldn’t have guessed it based on Feb. 10. Ole Miss shot 67.7 percent from two, 42.1 percent from three, and 82.4 percent from the charity stripe. That’s 15.6, 13.6 and 13.4 percent above their season averages, respectively. Missouri’s defense, once elite at forcing tough shots, has cratered over the past month, and the drubbing in Oxford was a stark vision of that new reality.

However, even if Missouri’s defense isn’t great, it has to be better than that — especially in the paint. Jarkel Joiner and Luis Rodriguez were special pains, exploding for a combined 26 points on 12-15 interior shooting. Perhaps this means letting individual defenders slack off of them a bit more and trying for longer jumpers — at which neither is proficient. Then again, Devontae Shuler burned Missouri from deep, shooting 5-9 from three. Regardless of the ways they get it done, the Tigers must find a way to shore up the leaky defense. It doesn’t have to be elite to contain Ole Miss’ offense, but it can’t be disastrously bad... again.

KenPom predicts...

Missouri 69, Ole Miss 65 | Despite the thrashing Missouri took at the Rebels’ hands two weeks ago, this much is still true — Missouri is the better team. Tuesday not only gives them a chance to prove it, it allows them to distance themselves from one of their worst losses. Will the Selection Committee remember the loss in Oxford if they have a more recent game in which Missouri soundly handled its business at home?