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Hoops Preview: Missouri is looking for a spark in second match up with Texas A&M

Missouri needs to find any sort of positivity it can in this disappointing season. A win on the road would qualify.

NCAA Basketball: Texas A&M at Georgia Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Two weeks ago, Missouri welcomed Texas A&M to Columbia for what was supposed to be the start of a much-needed refresher. The first five games of SEC play hadn’t gone as the Tigers had hoped, but there was still some fleeting optimism that a strong turnaround in the middle of conference play could shine some light on a season that was falling to the dull, brute force of apathy. Texas A&M was the most winnable game Missouri had in conference play thus far, and a win would re-energize them heading into the Big 12/SEC showdown.

Instead, Missouri lost to the Aggies by two points. In the three games since, the Tigers have been 20-balled twice and mounted a ferocious comeback against Georgia what would have been another shellacking.

Missouri ends its season dual with Texas A&M in a much different place than it found itself two weeks ago. Just fourteen days separate the last embers of hope and the ashy coals of survival. Hope for what was supposed to be a triumphant return to the NCAA Tournament is effectively gone. Hope for postseason play of any sort is looking foolish.

All that remains now is to put on a brave face and charge forward into the future, hoping that some momentum will be found along the way. A win in College Station on Tuesday night would certainly help — wins are wins and they’re far more enjoyable to build upon — but it’s going to take more than a win against a sub-100 KP opponent to signal signs of progress moving into the home stretch of the 2019-2020 season.

The Scout

The Starters

Position Missouri (10-11) Texas A&M (10-10)
Position Missouri (10-11) Texas A&M (10-10)
PG Xavier Pinson (So., 6'2", 170) Andre Gordon (Fr., 6'2", 185)
CG Dru Smith (Rs. Jr., 6'3", 203) Wendell Mitchell (Sr., 6'3", 183)
WING Javon Pickett (So., 6'5", 220) Savion Flagg (Jr., 6'7", 223)
PF Mitchell Smith (Jr., 6'10", 221) Emanuel Miller (Fr., 6'7", 213)
POST Reed Nikko (Sr., 6'10", 240) Josh Nebo (Sr., 6'9", 245)

Note: These starting lineups are projected. I’ve slotted in Xavier Pinson as the starting point guard until Mark Smith returns.

For a full breakdown of Texas A&M’s roster, you can read back on my first game preview against the Aggies from earlier in the season. A few notes on the Aggies’ last few games to highlight some trends.

  • Wendell Mitchell has really been feeling himself in the past two games, taking 25 combined shots from beyond the arc. It might behoove the Tigers to let him air it out though — he’s only shooting 25 percent.
  • Quenton Jackson scored in double-digits in back-to-back games against Oklahoma State and Tennessee before falling back to 7 against Georgia. He has also fouled out in both of the past two games.
  • Josh Nebo and Emanuel Miller both notched 11 points against Okie State, but they’ve slumped in the following two games, combining for 22 points on 42 percent shooting.

When Missouri has the ball...

NCAA Basketball: Georgia at Missouri
Tray Jackson has had encouraging games as of late. Could he give the Tigers some energy on offense?
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

What to Watch | Will Missouri make shots?

Lather, rinse, repeat as needed.

Seriously, I don’t mean to be flippant with the analysis here, y’all, but this is what most Mizzou games come down to at this point. I went back to the previous Texas A&M game’s box score to see if there were any big stats I could highlight. All I saw was that Missouri shot 30 percent from two and 25.7 percent from three. If they can make shots at a semi-decent clip, they’ll probably win. If they don’t, they’ll probably lose.

When Texas A&M has the ball...

Texas A&M 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%
Texas A&M 97.4 (279) 19 (320) 44.3 (340) 21.2 (301) 30.8 (88) 39.1 (32) 25.8 (350) 48.1 (216) 67.5 (269) 10.8 (308) 9.8 (257)
Missouri 97.7 (82) 18 (300) 46.3 (57) 22.3 (37) 27.7 (161) 41.1 (325) 30.1 (41) 47 (97) 73.9 (316) 9.2 (146) 10.8 (60)
NCAA Basketball: Missouri at Illinois
Jeremiah Tilmon’s absence has had a negative impact on Missouri, and a return would help stabilize a sinking defense.
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

What to Watch | Will Jeremiah Tilmon be able to play?

On Monday, my esteemed colleague Matthew J. Harris tweeted out a set of numbers highlighting Jeremiah Tilmon’s impact on Missouri.

Look, you’re more than allowed to be frustrated with Tilmon’s seeming lack of development. But the fact remains — Missouri is a better team when he’s on the floor. This is especially true on defense. When the Tigers last squared up with the Aggies, Nebo and Miller combined for 26 points and 10 boards. If Tilmon is back, he should be able to mitigate some of that damage inside, leaving it up to the Aggies’ shooters to win the game.

KenPom predicts...

Missouri 61, Texas A&M 60 | You know how when you were in school, you always heard rumors — or maybe you were brave enough to do this yourself — of the one person who copied paragraphs of unrelated text into the middle of their paper just to see if the teacher would even read that far into it while grading? I’m tempted to do that here — just go off on a wild one and paste the lyrics to a song or some form of poetry.

But I suppose you came here for some grand summary of what to look out for tonight. The truth of the matter is this: Missouri should win tonight, and if they make shots they likely will. But they also might not, because who on God’s green earth knows when they will make shots? A win would be nice and a loss would be less nice, but neither will really move the needle on what feels like a lost season.

Yuck, that’s a dour note to end on. Here’s a happy song to lift your spirits.