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Hoops Preview: Arkansas looks to break Mizzou’s Rally for Rhyan streak

Missouri hasn’t lost a Rally for Rhyan game since... well, ever. Will they continue that streak and sweep the season series with Arkansas?

NCAA Basketball: Arkansas at Kentucky Arden Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

It is once again time to Rally for Rhyan, everyone!

In case you’re unaware of the Rally for Rhyan story, you can read the whole thing on the MU Athletics website. Every season since 2016, Mizzou has dedicated one game a year to the Rally for Rhyan cause — looking to close the gap in underfunded research for pediatric cancer.

We’re also taking part in that goal in our second annual fundraiser. Please consider signing up for either a flat or escalating donation. All money — ALL OF IT — will go to Rally for Rhyan.

Outside of the cause itself, one of the interesting notes about the annual Rally for Rhyan game is that Mizzou has yet to lose one. In every game since 2016, Missouri has come out on top in the R4R game. Their record currently stands at 5-0. It would seem that this year — when Missouri has a consensus Top 25 team — would be a layup to continue that streak.

Then again, it’s never as easy as that, is it? Not at Missouri, at least. Mizzou is still ranked No. 10 in the Associated Press poll, but is coming off arguably its worst loss of the season, a 21-point thumping at the hands of a middling Rebel team. Still, Missouri has yet to lose consecutive games this year and has proven up to the task of beating even the best teams on its schedule.

Saturday’s R4R match up pits Missouri against Eric Musselman’s Arkansas once again. The Tigers soundly beat the Razorbacks in Fayetteville near the beginning of SEC play, and both teams have since solidified themselves as likely NCAA Tournament teams. Both are also playing for one of the coveted top four seeds in the SEC Tournament and looking to boost their way up the NCAA seeding tree.

Due to its impressive metrics, Arkansas would provide Missouri the opportunity for another high-quality win, even with the game coming at home. I can’t think of a better time to shake off the dust of Wednesday night’s stinker. Can you?

The Scout

The Starters

Position Missouri (13-4) Arkansas (15-5)
Position Missouri (13-4) Arkansas (15-5)
PG Xavier Pinson (Jr., 6'2", 170) Davonte Davis (Fr., 6'3", 180)
CG Dru Smith (Rs. Sr., 6'3", 203) Jalen Tate (Sr., 6'6", 175)
WING Mark Smith (Sr., 6'5", 220) Moses Moody (Fr., 6'6", 205)
PF Kobe Brown (So., 6'7", 240) Justin Smith (Sr., 6'7", 230)
POST Jeremiah Tilmon (Sr., 6'10", 260) Connor Vanover (So., 7'3", 247)

Note: These starting lineups are projected.

To get a full breakdown of Arkansas’ roster, you can read our preview from the first match up in early January.

The only major difference for the Razorbacks will be the addition of Justin Smith, who did not play in the first game. Smith is a good offensive rebounder and defender and should help Arkansas prevent another monster day from Jeremiah Tilmon. At the very least, he’ll make it more difficult.

When Missouri has the ball...

Missouri Offense vs. Arkansas 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 111.5 (39) 16.6 (99) 51.1 (125) 19 (155) 28.9 (150) 40.2 (21) 30.7 (292) 54 (46) 69.1 (228) 11.8 (328) 9.3 (195)
Arkansas 91.9 (25) 15.9 (99) 47.5 (69) 20.5 (98) 25.1 (68) 31.6 (168) 31.7 (93) 47.5 (99) 68.6 (88) 13.3 (21) 11.1 (43)
NCAA Basketball: Missouri at Mississippi Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

What to Watch | Attack, attack, attack

Arkansas employs a top 25 defense, mostly by being pretty solid all the way around. They’re not exactly elite at any one thing, but they’re pretty good at everything. They block more shots than a lot of people, but not so much more than anyone Missouri has seen in SEC play either.

The two areas where the Razorbacks are weakest? Fouling and two-point defense. Arky gives its opponents a lot of chances at the free throw line, and Missouri needs to take advantage. They’re also not great at protecting the lane, though they’re still above average. Missouri needs to attack the rim hard, starting with players like Xavier Pinson and Dru Smith.

When Arkansas has the ball...

Arkansas 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%
Arkansas 111.5 (41) 15.8 (39) 51.1 (123) 17 (72) 33.1 (41) 30.4 (200) 33.9 (157) 51.3 (106) 73.9 (75) 8.9 (194) 8.8 (149)
Missouri 94.5 (52) 17.1 (164) 47.1 (61) 17.7 (250) 29.3 (220) 35.4 (263) 31.3 (80) 47.2 (86) 68.7 (92) 9.3 (135) 8.9 (184)
NCAA Basketball: Missouri at Mississippi Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

What to Watch | Crash the boards and get back to basics

Arkansas likes to play fast, faster and fastest. A good day for them means a lot of shots are going up. Generally that also means that not a ton are going in — Arkansas isn’t one of the country’s more efficient shooting teams. The one thing they do well is rebound, ranking 41st in offensive rebounding. If Missouri can prevent second chances, Arkansas will need a hot shooting night.

That, however, is where the problem lies. Missouri’s defense has been slipping precariously over the past month, and opponents have been taking advantage. Perhaps it’s the long season wearing on them, or maybe they’re becoming too confident in their improving offense to carry the load. Either way, Missouri needs to get back to basics after another poor defensive showing against Ole Miss — sound positioning and good rotations will create tough shots, leading to better outcomes.

KenPom predicts...

Missouri 75, Arkansas 74 | Honestly, these KenPom predictions feel useless at this point in the season. Missouri is obviously a pretty good team, and has shown it has the capability to beat other good teams like Arkansas. Most of the time, it’ll get the job done. But the underlying numbers suffer from Missouri’s handful of blowout losses, so it’s hard to get the most accurate read of where they’re headed moving forward.

Will Missouri win on Saturday? Probably. But that’s all you can say in a season like 2020-2021.