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Mizzou Hoops Preview: Arkansas

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NCAA Basketball: Arkansas at Texas A&M Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Sometimes you need a jolt in the arm. But what comes next?

Missouri’s surprising 92-86 win over Alabama this weekend certainly qualifies as a “jolt,” especially considering that Missouri was missing two of its most used back court members. It also flew in the face of everything we have come to understand about Missouri as a team in 2021-2022. They made their shots. They executed a clearly defined plan on offense. They bossed around a more purely talented team.

For many, the win was a moment of catharsis in season of stagnation. But you’ll have a hard time finding many who view the win as much more than that. Missouri is still just 7-7. They’re still not favored to win any games outside of the season finale against Georgia. One game doth not a successful season make.

However, the win might suggest that the pieces are coming together. Missouri has struggled to develop any cohesion after an offseason of turnover, and it may be fair to assume that it took this long to develop. The Tigers looked confident and cohesive for maybe the first time all season — against a top 15 team no less. An extra few days off after a rigorous start to the year may have been the final period of the incubation stage.

It’s still up to the team — Cuonzo Martin, especially — to turn an upset win into a proof of concept. There’s no reality in which this season becomes a Cinderella run to the finish. It was always going to be a rebuilding year. But after such a disastrous start, it’s imperative that the Tigers are able to translate the effort and conversion they saw against Bama into future wins and, more generally, a more competitive output.

The Tigers likely won’t end the year at .500. But there’s losing games like they did against Kansas and Illinois and losing games where growth is evident. Perhaps that first stage of growth coincided with a hot shooting night and an eye-turning win against the defending SEC champs. We’ll know more in the coming weeks, and it starts with a trip to Fayetteville.


The Scout

The Starters

Position Missouri (7-7) Arkansas (10-5)
Position Missouri (7-7) Arkansas (10-5)
PG Jarron Coleman (Jr., 6'5", 210) JD Notae (Sr., 6'2", 190)
CG Javon Pickett (Sr., 6'5", 215) Davonte Davis (So., 6'4", 180)
WING DaJuan Gordon (Jr., 6'3", 190) Stanley Umude (Sr., 6'6", 210)
PF Kobe Brown (Jr., 6'8", 250) Au'Diese Toney (Sr., 6'6", 205)
POST Trevon Brazile (Fr., 6'9", 215) Jaylin Williams (So., 6'10", 240)

Note: These starting lineups are projected.

Players to Watch

NCAA Basketball: Vanderbilt at Arkansas Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Eric Musselman runs out six regulars who all have 55 minutes percentages or higher. It starts with JD Notae, a veteran guard who fans may remember from last season. He’s not especially flashy, but he’s improved as a distributor and a shooter from close range. He’s also good for 4.4 steals per 40. Jaylin Williams holds the fort down low with a traditional, efficient post game and one of the country’s best defensive rebound rates. Seniors Au’Diese Toney and Stanley Umude help him carry the load in different ways. Toney is probably the team’s best offensive player with an ability to score at all three levels, while Umude provides some extra rebounding and interior scoring depth (he’s also a much more willing shooter from deep.)

Despite not being the lead guard, Davonte Davis may be the back court’s best creator. His assist rate is best on the team, though he’s not going to contribute much on the score sheet. Chris Lykes also gets heavy minutes as a guard reserve, where he makes up for his smaller size with a surprising ability to draw fouls (6.3 per 40) and convert at the line (85.7 percent.)

Role Players

NCAA Basketball: Elon University at Arkansas Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Eric Musselman has a deep bench to pull from, but no one outside of the regular six mentioned above get more than 24 percent of the available minutes. Jaxson Robinson has earned a few starts but will often get a quick and decisive hook. He’s shooting at a respectable clip, but hasn’t used his length in the way you might want a 6’6” guard or wing to do so. Senior Trey Wade gets some minutes off the bench, but he’s a turnover risk without much upside as a creator. You may remember 7’3” Connor Vanover, who has 10 starts on the season. However, he’s been battling a spell of extremely light play due to his defensive deficincies (and an injury earlier in the season). He’s effective enough as a shot-blocker and rebounder, though.

Kamani Johnson and Khalen Robinson get the least amount of run (12.5 and 11.5 mintues played percent, respectively.) The former is an intriguing piece who rebounds extremely well, blocks a lot of shots and draws fouls at an absurd rate. He fouls too often and turns the ball over quite a bit, but he’s a spark plug. Robinson doesn’t get a lot of play as a reserve guard, but he’s a good passer and can fill in if needed.

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 103.6 (170) 17 (135) 44.9 (319) 20.3 (262) 33.6 (43) 31.1 (141) 25.1 (352) 48.6 (221) 72.9 (110) 7.7 (85) 9.3 (162)
Arkansas 98.3 (78) 51.9 (267) 20 (108) 21.5 (7) 31.5 (217) 31.5 (217) 36.6 (306) 49.7 (189) 71.4 (203) 13 (50) 10.7 (87)
NCAA Basketball: Alabama at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

What to Watch | Another hard-nosed day at the office?

While Missouri’s good shooting day certainly played a role in the Alabama win, getting a 10-point bonus at the charity stripe didn’t hurt. The Tigers exploited the Tide’s lack of interior size, racking up 21 points at the line. Arkansas has similar depth issues down low (outside of Vanover and Williams), and struggle with putting their opponents on the line. Missouri will have to exert the same level of physicality if wants to keep the FTA margin in their favor. That’s especially the case considering Arkansas’ biggest strength — defensive rebounding — could neutralize Missouri’s strong presence on the offensive boards.

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 110.9 (46) 15.9 (32) 51.1 (126) 17.3 (80) 31.6 (91) 37.1 (33) 30.2 (292) 54.2 (50) 72.8 (120) 6.6 (35) 8.7 (107)
Missouri 102.2 (145) 17.7 (251) 53.7 (309) 19.1 (162) 27.1 (126) 31.8 (227) 38.1 (332) 51.4 (248) 66.7 (37) 12 (67) 9.5 (165)
NCAA Basketball: Arkansas at Texas A&M Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

What to Watch | Does Missouri clog the paint?

The Razorbacks present a balanced attack on the offensive front, faltering in only one notable area — three-point shooting. Their struggles behind the arc have forced Musselman’s team to heavily sanction their use of the deep ball — they rank just above Missouri in their distribution of three-point baskets per total points and shot attempt. They instead lean heavily on their two-point shooting and free throw attempts. Missouri was able to hold Alabama — an elite two-point offense — below their average shooting percentage, and it may be worth selling out again to force Arkansas into taking more threes than they’re comfortable with.


KenPom predicts...

Arkansas 82, Missouri 70 | KenPom gives Missouri just as much of a chance (slightly more) to win at Arkansas as they had to beat Alabama at home. The Razorbacks have dropped two of their last three games in the state (one in Fayetteville and one in Little Rock), and have yet to log an SEC win. After their fans clamored to be highly regarded for the first month of the season, they’ve come crashing back to reality in a span of six games.

None of that is to say Missouri will once again walk away victorious. They needed season-best performances from several players to best the Tide, as well as an above-average team effort shooting the ball. But their vault in the KenPom rankings shows that Missouri earned their upset, signaling a potentially defining moment in an otherwise lost season. Arkansas, on the other hand, is in a freefall and a loss to Missouri may alter the Hogs’ perception of how their own season will turn out. Missouri will head into Fayetteville with not a lot of pressure, a welcome position when your opponent is feeling desperate for a spark.