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Mizzou Hoops Preview: Alabama

Missouri heads to Tuscaloosa, where the Tide will be wanting revenge after a their shocking loss on January 8.

NCAA Basketball: Alabama at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Don’t look now but here come the Tigers... sort of!

It’s been a more muted revival for this Missouri team, who still sits at a game below .500. But after opening their SEC schedule with a Lexington thumping, Cuonzo Martin’s team has quietly looked competitive in the month of January. They have a Quadrant 1 win and a true road win under their belt and were just a few minutes away from another quality win against Texas A&M. In truth, the Tigers should be sitting at 9th in the SEC right now. With the massive roster turnover from the offseason, that’s a position almost anyone would’ve taken at the start of the season.

Of course, like Sam pointed out in Study Hall, you can’t discount the trip to Fayetteville.

[W]e’ve seen competence in three of the last four games and two of them resulted in wins. You can’t ignore the 4th result, because that kind of result is still possible as the rest of the season winds down. Mizzou is 8-9 and a sub-100 basketball team.

As we’ve frequently noted, the issue with this Missouri team hasn’t necessarily been a lack of any semblance of quality. It’s been the chaotic variance between good and bad nights. Missouri hasn’t been able to get out of its own way, letting good results — beating SMU on a neutral floor, upsetting Alabama — get immediately wiped away bad bad ones. And while the next few games likely won’t generate much in the way of wins and losses, they offer Missouri a golden chance to sustain their improved play against quality teams.

It starts with a trip to the home of the Crimson Tide, the team that jumpstarted Missouri’s light renaissance (mini-ssaince?). Losing in Columbia was the beginning of a three-game losing streak for Nate Oats’ team, one they finally snapped with a three-point win over LSU this past Wednesday. The Crimson Tide have plummeted out of the Top 25 completely, a steep fall from their watershed victory over Gonzaga in December. They don’t solely have Missouri to blame — losses to Iona and Davidson hurt as well — but they’ll no doubt want some revenge over a Tiger team that embarrassed them sans two important back court pieces.

The Scout

The Starters

Position Missouri (8-9) Alabama (12-6)
Position Missouri (8-9) Alabama (12-6)
PG Jarron Coleman (Jr., 6'5", 210) Jaden Shackelford (Jr., 6'3", 200)
CG Javon Pickett (Sr., 6'5", 215) JD Davison (Fr., 6'3", 195)
WING DaJuan Gordon (Jr., 6'3", 190) Keon Ellis (Sr., 6'6", 175)
PF Kobe Brown (Jr., 6'8", 250) Noah Gurley (Sr., 6'8", 215)
POST Trevon Brazile (Fr., 6'9", 215) Charles Bediako (Fr., 7'0", 225)

Note: These starting lineups are projected.

You can read up on our initial Alabama scout from earlier in January. Nate Oats has shuffled his starting lineup a bit since Alabama’s loss to Missouri on January 8, but the roster remains the same.

When Missouri has the ball...

Missouri Offense vs. Alabama 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 102.5 (182) 17.2 (150) 45.7 (311) 21.4 (316) 32 (72) 30.7 (159) 25.6 (354) 49.2 (191) 73.5 (94) 8.8 (154) 10.5 (291)
Alabama 95.6 (52) 17.3 (157) 48.7 (125) 18.1 (219) 30.1 (271) 33.4 (254) 30.3 (56) 50.6 (219) 67 (44) 12.7 (45) 9.7 (150)
NCAA Basketball: Missouri at Arkansas Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

What to Watch | How does Nate Oats contain Kobe Brown?

We’ve discussed Nate Oats’... curious defensive scout of Missouri in the two teams’ first meeting, one which Kobe Brown exploited to jaw-dropping effect. Allowing Brown to cook in the mid-range was a fatal mistake for Alabama, and they’d be hard-pressed to make it again. Do they stick with a zone and closely mark Brown? That might leave more space for Amari Davis, who missed the first Alabama game and just finished wasting Ole Miss from mid-range. The Tide could also retreat into their trusty pack line and force the Tigers to shoot over it, putting them on their weakest foot.

When Alabama has the ball...

Alabama 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%
Alabama 116.7 (10) 15.4 (14) 52.1 (94) 18.4 (144) 34.8 (23) 32.2 (118) 31.1 (284) 56.8 (10) 70.8 (173) 11.5 (324) 9.7 (204)
Missouri 100.3 (117) 17.5 (190) 51.8 (255) 18.3 (201) 27.8 (149) 31.9 (226) 35.8 (282) 50.7 (222) 66.1 (26) 11.7 (70) 9.2 (184)
Syndication: Tuscaloosa News Gary Cosby Jr. / USA TODAY NETWORK

What to Watch | Who crashes the glass?

Despite their loss, Alabama didn’t have a poor offensive showing in Columbia. They shot just below their season average from two-point range, but topped their three-point average by several percentage points. In fact, every single Alabama player finished with an offensive rating of 108 or better according to KenPom. The difference came on the boards, where the Tigers racked up a whopping 27 defensive rebounds and stopped the Tide from cleaning up their misses... one of Alabama’s best areas. Will Nate Oats go small again and risk losing out on the boards? Keon Ellis has been a rebounding terror in each of his past two games, and they’ll need him to contain Missouri.

KenPom predicts...

Alabama 83, Missouri 66 | Predicting a Missouri win feels almost as unlikely now as it did back in early January — technically speaking, predicting one now would be twice as unlikely. But Missouri has some of its mojo back after thumping Ole Miss in Oxford, and they’ve looked competitive in three of their last four. That doesn’t mean they’ll be able to fell the Tide for a second straight time, but at least they have a blueprint. If Missouri can build on their last few outings and scratch out a close game in Tuscaloosa, the roadmap to success for this roster becomes all the clearer.