The long slog continues!
The second to last Saturday, the second to last road game, and Missouri in need of a win.
I’ve made the point a few times that Cuonzo Martin, as head coach of Missouri, has never lost more than four games in a row. Some might mock that sentiment. But consider the previous staff had five losing streaks longer than five games, and despite two four game streaks this season (the current one, and the Alabama through Florida streak), Martin had just two other such streaks. In 2019, three of those games were on the road, and three against top 30 opponents. And in 2020, a streak that happened to coincide with injuries to Mark Smith and Jeremiah Tilmon.
In a way that really amplifies the struggles Missouri has seen this season. In ‘19, Mizzou was 15-17 and it felt like that was the floor setting season. two 3 game losing streaks that that notable four game streak. In 2020, they dealt with bad injury luck and still managed to finish 7-11 in league play. But this year, it’s all different.
Those teams were coherently good more often than not... at least when healthy. Maybe not always perfect, but the pieces seemed to fit. This team has put together one stretch, about 7 games, of consistently good basketball. The rest has been poor. So now we watch them travel to Baton Rouge to take on one of the best defenses in the country.
Lets see how they do!
|PG||Jarron Coleman (Jr., 6'5, 210)||Xavier Pinson (Sr. 6'2, 154)|
|CG||Javon Pickett (Sr., 6'5, 215)||Mwani Wilkinson (So., 6'5, 206)|
|WING||DaJuan Gordon (Jr., 6'3, 190)||Brandon Murray (Fr., 6'5, 215)|
|CF||Kobe Brown (Jr., 6'8, 250)||Darius Days (Sr., 6'7, 245)|
|POST||Trevon Brazile (Sr., 6'9, 215)||Efton Reid (Fr., 7'0, 238)|
Note: These starting lineups are projected.
Players to Watch
Maybe the most obvious pick here would be Xavier Pinson, who will likely feel as if he needs to single handedly own the Missouri Tigers, but I’m going to start with Tari Eason. The Cincinnati transfer has been the most important player on the LSU roster all year. 10 games he’s been the MVP, and while he frequently struggles with foul trouble, he’s one of the few offensive weapons Will Wade has. After putting up disappointing numbers at Cincinnati he’s got a 116 Offensive Rating in nearly 30% of the possessions. When Eason is going well LSU goes well.
But we really should talk about Pinson. He’s been about what he was for Missouri. He’s less than efficient, capable of going off, but mostly content to be an initiator. LSU started the season 15-1, and have been 4-8 since Pinson went out with an injury. Since he returned LSU is 3-2. He helps run their semi-anemic offense.
Forgoing the usual format...
I went with the conference only numbers, we can see the concern. Mizzou is bad at offense, LSU is good at defense. LSU turns the ball over, but Mizzou doesn’t really force turnovers. And Mizzou is bad at getting to the FT line, while LSU fouls a lot and sends their opponent to the line a lot.
Why is LSU so good at defense? They switch a lot and force a LOT of 3s. Missouri is bad at shooting 3s.
So you can see how this isn’t a game where you feel a lot of promise. Stranger things have happened, and Mizzou has typically had a terrific game plan when going up against the Will Waders.
One reason to feel at least a little hopeful is LSU doesn’t defend the rim as well, and Mizzou has had success around the rim in the past. And Missouri is a good free throw shooting team, and LSU sends opponents to the line.
LSU 73, Missouri 58 | With all that said, this is still a likely double digit loss per the analytics. Mizzou comes in with an 8% chance to win, and while I don’t think LSU is quite as good as the analytics say they are, they’re still an elite defense. They have the ability to shut down even the best offenses much less a below average one like Mizzou. There are paths for the good Tigers to make this competitive and even win, but they likely rely upon a poor 3-point shooting team making enough shots from the outside to keep the defense honest. I wouldn’t bet my house on that one.