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Mizzou Hoops Preview: Georgia

It’s the Battle in the Basement, as the SEC’s 13th and 14th seeds square off in the regular season finale.

NCAA Basketball: Tennessee at Georgia Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

If you’re reading this, congratulations! You made it all the way to the end of the season!

I’m not sure how much more there is to say about Mizzou at this point. We know the obvious flaws. We’ve seen both the improvement and the regression. We know the question that’s hanging over the entire program.

The only thing left to do, to quote Cuonzo Martin himself, is to reach the finish line. Whichever way Desiree Reed-Francois chooses to turn at season’s end will give us more perspective on 2022-2023. But we’ve done all the analysis we can on 2021-2022. It’s just time to play out the string.

It seems entirely appropriate that Missouri’s maddening season should conclude with the only SEC opponent who can claim a more defeated campaign than the Tigers. Georgia has cratered in Tom Crean’s fourth (and almost certainly final) season behind the bench. They’re one of five sub-200 KenPom teams in the Power Five conferences. They’ve got a roster picked apart by injuries. They’re running out a defense that exists on the polar opposite of their National Champion colleagues in the football program.

Both Georgia and Missouri are destined for the play-in round of the SEC Tournament and, in a true confirmation of fate, no outcome could affect either’s first game. Missouri is locked into a third match up with Ole Miss (whom they have swept this season, it should be noted), while Georgia is headed for a third with Vanderbilt. In a strange way, then, Saturday’s game feels like something of a formality. If Missouri wins... well, we all knew Georgia was the worst anyway, right? If Georgia wins... well, then maybe can dust off the hot boards.

The Scout

The Starters

Position Missouri (10-20) Georgia (6-24)
Position Missouri (10-20) Georgia (6-24)
PG Jarron Coleman (Jr., 6'5", 210) Christian Wright (Fr., 6'3", 185)
CG Javon Pickett (Sr., 6'5", 215) Aaron Cook (Sr., 6'2" 185)
WING DaJuan Gordon (Jr., 6'3", 190) Kario Oquendo (So., 6'4", 215)
PF Kobe Brown (Jr., 6'8", 250) Jaxon Etter (Jr., 6'4", 205)
POST Trevon Brazile (Fr., 6'9", 215) Braelen Bridges (Sr., 6'11", 240)

Note: These starting lineups are projected.

Players to Watch

Syndication: Online Athens Joshua L. Jones / USA TODAY NETWORK

Crean likes to stick with his main guys, and at least a few of them have rewarded his loyalty. Illinois-Chicago transfer Braelen Bridges has been the Bulldogs most effective player all season, posting a career high 111.3 offensive rating in his first SEC campaign. He’s got a top 15 national true shooting percentage, bolstered by his interior accuracy and ability to convert a high number of attempts at the free throw line. He’s really the only interior option for the Bulldogs, who have lost two players who would otherwise see time in the front court.

Kario Oquendo has the team’s highest usage rate, one of a few guards who play the role of attacking guard. Oquendo is a strong finisher at the rim and hunts fouls with the best of them, but he takes too many threes and turns the ball over too often to maximize his ability. Jaxon Etter is Oquendo’s more efficient counterpart. He’s not as strong in the paint, but he’s better from distance and gets to the line at a similar clip. Senior Aaron Cook is the straw that stirs the drink for Georgia, boasting an elite 35.3 assist rate. He’s not as much of a scoring threat, but he’ll hit free throws if you give them to him.

Freshman Christian Wright rounds out the top group. He’s been something of a liability with the ball in his hands, and his shot is still developing. But he’s exceptional at getting fouls around the rim and has proven to be the Bulldog’s best free throw shooter at just under 86 percent.

Role Players

NCAA Basketball: Georgia at Louisiana State Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Injuries have depleted Georgia’s depth, leaving a small stable of reserves to fill in when the starters need a breather. Jabri Abdur-Rahim is Crean’s preferred reserve guard (and spot starter at times), and it’s easy to see why. He embodies the team’s attacking mentality, drawing the second most fouls on the team. He’s also a decent jump shooting option off the bench. That being said, junior Noah Baumann may be the Bulldog’s best weapon off the bench... and maybe their best player overall. He brings ball security and rebounding strength to the wing position, capping his game off with a strong long-distance jumper. Dalen Rigdnal also gets some minutes as a jumbo wing/combo forward. He’s a great defensive rebounder, but isn’t as offensively versatile or potent as Crean’s other forward options.

When Missouri has the ball...

Missouri Offense vs. Georgia 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 103.9 (177) 18 (237) 46.3 (316) 21.4 (331) 30.8 (94) 29.6 (194) 27.4 (355) 48.9 (215) 73.5 (111) 9.9 (261) 10.8 (318)
Georgia 110.8 (305) 16.8 (31) 54.4 (336) 15.6 (323) 29.5 (238) 24.5 (46) 34.6 (226) 56.1 (353) 71.2 (162) 6.1 (316) 7.4 (313)
NCAA Basketball: Mississippi State at Missouri Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

What to Watch | Get boards, make jump shots, repeat

Folks, do you think Missouri’s defense is bad? Well, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Tom Crean’s Bulldogs come to Columbia ranked 305th in defensive efficiency, 168 spots below Missouri. The Bulldogs are absolutely brutal on the defensive end, ranking among the nation’s worst in effective FG percentage, turnovers, blocks, two-point defense, defensive rebounding, etc. Whichever way you slice it, the Tigers should be able to get something going on the defensive end. The easiest way would also be the simplest — grab offensive boards and make enough jump shots to survive. Missouri has beaten better teams than Georgia with this formula, and it would be effective against one of the Power Five’s worst defenses.

When Georgia has the ball...

Georgia 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%
Georgia 108.1 (93) 17.4 (158) 50.7 (149) 20.9 (319) 26.5 (237) 37.6 (27) 32.7 (228) 51.8 (100) 75.2 (58) 14.4 (357) 11.6 (341)
Missouri 101.9 (137) 17.6 (191) 50.8 (211) 18 (201) 30.8 (289) 34.9 (292) 35.6 (283) 49.2 (162) 70.2 (103) 11.3 (66) 9.5 (151)
NCAA Basketball: Tennessee at Georgia Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

What to Watch | No free passes

Georgia’s moribund defense is even more of an eye sore due to the fact that the offense — while still not great — is at least within the top 100 for adjusted efficiency. Much of that has to due with the Bulldog’s one bonafide strength: hunting fouls and making free throws. They’re close to the top 25 in the country in free throw attempts and they make their shots from the stripe at an above-average clip. The temptation for emphatic blocks at the rim is there, as Georgia is the second worst team in the country in getting shots blocked. But if Missouri is going to keep this game in the bag, they can’t afford to be too generous when handing the Bulldogs free trips to the line.

KenPom predicts...

Missouri 76, Georgia 70 | There’s no sugar-coating this game, so I suppose we should be as honest as possible. It’s likely this regular season finale is a match up of two programs destined for change, led by (in all likelihood) two lame duck coaches. There’s not much long-term analysis we can ascertain.

If you’re a loyalist, I hope you enjoy watching your Tigers fight until the end. Hopefully, they’ll send this underwhelming regular season out on a high note.