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Missouri at Arkansas preview: Rivalries and a Q&A with Arkansas Fight

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This content sucks, but so does Mike Anderson. So NYAH!

Beth Hall-USA TODAY Sports

Eleven in a row. Mizzou has now lost 11 games in a row, but our Tigers have been getting closer and closer with each game that goes on. Now, we head down to … Arkansas, Fayetteville specifically, to take on the Mike Anderson (you know him probably, he ran out the back of Mizzou Arena as fast as his legs could take him) and the Razorbacks who we lost to by one just a few weeks ago.

Presenting the University of Arkansaw Razorpigs

location: Walton-ville, AR

By HHKB Chris:Arkansas and Mizzou have been brought together by the SEC and your local neighborhood insurance company as "permanent rivals." Does Arkansas like this?

Arky Archer Nope

They'd prefer for in football to have their final game of the season to be against LSU because we all know how important tradition is to the SEC even if that tradition only stretches as far back as 1996. I mean, that's almost 20 years! It just spits of tradition doesn't it? Honestly, how are we even playing that day, it would be the equivalent of moving the 4th of July or New Year's Day.

This reminds me of another school we used to know, Kansas, who really only wants to play Kansas State, they're the true rival, or apparently Iowa State now dependent on what article you read. So this is starting to feel familiar, yes?

Arky Accept Reality

Arkansas, where we're going, is a silly place. They have strict laws in place to be sure that things run the way they want them to! For instance if you're down there you can't walk your cow down Main Street in Little Rock after 1pm on Sundays, because you know, otherwise they take the idea of cow town strictly to heart.

Arky Cow Stroll

Interestingly Main Street also has a bridge and they'll be damned if their river, Arkansas, will ever rise above it. See, the people of Arkansas have learned how to control the tides, the weather and pretty much how the earth rotates around the sun. Congratulations Arkansas, now maybe figure out why your state is 47th in the country in education rankings in the US. Mike Anderson = Prince of Tides. Seriously Mike Anderson and Nick Nolte are the same guy! Hopefully you don't let Portis fail TV.

I won't ask if you're going to the game because why would you want to? Sounds terrible. Anyway, if you happen to be down there in Fayettville and you happen to go to the game, and you want to get a drink go to Cooter Brown's in Puxico MISSOURI because I'll be damned if I'll give you a tip on where to eat or drink in that place where cows can't walk free and rivers are controlled by professor frink (not really).
So, since you're not going to Walmart arena, watch the game on the SEC Network, the Network that would not exist without Mizzou. I suggest grabbing a beer and some brisket and RECONCILE BY WINNING!

About Their Basketball Team

By Sam Snelling: Since last we met in a game that we won't mention (much), the Razorbacks have gone 5-1 with their only loss a close one to Florida at Florida. They've beaten Ole Miss (+1), Tennessee (+5), Auburn (+14), and both South Carolina and Mississippi State (+20). So the Hogs are playing well. They've all but secured a spot in the NCAA Tournament and are currently ranked 17th in the coaches poll, and 18th in the AP.

It took an extra year for it to happen, but it looks like Mike Anderson has finally gotten the Razorbacks rolling to the point that many envisioned sitting at 20-5 and 9-3 in conference. So what better time to spoil it all than by losing to the worst team in the conference, YOUR MISSOURI TIGERS!

But seriously, the Razorbacks have everyone healthy, play 10 guys more than 10 minutes, and have an All American type in Bobby Portis. Portis has been giving the Hogs about 18 points and 8 rebounds a game and is the leading contender for SEC player of the year. He's assisted by Michael Qualls, who had a rough outing against the Tigers last go around, but is one of the biggest key players for Arkansas success this season. A very nice surprise has been the improved play of late from Freshmen Anton Beard, who has averaged almost 25 mpg over the last 8 games and has helped steady the ball handling and defense of the Razorbacks during that time.

Now for a closer look at their basketball team, let's chat with somebody who knows them best...

Q&A With ARKANSASFIGHT

Oh Doc. We always love how you agree to be badgered by us time and time again. Please take some time to follow Doc Harper on twitter. He may be an Arkansas fan, but he's a good dude and seems to enjoy providing content for Mizzou fans.

RockMNation: *sigh* do we have to play you guys?

Doc Harper: Well, we have to raise Coliss's banner, so we need to play somebody for that, I guess.

RockMNation: The Razorbacks have all but locked up a Tourney bid at this point, do you feel that the program has sufficient momentum enough to keep this thing rolling for the foreseeable future? And where are expectations for the rest of the year?

Doc: Possibly. Recruiting is going pretty well (fingers crossed Ted Kapita will be healthy) and people close to him say there's a decent chance Bobby Portis stays for next season, so it is starting to feel like this is better than a one-year wonder. Also, Arkansas fans have been fawning over 2016 top 10 prospect Malik Monk at least since he was in 9th grade. He's not committed to Arkansas, but he's the most talented in-state prospect since Corliss Williamson. Think Michael Qualls' athleticism with a much more polished all-around offensive game. If Portis comes back and Arkansas can sign Monk along with some of the other 2016 players they're on, Arkansas should be pretty good for a while. Obviously, if Portis leaves and the Hogs miss on some of those 2016 players, the program will take something of a step back quickly, but hopefully not too much.

RMN: What's been the main reason that Arkansas has had more success this year in a tougher SEC than they have in the past? What is working for them on the road especially?

Doc:I really think there was some sort of mental block with the team playing on the road for the last few years. When the team won three road games last February, including at Kentucky, and won their first road game this season at SMU, their confidence skyrocketed and they weren't worried about it anymore.

They're better overall just because most of the players are better. Portis developed into arguably the best player in the league. Qualls has been more consistent. Anton Beard has come on strong as reliable freshman.

RMN: Last time these two teams played, Mizzou had a good chance to win at the end of the game. What was your main takeaway from that game, and why do you think it was so close at the end?

Doc: Looking back at the box score, Mizzou shot from downtown pretty well (7-18) and didn't turn the ball over nearly as much as Arkansas would have preferred (only 8, well below the average for Arkansas' opponents). So credit to the Tigers for that. Also, it was one of Portis' worst games this year (he was 6-16) and Qualls was 3-15.

Arkansas was really fortunate to win, obviously. Three of our road games have come down to free throws at the end (Arkansas lost the other two at Tennessee and Florida) and I felt worse for Wes Clark than anything else. That's a brutal position for a college kid. I see he's 8-9 from the free throw line since then so I'm glad to see there don't seem to be lingering effects from it. It's too bad he got hurt and won't get a chance to play Arkansas on Wednesday.

RMN: Pick our spirits up. What are the things you've seen from Missouri that makes you think they can turn this around?

Doc: These seasons just suck. Arkansas was 2-14 in SEC play back in 2009 so I can relate (not to mention the football woes in 2012-13). All I can really say is it gets better, hopefully quickly. Unfortunately, there's not much that can happen this year. It just takes recruiting and development and a looooot of patience.

RMN: Last, as always, how does this particular game play out? What is your score prediction?

Doc: I hate to come across as overly confident (knocking on wood as I type this) but I see Arkansas winning pretty easily. The Hogs are at home and have been playing really well lately. Plus, they're hanging Corliss Williamson's banner at halftime (why it's not already there is a long story) and the team for some reason has always played really well on these nights when they honor the glory days. I'll say Arkansas 80, Mizzou 67.

Our thanks gain to Doc, for his help and always answering the bell when we knock. Check out ArkansasFight, and give him and them a follow if you can.

So things are going well in Fayetteville while they aren't really going well in Columbia. If there is one good thing to look forward to, is that Missouri showed three weeks ago that they can play with Arkansas if they get some things to go their way. Some of those things were that Wes Clark did a good job of harassing Qualls, Portis didn't shoot well and the Razorbacks as a team only made 4 3-pointers. That's a good recipe for staying in the game against them. Outside of Arkansas just not scoring, what does Mizzou need to do this time to be close enough on the road to strike late.

1) Handle the basketball with pressure

It's a good thing that Tramaine Isabell has been reinstated, because this game could get really ugly fast with only one true ball handler. Keith Shamburger is obviously going to be the primary guy, but having Isabell at least gives the team a shot to give Shams a rest. And he'll likely need one or two if Mizzou can't control pace. I'll set the O/U at 12.5, if Mizzou goes over that they're not winning the game. They've got to hang onto the ball.

2) Second Chances

Obviously you want to keep Arky off the offensive glass, but what about Mizzou? The Tigers do a decent job of crashing the offensive glass on their own end, but need to do even better to keep this game close. If the forwards, Johnathan Williams III, Jakeenan Gant, D'Angelo Allen, Keanau Post and Ryan Rosburg are able to gain the upper hand on the offensive glass and get some easy buckets it will go a long way toward keeping Mizzou in the game.

3) GET TO THE RIM

I'm not going to shock anyone by saying that Missouri isn't a great offensive team. The last time these two teams played the Tigers shot less than 40% from the floor, and looking at the shot chart, you can see that they took a lot of jumpers inside the arc and only 18 outside the arc (a relatively low number for this three happy team). That's not going to cut it this time around. Missouri has to use their bigs to get the ball to the rim and get higher percentage shots. Keanau Post and Ryan Rosburg (who didn't play last time around) need to play with the same sense or urgency they found against Mississippi State.

Last game, Wes Clark struggled from the field hitting only 3 of 11 but had 6 assists and two huge baskets down the stretch. Montaque Gill-Caesar had his only good game since returning from injury, and JW3 came up big with 15 & 10. Missouri will need the same kind of effort from JW3 this time around, and an equal performance from one of the freshman guards (either Teki or Namon Wright) if they expect to be in the game at all down the stretch.

Arkansas is projected to win this game by 17, and that's probably generous considering that Missouri is continuing to slide and the Razorbacks have been lethal at home lately. It's entirely possible that Bud Walton Arena turns into a house of horrors for this team. One could actually make a strong case that a lot hinges on this game for the Tigers because of how poorly the season has gone, and how badly this could turn out. So I'm going to make that case.

This isn't necessarily a make or break game for Kim Anderson or the young Tigers. What is going to be far more important is the offseason and building for next year. But I think this game is incredibly important because you're really going to see how much fight they have left. Arkansas has everything to play for the rest of the year, SEC seeding, tournament seeding, impacting the program for the long term. Missouri has basically nothing to play for but each other. How are they going to fight without Clark on the road against a team that can crank up the pressure? They'll have a ton of freshmen play a ton of minutes and they'll be asked to overcome just about everything just to be close in the end.

That's why I think this game is particularly difficult to pin down. I think Arkansas is going to win, certainly. I think the KenPom projection is probably pretty close at a 94% chance to win for the Hogs. But how they win is important here. I'd say anything less than 15 should be considered a good sign for the Tigers, because it would show they fought. If it's less than 10, I think that's damn near a win. If it's less than 5... well, very well done. However, if it balloons to more than 20, you have to wonder about how that will affect the team the rest of the way. I think they'll keep it closer, because I like the fight this team has shown, and I think they'll understand they can't start the game like they did vs. Mississippi State and expect to make the same kind of run to make it a game. So put  me down for something like: Arkansas 74, Missouri 67.

Arky Predictions 2.0

As for the rest, leave your predictions/trifecta picks below. I'm taking JW3, Teki & Shamburger.