No. 4 seed Mizzou picked up one of the program’s biggest wins since joining the SEC in 2012 by defeating No. 5 seed Tennessee in the conference tournament quarterfinals on Friday, 79-71. Now, the Tigers enter uncharted territory as they’ll play in their first-ever SEC semifinal.
They draw No. 1 seed Alabama, a team that wrecked them in their first matchup on Jan. 21 inside Mizzou Arena, 85-64. Coincidentally, both teams have lost three games since then, with the Crimson Tide falling to Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas A&M — all of them coming on the road. Alabama looked like the reigning regular season champions in their tournament opener against No. 8 seed Mississippi State on Friday, though, walloping the Bulldogs, 72-49.
MU head coach Dennis Gates said he’d be up all Friday night watching each of the Crimson Tide’s games since the last time the Tigers played them to prepare for Saturday’s showdown. It should be a fun stylistic matchup, with both teams wanting to put points up in a hurry, each one ranking in the top 100 of KenPom’s adjusted tempo rating and in the top 20 of KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency rating. Missouri will look a lot different to Alabama than last time, since senior forward Kobe Brown missed the last meeting due to an ankle injury. The team will hope that the limited amount of time to get ready will work in its favor.
“It’s a quick turnaround. It reminds me a little of AAU-style events,” senior point guard Nick Honor said. “It’ll be a fast-paced game. They want to score, we want to score. And we’re also both solid defensive teams as well. So it’ll be a shootout and a battle, so it should be exciting.”
TIP TIME INFORMATION
Missouri (24-8, 11-7 SEC) vs. Alabama (27-5, 16-2)
WHEN: 12 p.m. CT
WHERE: Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, Tennessee
SERIES: Alabama leads, 13-7
LINE: Alabama -9.0
KENPOM PREDICTION: Alabama 86, Missouri 77
BY THE NUMBERS
BEST LINEUP OF THE LAST 5 OUTINGS (per CBB Analytics)
Sean East II-D’Moi Hodge-DeAndre Gholston-Noah Carter-Kobe Brown
Minutes played: 12
Offensive rating: 156.5
Defensive rating: 71.1
Net rating: +85.3
KEYS TO THE GAME
1. Win the turnover margin. Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas A&M all did something in common in their respective wins against Alabama: they forced the Crimson Tide to cough the ball up at a high rate. Alabama had 50 turnovers in those three games combined. For the season, the team has been slightly below average at taking care of the ball, giving it away on 18.8% of possessions according to KenPom, which ranks 232nd in the nation. The Crimson Tide coughed the ball up just seven times in its dominant win over Mississippi State on Friday. And in Mizzou’s matchup earlier this year, the Tigers scored just six points off of 10 forced turnovers. To get the better of Alabama, Missouri will need to do a better job of applying pressure.
2. Run the Crimson Tide off the 3-point line. Alabama relies heavily on taking and making outside shots to fuel its offense. According to KenPom, 47.6% of the team’s field goal attempts come from beyond the arc, which ranks ninth in the country. The Crimson Tide aren’t a knock-down shooting team, connecting on 33.9% of their 3s, but the triples still account for 36.6% of the points they’ve scored this year, which ranks 33rd in the NCAA. Freshman forward and SEC Player of the Year Brandon Miller leads the way for Alabama, making 40.5% of his 3-pointers this season. Against Mississippi State on Friday, Miller went 4-9 from deep while the Crimson Tide as a whole went 13-37. The Tigers can’t afford to let its opponent get hot.
3. Get to the free throw line. The Volunteers and Aggies were both able to wear Alabama down by taking more foul shots than the Crimson Tide. Tennessee went 16-25 while Texas A&M went 27-28. Alabama was 26-31 in the two games combined. When Mizzou went up against the Crimson Tide earlier this year, they surrendered 32 free throw attempts to the visitors, who made 25 of them. The Tigers went just 15-19. Alabama doesn’t do a great job of keeping opponents from getting to the stripe, giving up 33.3 foul shots per 100 field goal attempts. Missouri should try to use that to its advantage, especially going into a game it expects to be a shootout.
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