Kentucky Wildcats at Missouri Tigers: Game Preview

Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Kentucky travels to Columbia for the first time in history to face Missouri.

The LSU loss has made the Missouri game bigger than it should be. That's a pity, because it doesn't give proper respect to LSU, which is a very good team despite their record. Let us recall last season when Kentucky rose up to smite both Missouri and Florida in Rupp Arena despite clear and convincing evidence that the Wildcats were inferior to both squads. This works both ways.

Kentucky needs a win at Missouri, and on paper, Missouri doesn't need the win as much, having just defeated Arkansas on the road in a very close game that easily could have gone the other way.

General

About Missouri

  • Location: Columbia, Missouri
  • Conference: SEC
  • Head Coach: Frank Haith (since 2012)
  • NCAA Appearances: 26
  • Most recent NCAA appearance: 2013
  • Most recent NCAA win: 2010
  • Founded: 1839
  • Enrollment: 24,298
  • Last season's record 23-11 overall, 11-7 in conference

Source: Basketball State

Season so far for Missouri:

  • Season record: 16-4 (4-3 SEC)

Missouri had an easy go of it in the pre-conference season, never catching a whif of a top 100 team, let alone top 50, until UCLA on December 7th at home, a game that they won.

But then, Missouri dropped a game to Illinois, a bare top 100 team, on a neutral court by one. that was their only pre-conference loss. Immediately upon entering conference play, the Tigers lost to the Georgia Bulldogs in overtime at home, and then to the Vanderbilt Commodores on the road, and then to the LSU Tigers on the road. The two subsequent wins at home against the South Carolina Gamecocks and on the road at the Arkansas Razorbacks bring us up to date.

Series history

Kentucky and Missouri have only played 5 times in history to date. The first game was in 1960, and it would be 11 years before the two teams played again in the UKIT, and 26 more before their next meeting in the Maui Classic in 1997. The last time Kentucky played Mizzou was in Rupp Arena last season, a 90-83 overtime victory. The Wildcats are 5-0 against the Tigers all time.

Source: BigBlueHistory.net

Stats

Team Comparison

Rank and Records UK Mizzou
RPI #18 #48
Strength of Schedule #7 #106
Overall 15-5 16-4
Conference 5-2 4-3
Home 13-0 10-1
Away 1-3 3-2
Top 25 1-1 0-0
RPI Top 50 2-1 1-0

Courtesy of Statsheet.com

Four Factors

Team Notes

  • Missouri is not a great defensive team, allowing 103 points per 100 possessions in conference play.

  • Missouri has struggled to put the ball in the basket in conference play, managing only a 47% eFG.

  • The Tigers are deadly from 3-point range, 2nd in the conference at 38%

  • Missouri is a very good free-throw shooting team at 74%, 2nd in the conference.

  • Missouri has no outstanding qualities at all on defense.

  • Mizzou has had the most shots blocked of any team in the SEC by far — 17%.

  • The Tigers, like the Wildcats, get to the line a lot.

LSU Roster

# Name Status Pos Height Weight Class Hometown Games PPG RPG APG
5 Clarkson, Jordan S+ G 6-5 193 Jr. San Antonio, TX 20 18.4 4 3.5
32 Brown, Jabari S** G 6-5 214 Jr. Oakland, CA 20 19.8 4.8 1.6
33 Ross, Earnest S** G 6-5 228 Sr. Cary, NC 20 14.5 6.7 1.5
3 Williams III, Johnathan S F 6-9 208 Fr. Memphis, TN 20 6.8 7.6 0.8
44 Rosburg, Ryan S** F 6-10 252 So. Chesterfield, MO 20 4.7 4.5 0.5
1 Clark, Wes MR G 6-0 171 Fr. Detroit, MI 20 4.2 2.4 2.2
2 Criswell, Tony MR* F 6-9 240 Sr. Oklahoma City, OK 17 5 4.3 0.3
4 Haith, Corey R* G 5-10 174 So. Miami, FL 5 0.6 0 0
11 Rector, Shane R G 6-1 171 Fr. Bronx, NY 14 0.5 0.3 0.2
24 Jones, Torren R F 6-8 234 Fr. Chandler, AZ 15 0.7 1.2 0.1
31 Feldmann, Danny R* F 6-9 225 Jr. Jefferson City, MO 8 0 0.1 0.1
45 Post, Keanau R++ F 6-11 268 Jr. Victoria, British Columbia 16 0.9 1.5 0
10 Bello, Deuce TR G 6-4 177 Jr. Greensboro, NC/Baylor



25 Price, Zach TR F 6-10 250 Jr. Cleveland, OH/Louisville



35 Jankovic, Stefan NWT F 6-11 242 So. Mississauga, Ontario 3 3.3 2.7 0.7













Legend









S Starter









MR Major Reserve









TR Transfer-year in residence









NWT No longer with team









R Reserve









* Returning player









** Returning starter









+ Transfer-eligible









++ Transfer-JUCO









Courtesy of Basketball State

Player notes

  • Jordan Clarkson is the second-leading scorer, a classic slasher, and all-around glue guy. He can make threes, but is not reliable from deep.

  • Jabari Brown is a pure 3-point shooter at 48% from the arc, and has great size. He can also take it to the hole, but is reluctant to do so. He is a very efficient scorer.

  • Johnathan Williams III is a fair shot blocker and outstanding offensive rebounder. He is 23rd in the land in offensive rebounding. He isn't much of a scoring threat.

  • Ryan Rosburg contributes around the rim and with hustle plays.

  • Wes Clark can shoot the three and pass the ball.

Injuries

  • None known for either side

Likely matchups

Starters

  • Jordan Clarkson vs. Andrew Harrison — Both are big guards, and this works to Andrew's advantage. Clarkson is a slasher, but he is running up against a guy who is big and quick enough to guard him.

Advantage: Draw

  • Jabari Brown vs. Aaron Harrison — Brown's experience gives him the edge, but it is a small one. For once, Aaron has a player he matches up with well.

Advantage: Draw

  • Earnest Ross vs. James Young — Ross is thicker, but Young is taller, longer, more athletic and quicker. Very few players in America can get an advantage on Young, and Ross is not one of them.

Advantage: Kentucky

  • Johnathan Williams III vs. Julius Randle — Williams is much too small to deal with Randle. His length could give Randle some problems defensively, but Williams is not a big offensive threat, Randle is, and Randle should be able to crush him on the boards.

Advantage: Kentucky

  • Ryan Rosburg vs. Willie Cauley-Stein — Rosburg is shorter, less lengthy, and smaller than WCS. He's also vastly less athletic.

Advantage: Kentucky

Bench

Missouri has a quality bench — 2 players deep. Seriously, Wes Clark and Tony Criswell are fine players, but against Alex Poythress, Dakari Johnson, Dominique Hawkins, Marcus Lee, and Jarrod Polson, there is no contest on paper.

Advantage: Kentucky

Analysis

Missouri does not match up well at all against Kentucky. Normally, Missouri has advantages at the guard positions, because they are huge. Unfortunately, Kentucky is just flat-out huger. Kentucky has one major task against the Tigers — guard the three as though it was the only shot that mattered. If they do that, the Tigers are in trouble. They just don't have the interior size and strength to go up against the Wildcats. All they have is great shooting.

Saying Missouri is a great shooting club is a bit of an exaggeration. The truth is, they have one great shooter and several average shooters, but they play a pretty good zone defense that is very long on the perimeter, and Frank Haith loves to mix it up between the 2-3, the 3-2, and even the 1-3-1 for a bit of variety. Missouri is mostly a zone team this year, and you can bet that they will almost exclusively zone against Kentucky, because their interior matchups are no good at all.

Where Kentucky has to be careful is with Clarkson. He is a great slasher, and gets to the line an awful lot. Parker is the shooter, but he mainly benefits from Clarkson getting into the lane and forcing the defense to collapse. Keeping out of foul trouble against Clarkson will be a challenge.

The Tigers are going to score, and that's where Kentucky has to tread carefully. They play a possession-based game, and are very circumspect in their shot selection. They like to wear teams down for a good look, preferably from three or in the lane, and you will rarely see Missouri take a shot that isn't a good one. They don't look very efficient on paper, but in practice, they take mostly good shots, they find ways to tempt the opponent into bad ones, and they hustle. Kentucky must likewise be patient, wait for a good shot, and avoid the quick thee that will appear available a lot.

Kentucky is built to win this game. That doesn't mean they will, but the Wildcats have structural advantages that will tend to negate their youth. The real question is, which Missouri will show up — the one that beat UCLA by holding them to 42% eFG, or the one that lost to Georgia by shooting 45% eFG — at home?

We'll find out soon.

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