PowerMizzou - Tiger Tipoff Preview: Alabama
basketball Edit

Tiger Tipoff Preview: Alabama

GET THE INSIDE SCOOP EVERY DAY WITH YOUR PREMIUM SUBSCRIPTION!

After having its scheduled SEC home opener postponed due to a COVID-19 outbreak on the roster, Missouri will return to Mizzou Arena on Saturday. But the Tigers won't be back at full strength.

Head coach Cuonzo Martin told reporters Friday that Missouri is expected to be without three players when it hosts No. 15 Alabama, barring any further positive tests. He didn't specify which players would miss the contest. That would leave the Tigers with just nine players.

"We got enough to go," Martin said. "I’m excited to go, too.”

It's been an unusual past couple weeks for Missouri due to COVID complications. Martin missed the team's first SEC matchup, a 83-56 loss at Kentucky on Dec. 29, after a positive test. He returned to the team following five days of isolation, but a combination of positive tests and contact tracing knocked the Tigers below the SEC's minimum roster thresholds of seven available players and one coach. Thus, Wednesday's game against Mississippi State was postponed. A makeup date has not yet been announced.

Enough players have returned from quarantine for Missouri to host Alabama, but the Tigers have not been able to practice like normal. Martin said that the team has been unable to hold five-on-five scrimmages this week because of a lack of available bodies.

"You’d like to have all your guys there, because that’s how you practice," Martin said. "There’s a comfort level with certain guys on the team that you’re not around. It doesn’t feel right. The hard part, you can’t duplicate five on five, unless you’ve got a coach out there, and I’m not certainly not getting out there, because I can’t move. … There’s no excuses, you still have to be productive and get the job done.”

Even under normal circumstances, Alabama would provide a tough test for Missouri. The Crimson Tide have knocked off both No. 4 Gonzaga and No. 12 Houston so far this season. They've started SEC play 2-0 with wins over Tennessee and Florida.

Led by guards Jaden Shackelford and Jahvon Quinerly, Nate Oates' squad employs a similar high-paced, three-point-happy attack that got Alabama to the Sweet Sixteen last season. Missouri will have its work cut out staying in front of the dynamic duo.

"You can’t allow those two guys comfort," Martin said of Shackelford and Quinerly. "You have to disrupt their flow. They have to make shots over you. ... They can’t shoot threes, and you can’t allow them to get to the rim. That’s when it’s a long night. But it has to be great one on one defense, and it has to be pull-ups the whole night."

Here's everything you need to know to get set for the matchup.

Cuonzo Martin will be back on the sidelines when Missouri hosts Alabama on Saturday, but the Tigers are expected to be down at least three players..
Cuonzo Martin will be back on the sidelines when Missouri hosts Alabama on Saturday, but the Tigers are expected to be down at least three players.. (Jordan Kodner)

                                         TIP TIME INFORMATION

Missouri (6-7) vs Alabama (11-3)

WHEN: 2:30 p.m.

WHERE: Mizzou Arena

TV: SEC Network

RADIO: Tiger Radio Network (Mike Kelly, Chris Gervino)

SERIES: Alabama leads 11-6

KenPom Prediction: Alabama 80-68

                                       THE STARTING LINEUPS

Alabama Probable Starters
Player Class Height PPG RPG APG

Jahvon Quinerly

JR

6-1

15.2

3.3

4.4

Jaden Shackelford

JR

6-3

16.3

6.1

1.3

Keon Ellis

SR

6-6

12.2

6.5

2.1

Juwan Gary

SO

6-6

9.7

5.2

0.4

Charles Bediako

FR

7-0

7.1

4.6

0.8

Mizzou Probable Starters
Player Class Height PPG RPG APG

Anton Brookshire

FR

6-1

2.1

1.1

1.2

DaJuan Gordon

JR

6-4

8.3

4.8

1.3

Javon Pickett

SR

6-5

8.5

3.1

1.7

Trevon Brazile

FR

6-9

5.8

3.2

0.4

Kobe Brown

JR

6-7

14.2

8.5

2.2

                                                  BY THE NUMBERS

Statistical Matchup
Mizzou Category Alabama

66.6

Scoring

82.2

70.7

Opponent PPG

72.7

24.3

Three-point percentage

32.5

40.4

Field goal percentage

46.3

+2.9

Rebound Margin

+5.6

14.1

Turnovers

13.7

209

Offensive Efficiency Rank

9

129

Defensive Efficiency Rank

40

179

Tempo

32

44

Strength of Schedule

7

                                        MIZZOU KEYS TO THE GAME

1. Get back on defense. One of the issues that sunk Missouri at Kentucky was the Tigers' transition defense. The Wildcats scored 25 fastbreak points. Martin stressed that his team needs to clean that up if it's going to hang with Alabama. The Crimson Tide rank 19th nationally in terms of average offensive possession length. A Missouri team that has struggled to keep pace offensively with the majority of its high-major opponents so far this season can't afford to allow Alabama a bunch of easy points in transition.

2. Don't let Alabama get hot from three. True to Oates' philosophy, Alabama once again leads all high-major teams in three-point attempts, averaging 29.7 shots from behind the arc per game. That could be problematic for Missouri, as the Tigers have allowed opponents to shoot 38.1 percent from three-point range, which ranks No. 330 in the country. Martin noted that Alabama is going to make some threes; opponents just have to live with that. The key will be not giving up easy, in-rhythm looks from behind the arc. In order to do that, Martin said, Missouri will need to play excellent one-on-one defense, not allowing ball-handlers to penetrate into the lane and dish the ball out for an open three or not losing a shooter away from the ball. Given that the Tigers rank second-to-last nationally in three-point shooting themselves, it's difficult to envision them keeping pace with Alabama if the Crimson Tide knock down a bunch of triples.

3. Dominate around the basket. Alabama has at times this season been susceptible down low. The Crimson Tide rank 212th nationally in two-point defense. They give up a fair amount of offensive boards, and they don't get to the free throw line a ton. In fact, in its three losses, Alabama has been outscored by an average of 4.67 points per game at the line. If Missouri is going to have any chance at pulling off an upset, the Tigers need to find a significant advantage around both baskets. Missouri needs to run its offense through Kobe Brown in the low post (assuming he is available), it needs to get to the free throw line while avoiding foul trouble with its thin roster, and it needs to win the rebounding battle on both ends of the floor. While Alabama may not be a great defensive rebounding team, the Tide rank 20th in offensive rebounding rate. Martin pointed out that those offensive boards often lead to open three-pointers. The path to victory for the Tigers would seem to be pairing all of those things with a strong defensive performance.

                                     POWERMIZZOU PREDICTION

Even at full strength, this would be a tough matchup for Missouri. The Tigers will struggle to match Alabama's athleticism and shooting ability. Given that a good chunk of the roster has apparently missed practice time due to COVID, playing at Alabama's pace figures to be a challenge as well. We just saw the Missouri women's team upset the No. 1 team in the country despite being shorthanded on this same court, so we won't say it's impossible, but unless the Tigers can somehow tap into that magic, a third straight lopsided loss seems likely.

FINAL SCORE: Alabama 85, Missouri 69