PowerMizzou - Tiger Tipoff Preview: Tennessee
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Tiger Tipoff Preview: Tennessee

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Missouri finished the non-conference portion of 2020 without a loss, earning its highest ranking since 2012 in the process. Now, the No. 12 Tigers will start SEC play with perhaps their toughest test yet, a matchup against No. 7 Tennessee. Like Missouri, the Volunteers — picked by the media to win the league during the preseason — went 6-0 during non-conference play. The Volunteers have won their past four games by an average of nearly 38 points. Here's everything you need to know to get set for the marquee matchup.

                                         TIP TIME INFORMATION

Missouri (6-0) vs Tennessee (6-0)

WHEN: 8:00 p.m.

WHERE: Mizzou Arena

TV: SEC Network

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

SERIES: Tennessee leads 9-7

KenPom Prediction: Tennessee 67-65

                                       THE STARTING LINEUPS

Tennessee Probable Starters
Player Class Height PPG RPG APG

Victor Bailey Jr.

JR

6-4

13.2

2.0

1.3

John Fulkerson

JR

6-9

11.8

6.3

1.8

Josiah-Jordan James

SO

6-6

10.0

6.5

2.8

Santiago Vescovi

SO

6-3

7.7

3.7

4.6

Yves Pons

SR

6-6

5.0

4.0

1.2

Mizzou Probable Starters
Player Class Height PPG RPG APG

Dru Smith

SR

6-3

13.2

3.3

3.0

Mark Smith

SR

6-5

13.8

2.7

1.2

Xavier Pinson

JR

6-3

14.2

4.3

3.7

Jeremiah Tilmon

SR

6-10

6.2

7.8

1.0

Kobe Brown

SO

6-7

7.0

6.2

0.2

Xavier Pinson and Missouri will face No. 7 Tennessee to start SEC play.
Xavier Pinson and Missouri will face No. 7 Tennessee to start SEC play. (Jessi Dodge)

                                                  BY THE NUMBERS

Statistical Matchup
Mizzou Category Tennessee

75.0

PPG

80.8

65.3

PPG Allowed

52.7

44.8

Field Goal %

47.4

28.4

Three-Point %

36.1

+5.3

Rebound Margin

+12.4

12.5

Turnovers

10.2

54

Offensive Efficiency Rank

30

27

Defensive Efficiency Rank

3

218

Tempo

305

50

Strength of Schedule

252

                                        MIZZOU KEYS TO THE GAME

1. Shoot better. Missouri somehow managed to pull out a win over Bradley last time out despite shooting just 25.4 percent from the field and 14.3 percent from behind the three-point line. That's not likely to cut it against the No. 7 team in the country. Tennessee has been very strong on defense this season. The Vols are tied for the best scoring defense in the country and rank in the top 50 nationally in both two-point and three point defense. They have not allowed an opponent to score more than 66 points in a game this season and only one team has topped 60 against them. Given Missouri's shooting struggles, Tennessee seems likely to pack the paint and dare the Tigers to shoot from outside. Missouri needs to take advantage of some of those opportunities early in the game in order to open up the floor. Getting Mark Smith back on track would be big. After making 13 of 25 three-point attempts in the first four games of the season, Smith has gone just 1-7 the last two games.

2. Hold your own on the glass. Tennessee grabs nearly 60 percent of all rebounds this season, which ranks third in the country. The Vols are equally good on the offensive end, where they rank 13th, as the defensive side of the floor, where they're 14th-best in the nation. Rebounding, particularly on defense, was an issue for Missouri against Bradley. The Tigers got out-rebounded and gave up 10 second-chance points. In what figures to be a tight game, Missouri can't afford to give up a bunch of extra possessions due to offensive rebounds for Tennessee. On the flip side, getting second-chance opportunities could be big for the Tigers if they shoot like they have for much of this season.

3. Get to the line. We've pretty clearly established at this point that Missouri has struggled to shoot from the perimeter. Where they have not struggled to put the ball through the basket is the free throw line. The Tigers have made 75.6 percent of free throw opportunities this season, which ranks in the top 50 nationally. They've been successful at getting to the line, too, attempting more than 20 free throws in each of the past four games. It will be difficult to keep that streak up against a Tennessee team that has put only one opponent on the line more than 15 times, however. Getting center John Fulkerson into foul trouble would be a bonus, too; while Tennessee may be a balanced scoring team, Rick Barnes generally limits his rotation to eight players, and Fulkerson is the only player taller than 6-foot-7 to play more than four minutes per game this year.

                                     POWERMIZZOU PREDICTION

After a delayed start to the season, Barnes has Tennessee playing really well. With four players averaging double-digits in the scoring column, the Volunteers can at least match Mizzou in balance, and they probably have more top-end talent with the likes of Victor Bailey Jr. and the freshman duo of Jaden Springer and Keon Johnson. If the Tigers control the glass and get hot from three, they could certainly win this game, but it's hard to bet on a hot shooting night from this team at this point. We think Tennessee pulls away in the second half and hands Mizzou its first loss of the season.

FINAL SCORE: Tennessee 71, Missouri 66