Opponent: Missouri Tigers
Date: Saturday, February 13
Place: Mizzou Arena, Columbia, Missouri
All-Time Series: Arkansas Leads 28-26
All-Time Series at Missouri: Missouri Leads 16-10
#10 Missouri Tigers 13-4 (6-4)
Missouri comes into Saturday’s off of an abysmal performance against Ole Miss. The Rebels controlled the game from the jump. They couldn’t miss a shot and locked up Missouri.
That could be a good or bad thing for Arkansas. On one hand, Ole Miss gave Arkansas an easy example of what to do to Missouri’s efficient offense. On another hand, coming off a loss could really fire up Missouri to beat the Hogs.
The first matchup between these teams was all Missouri. While the Tigers only won by 13, it felt like they won by 30. Arkansas missed 10+ attempts at the rim and Missouri’s pick and roll was unstoppable. Justin Smith was out due to his ankle surgery so Arkansas was without its’ best defender.
Missouri has been really good this season. The metrics don’t love them as much as AP voters do, but they are a good, veteran basketball team.
The Mizzou starting 5 is consistent: Jeremiah Tilmon, Kobe Brown, Mark Smith, Dru Smith, and Xavier Pinson.
The pick and roll offense with Pinson and Tilmon is really good. Pinson is quick and crafty. He runs it well. When Tilmon catches on the block, the Tigers get points almost every time. Either he scores, draws a foul, or passes out to the open shooter. Mark Smith and Dru Smith are snipers on the outside. They are difficult to guard.
Where Missouri has not been as strong in SEC play is defending the 3. The Tigers are allowing teams to 35.4% from 3 in conference play. That is 11th in the SEC. They have shot 30.2% themselves in SEC play which ranks 12th.
The keys for Missouri are:
-Dominate the boards
-Keep Arkansas from hitting 3s
Arkansas Razorbacks 15-5 (6-4)
The Razorbacks come into Saturday winners in 5 of their last 6 games. The Hogs have figured some things out on both ends of the floor. Justin Smith has gotten healthier and the offense hasn’t been as sluggish. The easier schedule as made that possible, but they were wins that Arkansas had to have.
Over the last 6 games, Arkansas has shot 46.6% from the field and the Hogs have had 20 less turnovers than their opponents. Those are things Arkansas needs to do again on Saturday.
What will be interesting is how will Arkansas defend the pick and roll. We’ve the Hogs throw 2 guys at the ball handler as soon as they cross half court. It has worked well for Arkansas, but Pinson is really quick.
I am hopeful for a better result this time around against Missouri. Here’s why:
-Justin Smith is back. He didn’t play the against Mizzou in January.
-Connor Vanover is playing much better now.
-Devo Davis and Jaylin Williams are both playing contributing, winning basketball.
-JD Notae has bought in defensively and is sharing the ball more than ever.
What Arkansas must have Saturday is better point guard play. Tate and Notae were terrible against Missouri in January. The Tigers know how to defend. They pressure the ball. They get in your grill.
Keys to an Arkansas win:
-Turn Missouri over and convert on those turnovers. That was huge issue in January.
-Finish at the rim.
-Keep the rebounding margin close
I am really torn on this one. Arkansas is playing much better basketball all around, but Missouri still presents some matchup problems for the Hogs.
I think the Hogs will play better, but will lose. If this was in Bud Walton, I’d take the Hogs.
Either way, I expect a great game.
Arkansas 72 Missouri 76