Photo credit: columbianmissourian.com
As most you now know, the Missouri Tigers will be playing in the South Region of the NCAA Tournament, ironically in Sacramento, California. But, that's the NCAA Tournament.
The Tigers received the 7th Seed and will face the 10th Seed, Utah State, on Thursday. If they pull out this out, they will face the winner of the match between the region's 2nd Seed, Arizona Wildcats and the 15th Seed, Princeton Tigers on Saturday.
Here are three thoughts on Mizzou going into the NCAA Tournament this weekend.
1, Mizzou's freaky metrics
2.The Utah State Aggies
3. Mizzou's possible opponent on Saturday-the Arizona Wildcats.
Thoughts on Mizzou's freaky metrics.
Mizzou has some of the most freaky and head scratching metrics going into the NCAA Tournament. Especially since it's been assumed they would likely be in the NCAA Tournament dating back to the beginning of February.
A 24-9 regular season record with a 11-7 SEC record, and a 4th place finish in the SEC, would seem to put Missouri a bit higher than a 7th seed. Additionally, Mizzou has 6 Quad 1 wins, which includes wins over Illinois, Kentucky, Arkansas, and a road win at Tennessee.
But actually the 7 seed is an improvement over what bracketologists, such as Joe Lunardi, has been putting Mizzou most of the season. The Tigers seemed to always been projected as an 8th, 9th or 10th seed.
The reasons were several. A soft non-conference schedule, the worst rebounding team in the SEC, one of the worse in the NCAA, and 299th in scoring defense among NCAA DI schools.
At the same time, they lead the NCAA Turnover Margin and the SEC in Steals. They were 17th in nation in Assists per game and were second in the SEC. Finally, the Tigers were second in the SEC in PPG and 19th in the nation in Effective FG percentage.
In other words, Mizzou is an offensive juggernaut, and unless you're talking about steals, a defensive welterweight. Thus, the Tiger's NET rating has always been floating around the 40s and low 50s. Going into the NCAA tournament it sits at 42.
Thoughts on Utah State. Who are these guys?
The Utah State Aggies(26-8) finished second in the Mountain West Conference and second in the Mountain West Tournament to San Diego State. They are coached by Ryan Odom, who is in his second year with the Aggies.
They come into the Tournament with an NET ranking of 18, but only have two Quad 1 wins and 2 Quad 4 losses. Their most impressive wins were against Washington State, Oral Roberts, Nevada, and two against Boise State.
Offensively, they mirror very well against Mizzou. They are 4th in the nation in 3-point percentage, 28th i in scoring offense, and 10th in Assists per game. Also, like the Tigers, they don't rebound very well.
To contrast from Mizzou, they don't create many turnovers and don't play a deep bench. Where Dennis Gates, goes 8 to 9 deep, Odom will only go 7 deep.
The Aggies best player is 6-1 guard, Steven Asworth, who averages 16,3 ppg and 4.5 assists per game. Asworth makes 43.9% of his threes, and shoots 46.2% overall.
This game could turn into a real barn burner if both teams are hitting their threes. Mizzou is likely to create more turnovers and could wear the Aggies down. However, if the Aggies are hitting their threes, and the Tigers aren't, then Mizzou could be in trouble. I've said in the past, this Mizzou team seems to either win by three, or lose by 20.
This game won't be easy. The Mountain West Conference is no joke. Four teams from the MWC are in the tourney, including San Diego State, Boise State, and Nevada.
As of this writing, the Odds makers have Utah State as a 1.5 favorite and KenPom has Utah State a 64.2% chance of beating Mizzou. Many Tournament analysts seem to be trending toward Utah State.
Nevertheless, even throwing away my Black and Gold bias, I still think the Tigers will win. As Mizzou fans, we have learned to never overlook this team.
A Quick Thought on Arizona.
If the Tigers get pass Utah State on Thursday, they will likely face the Arizona Wildcats on Saturday. The Wildcats are in the PAC-12 conference and finished second with a 28-6 record. They have an NET ranking of 10 and have 9 Quad 1 wins.
If Mizzou is an offensive juggernaut, then I don't know how to describe Arizona. This is one very good team, and there is a reason this team earned the 2 seed in the South Region. Tigers will have their hands full if they have to face them.
The Wildcats are 4th in ppg, 5th in FG%. 2nd in Assists per game, and 9th in Rebounds per game. This team would line up very well against Alabama.
Arizona has a stud 6-11 245lb forward named, Azuolus Tubelis who averages 19.8 ppg and 9.3 rpg.. They also have a 7-0 260lb Center named Oumar Ballo who averages 14.2 ppg and 8.5 rpg.
Mizzou just doesn't have the studs under the basket to handle both Tubelis and Ballo. For the Tigers to have a chance, they would have to rely on their disruptive defense and three pointers.
It won't be an easy weekend for Mizzou. If the Tigers get past these two teams and make it to the Sweet Sixteen, they will have earned it.