Conference play is finally here and we have ourselves a top 15 matchup as the 7th ranked Vols will take on the 12th ranked Tigers of Missouri. Both teams are riding a 6 game win streak and this may be a huge game in deciding the regular season championship. So let’s break down the Missouri Tigers.
Offense-On offense the Tigers average 75.0 points per game, compared to the Vols 80.8 points per game. The Tigers per game shoot 44.8% from the field while the Vols shoot 47.4% from the field. While Missouri does play a faster pace than you may be familiar with when it comes to Cuonzo Martin’s offense, it does remind me a lot of how Tennessee sometimes played under him, they use A LOT of ball screens, I think I counted on one possession they used 6 ball screens. I watched their game against Bradley. Missouri really struggled with Bradley on defense, they had a lot of issues with driving the ball and getting by defenders, they are not fast at all with the ball in their hands. They like to drive and kick for three a lot and when the shots don’t go in, it can become very ugly. I look for them to be VERY bothered by the Tennessee defense.
Defense-On defense, Missouri’s opponents score 65.3 points per game, and Tennessee’s opponents score 52.7 points per game. The philosophy at Mizzou is very similar to Tennessee’s, if you don’t play hard on D, you won’t play at all. When I watch Mizzou play defense, one thing I notice is that they give up the mid range and it is usually wide open, so when the defense goes to recover any misses, it usually leads to easy offensive rebounds. They play solid defense, but it’s nothing that I think Tennessee will have much trouble with (this could definitely age badly). The only thing I could see Tennessee having trouble with is the defensive aggressiveness of Dru Smith, he currently leads the SEC with 2.2 steals per game, so make sure you’re protecting the ball or it could lead to trouble.
Final Thoughts-Missouri is a solid veteran team. Do I believe they are the 12th best team in the country? No, no I do not. But I think they will definitely be the biggest test for this Vols team, the combined record of Missouri’s opponents is currently 34-17 while Tennessee’s is 14-31. While that may look dramatically easier for Tennessee, it’s not like the teams Missouri has played are that good either, they just happen to have better records and maybe softer schedules. The best opponent MIssouri has played is probably Illinois at 7-3, and they gave up 78 points to them, while Illinois averages 87, so a little better than most teams play them, but not drastically. Tennessee’s best opponent is Colorado at 6-1 and Tennessee gave up 47 points to a team that averages 77 points a game, not too shabby. This should be a very good game, in which hopefully the guys in orange can win. The game is Wednesday night and will air on the SEC Network, tip off is a late one at 9 pm.
Written by: Dallas Bowlin