Here are a few thoughts about the Missouri Tigers basketball team heading into Saturday’s game against LSU at Mizzou Arena.
About Last Night…
Missouri has won two road games this season – just two – but has won them both by a combined 64 points. Because, you know, this college basketball season makes so much sense.
The Tigers dispatched of the Gamecocks 90-68 by shooting a blistering 69.6 percent from the field and making 26 of their 37 shots from inside the arc. All of this without Phil Pressey attempting a single shot (!) and Laurence Bowers scoring just six points. Keion Bell led all scorers with 24 points, and Jabari Brown contributed 23 points.
Alex Oriakhi scored 18 points on perfect shooting, finishing the season a combine 10-10 from the field and 16-16 from the line in the two games against the Gamecocks.
South Carolina is a very bad basketball team, so it is hard to come away from this game thinking anything more than Missouri having accomplished what it should have accomplished. But with the way this college basketball season is going and the way Mizzou has played has played on the road, it does mean something that Missouri didn’t let this game come up and bite them. The margin of error for the Tigers is thin as it relates to seeding in the NCAA tournament, so winning games they ought to win carries a lot of significance.
What the Pressey?!: 31 min., 0 pts., 0-0 fg, 0-0 3fg, 0-0 ft, 5 reb., 9 assists
How many teams in the country can have their best player never attempt a single shot of any kind and still win by 22?
This whole Phil Pressey saga has been nutty, and it was taken to a whole new level for me last night. Not only did he not shoot the ball once – not even a free throw – but his team still scored 90 points and won by 22. This wasn’t a situation where he played just half the game or was dealing with foul trouble. No, he played 31 minutes and had just two fouls. He does this just one game removed from attempting 24 shots against Kentucky.
Pressey has become so unpredictable that you don’t even know if he’ll attempt a shot or take all of the shots in the game. Pressey could shoot 32 threes Saturday and I would not be surprised in the least. He is the most unpredictable man in the world.
If you have to choose between “No Shot Pressey” or “Shoot First Pressey” root for the Pressey who decides to pass on the shot. The Tigers are 12-2 (losses at Florida, at Arkansas) when Pressey attempts nine or fewer shots, compared to 8-6 when he attempts 10 or more. When Pressey tries to run the offense to get players like Bowers, Bell, and Brown going, good things tend to happen for Missouri. Unlike almost any team in college basketball, the Tigers have plenty of guys who can score – their need for Pressey to drop 20 every night simply isn’t there. Missouri is a much more difficult team to beat when Pressey chooses efficiency over playing one-on-one basketball.
How sure are we Bowers’ knee is really healthy? After scoring 17 points and grabbing 10 rebounds against Florida two weeks ago, it seemed to be the general consensus Bowers was back and ready to go. Since then he’s played 52 minutes, scored 19 points total and racked up nine personal fouls.
Much has been made about Phil Pressey and his inconsistent play since the start of conference season (read the above section) but if Missouri going to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament, Laurence Bowers is going to be the key. The Tigers are a different team when Bowers is on the court and playing well. Before spraining his MCL against Alabama January 8, Bowers was averaging 16.8 points per game and had an average offensive rating of 130.5. He was doing what no other coach or player was doing for Missouri: Taking pressure off of Pressey.
Since his return, Bowers is averaging just 9.1 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. He’s had the good game against Florida but he has not been the diffusing presence for Pressey the way he was before the injury.
But it is the fouls that has me wondering about his knee the most. Bowers has had four fouls or more in five of his last six games, a mark he hit only twice before the knee injury. The fouls leave one to wonder if Bowers trusts his knee enough or is quick enough to handle defensive assignments without fouling. It has been nine games and over a month since his return from the injury, at some point things become less of a slump and more of a reality.
His knee is something to keep an eye on as the regular season comes to a close.
Mizzou should rebound
LSU cannot score. In fact, KenPom has them rated as the 135th ranked offense in the country, slightly above noted powerhouse Wisconsin-Green Bay. They have an “okay” defense but nothing that should concern Missouri too much, especially at home. KenPom has the probability of Missouri winning at 88 percent.
With that said, LSU did beat Missouri in Baton Rouge, so the Mizzou shouldn’t take them lightly.
Prediction: Missouri 83, LSU 65