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Bama Basketball Breakdown: Missouri

Alabama looks to get one back in the "W" column against the last place Tigers

Dak Dillon-USA TODAY Sports

The Crimson Tide's "battle" with the Kentucky Wildcats this past Saturday was one of the most depressing experiences 'Bama basketball fans have witnessed. The feeling around the program going into the game in Lexington was one of accepted, abject apathy. It was the first game in a long time where no one really could even fathom a possible Alabama win. Then the game happened, and it was almost exactly what everyone thought would occur: a convincing Kentucky victory. The only conversations about the game at the bars in Birmingham were ones filled with sarcastic, "well at least we are giving them a game," type of comments. There honestly might not be a more apt way to have described it.

Moving forward, Alabama gets ready to host the struggling Missouri Tigers (7-14, 1-7 SEC), who are currently riding a depressing seven-game losing streak. First year head coach Kim Anderson inherited a roster that was absolutely rocked by attrition, no thanks to former coach Frank Haith's insistence on building a program through transfers. Anthony Grant is on the thinnest of ice right now, and losing to an extremely young team that's on a huge skid right now would really get the pitchforks out in Tuscaloosa.

The Starting Five

  • PG Keith Shamburger (8.3 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 3.3 APG, 1.2 SPG)
  • SG Wes Clark (10.0 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 3.2 APG, 1.8 SPG)
  • SF Namon Wright (5.4 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 0.7 APG)
  • PF Johnathan Wlliams III (12.6 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 0.9 APG)
  • C Keanu Post (3.6 PPG, 3.4 RPG)

The traditional PG-SG-SF-PF-C line-up is mostly passe in today's game anyway (it just makes for a tidy, organized look,), but Missouri's starting group definitely doesn't fit that mold too well. For one thing, the Tigers pretty much start two point guards in Shamburger and Clark, who both are solid passers and can run the offense at any point. They also produce nearly all of Missouri's defensive impact plays, combining for 3.0 SPG this season. Clark, one of only two Tigers to produce double digit scoring per game thus far, has had to take on much more of an offensive presence than he probably can or wants to. He's been heating up lately, but on the season he's shooting just 35.2% from the field and 32.9% from three. As one can surmise, Mizzou has struggled offensively this season. In fact, that might be putting it generously. Clark has good potential though, and he can knock down his free throws pretty well (72.7%). Shamburger is actually a better shooter percentage-wise (41.7% FG%, 35.8% 3P%, 86.8% FT%,) but a lot of that has to do with how selective he is. Shamburger's biggest liability this season has been his defense, as his 5-11 frame just hasn't been able to hang with the length that most SEC guards have.

At the three, Wright has had to step in and take a pretty large role as a true freshman. The results have gone about as well as one would think. Wright's going to be a good player, but he hasn't been ready to take on such a large load, and he often shies away from being assertive offensively. His rebounding is pretty bad for someone who is 6'5, and he hasn't been much of an asset defensively, but Wright has become Missouri's best three point shooter (40.7%). The crazy thing is that he's almost better shooting threes than he is from the free throw line (50.0%), a clear sign of an unpolished player. Wright will become a nice asset over time, but unfortunately for Anderson's team, that hasn't helped this season. In the post, Keanu Post (ha!) has provided Mizzou with some much needed size. At 6'11, the senior is an asset for the Tiger because of his size-experience combination. However, his skills aren't much to write home about, and he only averages 12.5 MPG for a reason. Williams III, the sophomore forward, has been the brightest spot for Missouri this season. A role player a year ago, Williams has really developed into a reliable presence and a leader for this young team. His 6'9 size, rebounding ability, and defensive stature has been critical to Missouri's success (when they've had some) this season. As the only other player besides Clark to average double-digit shot attempts a game, he has also been thrust into a role he probably wasn't ready for, but he has done an admirable job with it. His free throw game needs work (62.4%), but he can shoot relatively well from the field (44.2%), and he is capable of hitting a deep-ball (31.6% 3P%).

The Bench

  • G Montaque Gil-Caeser (9.8 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 0.8 SPG)
  • G Tramaine Isabell (4.5 PPG, 1.4 RPG, 1.5 APG, 0.7 SPG)
  • G Duece Bello (2.5 PPG, 1.4 RPG)
  • F Jakeneen Gant (4.8 PPG 1.9 RPG, 0.8 BPG)
  • F D'Angelo Allen (3.2 PPG, 3.3 RPG)
  • F Ryan Rosburg (2.8 PPG, 3.0 RPG)

Missouri has a lot of guys who play off of the bench, but to consider it depth would be to assume that they provide many quality minutes, which would be a generous thing to say about most of these guys. Gil-Caesar is another true freshman with a lot of potential. However, like the other first year guys, he has had some struggles. Gil-Caeser has been up-and-down with his scoring (35.6% FG%, 34.8% 3P%, 80.9% FT%), and he doesn't rebound or defend as well as Anderson probably wants him to. He's a talented guy though, and that light could come on at any time. Isabell has had some off the court issues recently, having been suspended for the Ole Miss game the other night. Bello, the former Baylor Bear, has seemingly had some issues adjusted to the new scheme, as he hasn't had much of an impact for Missouri.

Gant and Allen are yet more freshman with potential, but they need time to develop. Haith must have not ever realized that graduated high school players are eligible for college ball the following season, and now Anderson's having to rely on a ton of them. Gant and Allen both bring much-needed size (6'8 and 6'7, respectively), and Allen has been a (relatively) major factor on the boards. He isn't much of a scoring threat right now (36.1% FG%, 33.3% 3P%, 52.2% FT%), but he does play the fifth-most minutes on the team. Finally, Rosburg rounds out the rotation. The 6'10 post player has somehow managed to have less of an impact than he did last season as a sophomore, and Missouri has felt it. Rosburg shoots 48.9% from the field and an anemic 25.8% from the free throw line, his defense is weak, and his three rebounds a game has to be pretty disappointing for a guy his size.

What to Watch For

  • Slim Tournament Chances. JTad had a great breakdown of Alabama's schedule and what the team will have to do in order to make the NCAA Tournament the other day. I know it seems impossible right now, but the SEC really is a much better conference this season; thus, there are chances for Alabama to get solid wins still. However, the Crimson Tide can't afford any losses to teams like Missouri, especially not at home. This is absolutely a must win.
  • Ricky Tarrant's Injury. The Tide's second leading scorer has been battling injuries all season, but he finally missed a game this past Saturday. The extent of the injury is unknown, as he is listed as out "indefinitely", but it's a big loss nonetheless. Alabama will need Tarrant to get well soon, as he is one of the most valuable players on the roster.

Three Keys to Victory

  1. Rebounding. Hitting the glass is something neither one of these teams is very good at doing, with Missouri sitting at 235th in the country in RPG and Alabama coming in at 276th. Alabama has better size throughout the roster, but Missouri counters with Williams, who is the best rebounder of anyone that will be on the court Wednesday night. Alabama will have to make sure to get a body on Williams and box him out, because if they can do that effectively, they will be successful on the glass. Clark (all six feet of him), is Missouri's second leading rebounder. Chew on that one for a minute.
  2. Assertive Guard Play. Alabama will need their guards to control this game offensively. Missouri's guards can steal the ball at a decent clip, but their on-ball defense has been suspect. Levi Randolph needs to assert himself in this game, especially with Tarrant out. Justin Coleman and Retin Obasohan need to take care of the ball and make some plays offensively. Retin's got the ability to drive, and Coleman can really do it all when he is on.
  3. Play Well Defensively. Missouri's offense has been so bad this year that most defenses have been able to shut them down. However, there is talent on this Tiger team. If Alabama allows Missouri's previous results to make them feel relaxed defensively, the Crimson Tide could be in trouble. Missouri is 302nd in the country at 62.0 PPG, and 297th in offensive rating. This is the one area Alabama has a large advantage; they cannot afford to let Missouri offset that Wednesday night if they want to keep their slim tournament hopes alive.

Every game has turned into a must-win at this point, but Grant really can't afford a loss in this one. Missouri is tied in last in the SEC for a number of reasons, and a home loss to these Tigers would turn the rumblings into a deafening roar.

The game will tip at 8:00 PM CST and will be televised on the SEC Network.