With the overtime victory against the Mississippi State Bulldogs this past Tuesday, the Crimson Tide avoided a situation where Saturday's tilt against the Missouri Tigers (8-14, 1-8 SEC) would be a battle for last place in the conference standings. Retin Obasohan and company deserve some recognition for that win, because they had to overcome some real adversity. Not only were the Tide playing without Shannon Hale, but this young team had to answer a late Bulldog rally to come out on top. That's tough to do on the road, especially in the SEC, the conference with the country's highest home winning percentage in league play. This team has great character, and they don't wilt in the face of pressure, which is refreshing to see (though it wouldn't kill Retin to not launch himself at the basket in every game-winning situation).
Moving on, Missouri as a program is not in good shape. After bottoming out last season, things haven't improved at all in Kim Anderson's second year. To add insult to injury, the basketball program also just got hit with NCAA sanctions from the Frank Haith era. When the SEC expanded in 2012, the prevailing thought was that Mizzou would be one of the better basketball programs in the conference. But they could possibly end this season with one of the worst two year stretches ever witnessed in the SEC. Obviously, this is a game Alabama has to win. A loss at home to this team would be rough.
- PG 5'11 Terrence Phillips (8.6 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.5 SPG)
- OG 6'0 Wes Clark (10.6 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 2.9 APG, 0.9 SPG)
- WF 6'5 Namon Wright (8.8 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 1.4 APG)
- PF 6'7 Kevin Puryear (10.9 PPG, 4.4 RPG)
- C 6'10 Ryan Rosburg (4.4 PPG, 3.2 RPG)
- G 6'0 Tramaine Isabell (5.3 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 1.2 APG, 0.9 SPG)
- G 6'3 K.J. Walton (5.5 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 0.8 APG)
- G 6'4 Cullen VanLeer (4.0 PPG, 1.3 RPG, 0.8 APG)
- F 6'7 D'Angelo Allen (2.1 PPG, 2.1 RPG)
- F 6'8 Russell Woods (3.5 PPG, 3.0 RPG) - suspended
- F 6'8 Jakeenan Gant (4.5 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 1.1 BPG) - suspended
What To Watch For
- Injuries. As of this writing, there hasn't been much of an update on Michael Kessens or Shannon Hale's availability for the game Saturday. Hale missed the game on Tuesday with a foot injury, while Kessens went down on a buckled knee late in the game versus the Bulldogs. The absence of the two could spell trouble for Alabama, as they are usually the guys manning the four spot on the floor. Without both, the Tide will have to either go small or have both Jimmie Taylor and Donta Hall, two guys who are both offensive liabilities, on the floor at the same time.
Three Keys to Victory
- Limit Phillips and Clark. Mizzou's offense is run through their two quick guards. Not only are they the two best shooters on the team (and the only decent perimeter scorers), but they are by far the best two passers on the team. Missouri's offense is not a smoothly-run one. Seriously, if Clark and Phillips aren't on the floor, there's not a whole lot of good passing going on. Alabama needs to force other guys to beat them on Saturday, because that's been a major issue for Missouri all season.
- Free Throws. Poor free throw shooting nearly cost Alabama again in Starkville the other night. The Tide simply have to improve in this area. Meanwhile, this is really the only thing Missouri does pretty well, as the Tigers are converting 70.9% of their attempts from the line. If Alabama lets Mizzou get to the line and knock down shots, they may end up letting the Tigers hang on long enough to derail the Tide's season.
- Isolation. Missouri's defenders are not very talented on-ball. Phillips and Gant are the only two players averaging at least 1.0 block or steal per game, and Gant is the only Tiger with a defensive rating under 100.0. However, Kenpom's rankings have them listed as a solid 150th in the country defensively, which is much higher than their 246th ranked offense. They play decent team defense. Obasohan has been great at driving and getting to the rim all season long; he could end up being the key player for Alabama on Saturday. Justin Coleman is also very capable at getting separation, so he could be in for a big game as well.