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Bama Basketball Breakdown and Game Thread: Missouri

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The Crimson Tide seek to avenge its ugly loss from a few weeks back

NCAA Basketball: Alabama at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

With the Alabama Crimson Tide (12-6, 3-3 SEC; NET: 21; Kenpom: 16) finally putting an end to that three-game conference skid the other night against #13 LSU, it’s time for the Tide to get some revenge against the team that started the losing streak - the Missouri Tigers (8-9, 2-3 SEC; NET: 175; Kenpom: 141). Just two weeks ago, Alabama - as we all remember - put together its worst effort of the season in an ugly loss in Columbia. It just so happens to be the Tide’s only Q3 or worse loss on the year.

Nate Oats’ squad has been very erratic since that loss - even the win against LSU was ugly as all get-out in the final few minutes. So, this might be a good time to exercise some demons and really get into a groove as we move closer to the month of February. Next Saturday, Alabama hosts defending national champions, #5 Baylor, as part of the Big12-SEC Challenge - which should be as good as it’s ever been this year. That game kicks off three-straight versus teams currently in the top-12 of the AP Poll, so it would be nice for the Tide to start ramping up its level of play shortly. The intensity and effort has ratcheted up on the defensive end, thanks in part to the Rojas EffectTM, but the shooting is still hideous right now. If those shots start to fall, the rest of the conference needs to watch out.

Today’s focus is on the Tigers, though. I can’t think of a better opportunity for the guys to right the ship than by avenging the loss that got them going in the wrong direction to begin with. Fresh off of a blowout win at Ole Miss, Mizzou has been playing much better basketball in conference play than they did before the calendar flipped to 2022, but the Tide is listed as a 17.5-point favorite tonight for a reason.

From Last Time

Three Keys to Victory

Focus and Motivation. Any time you play a team that’s undermanned and struggling, the number-one key to winning the game is treating the opponent with respect. These guys are still power conference college basketball players. Nate Oats has harped on the point that Mizzou Arena is the one place in the conference that Alabama hasn’t won at despite multiple trips since he’s been the coach, and the Tide was the superior team in both of those games as well. If Alabama can play like they did in the second half against Florida, this will be a rout. If they play more like they did in the first half, this could end up being a game.

The Three-Point Line. Today’s game would be a great opportunity for Alabama’s shooters to start to find their rhythm. While the Tide has been known for it’s three-point shooting prowess under Oats, Alabama is actually only shooting 32.5% from the perimeter this season, which is 235th in the country. On the flip-side, Mizzou has been an abject disaster from distance. They can’t shoot threes themselves (24.3% - 357th in the country), and they’ve struggled to force their opponents off their spots from the perimeter on defense, as opposing teams are shooting 38.2% from downtown against the Tigers. If Alabama gets hot from the arc today, there won’t be much of a contest.

Push the Pace. Cuonzo Martin has successfully slowed down the Tide each of the past two years, which ultimately led to Alabama losses. Unfortunately for him, his roster is ill-equipped to do that again this season. Mizzou plays at a deliberately slow pace, when they can. The Tide wouldn’t be the first team to speed the Tigers up to a level they are not comfortable playing. Additionally, with the COVID issues they’ve been experiencing, they have been light on reps and conditioning recently, and they will be down three players. Alabama should be able to run Mizzou into the ground.

Check out this link to read the full Breakdown for the last meeting

Well, so much for that first bullet point last time out. Alabama didn’t treat the Tigers with the respect that they deserved, and they got embarrassed because of it. Kobe Brown dog-walked the Tide’s bigs for 30 points and 13 rebounds, which could have been even worse had he not gotten into foul trouble. Mizzou out-rebounded the Tide 43-31, including 16 offensive rebounds. Alabama simply can’t keep giving up offensive boards at rates like that.

The Tide was a bit unlucky against Missouri - the Tigers, who came into the game as the second-worst three-point shooting team in the entire country, shot 9/24 from beyond the arc - which completely negated one of the areas Alabama usually spams to its advantage. Granted, the Tide’s 3P% of 26.0% in conference play isn’t much better than what Mizzou usually shoots. Also, most of those shots by Mizzou were clean looks, so it’s not like the Tigers were knocking down contested threes from NBA-range.

So...the Tide is Favored by 17.5 this Time?

Well, Alabama was favored by 12.5 in Columbia, so it checks out. It isn’t hard to imagine that Nate Oats has his guys’ attention much more than the last meeting. The three-point shooting has to regress to the mean at some point - we all know that Jahvon Quinerly, Jaden Shackelford, Keon Ellis, and Noah Gurley are more than capable three-point shooters. Hell, Quinerly and Shack have the ability to knock down 6-8 treys on any given night - we’ve literally seen it before. And as long as the defensive intensity carries over from the LSU win the other night, Mizzou ain’t ringing up anywhere close to 92 points this time.

I would still expect the Tigers to win the rebounding battle, simply because they have more size and better post players than the Tide do. However, James Rojas will take both Kobe Brown and himself out of the game before he allows Brown to drop 30 and 13 again. Rojas, of course, wasn’t available for the first meeting. On top of that, I don’t see Oats coming out in a 2-3 zone today either. That was pretty baffling to me, honestly. Sure, the Tigers don’t shoot threes well, but they have a couple of guys who live off of mid-range jumpers, and it didn’t take long for them to exploit that.

So yes, I think 17.5-points is fair. Alabama is a much better basketball team than Missouri is, and the conditions don’t favor Mizzou as much as it did last time. It’s a lot of a points to lay, so I won’t be risking my hard-earned cash on it, but Alabama could easily end up winning by 20+ points tonight.

It would be a nice to string together a few wins before the three-game gauntlet Alabama faces starting next Saturday. More importantly though, the Tide needs to continue playing with the effort and intensity that the guys displayed the other night against LSU. If you pair that level of play on defense with a much overdue correction from three-point land, you’ve got the makings of an Alabama team that can make a deep run in March. The kind of team we saw back in early December against the likes of Gonzaga and Houston. Those shots are coming, the guys just need to keep the level of play high in every other area until (and after) they do.

The game will tip-off at 5:00 PM CST and will be televised on the SEC Network. But you should really come to Coleman to cheer the guys on in person.