After answering some questions about their ability to close games on the road against a conference opponent, the Missouri Tigers will travel back home for the first of two weekend games at Mizzou Arena. The first opponent the Tigers will have to deal with will be the 12-4 (2-1) Texas Longhorns.
Texas is led by junior guard J'Covan Brown, who is averaging 18.1 points per game in a team-high 33 minutes per game. Past him, the Longhorns have four freshman (Sheldon McClellan, Myck Kabongo, Julien Lewis and Jonathan Holmes) who split the rest of the bulk of the scoring load between them (39 points per game between the four).
Texas is similar to Missouri also in the fact that they only have one player over 6-8 and that they rebound better as a team rather than having one dominant rebounder like Iowa State or Kansas has. The Longhorns' leading rebounder, Clint Chapman, averages 5.8 rebounds per game, but seven other Texas players average more 3.4 rebounds per game and 3 of those players average more than 4.4 rebounds per game.
For more of a general overview of the team, Ken Pomeroy has the Longhorns' offense ranked 44th in the nation while they come in at number 20 defensively. Those rankings lead Pomeroy to rank Texas as the 25th best team in the nation (Missouri is No. 8).
So with a well-rounded team like Texas coming to Columbia, what do the Tigers have to do to stay unbeaten at home and move to 3-1 in the Big 12? Here are 3 keys to the game:
1. Get into a flow on offense, no matter what Texas shows on defense
Missouri is in the top five in a number of offensive categories, and it's not just because they can shoot the lights out from the outside. In the Iowa State game, the Cyclones made a big effort to deny Marcus Denmon any good looks at the basket, so instead the Tigers penetrated with guards, drew fouls, played well in the post and still shot over 50 percent from the floor. Even with only seven available scholarship players, the Tigers have a lot of offensive talent and they will need to use it all to beat a stout Texas defense.
Look for the Pressey brothers to kind of take over in this game like they did against Iowa State and challenge the interior, especially when the Longhorns only true big man, Clint Chapman, is not in the game (he is only averaging 20 minutes per game so far this season). Motion offense will be key for Missouri to get going on offense.
2. Don't let J'Covan Brown beat you
Brown is Texas' best offensive player and is a fairly experienced scorer in Big 12 play. He knows how to get open, knock down shots and control on offensive gameplan. The Tigers might be well served to stick their best defender, Matt Pressey, on Brown for most of the game and make the rest of the team beat them. Even if Pressey can't handle Brown, the Tigers have good team defense and are usually able to handle premier offensive players.
3. Crash the offensive glass
Texas is 60th in the nation in rebounding even with their lack of height, so the Tigers need to make a real effort to box out and end the opponent's possession after one shot like they did against Iowa State. Rebounding has been an on-and-off kind of thing for Missouri this season, as it always seems to be, but they do have the ability to control the glass, so it will be interesting to see if they can do it this afternoon.
This is an extremely winnable game for Missouri and they always play much, much better at Mizzou Arena, so expect a fairly easy afternoon for Tiger fans. I've got Mizzou 78-62 in this one.